Welcome to Trowbridge - The county town

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Trowbridge, Wiltshire's county town, began life as a settlement on a ridge of stony subsoil by the river Biss. It lies in the heart of the South West of England, some 10 miles from Bath. Its growth to urban status started with the building of a castle early in the 12th century.

The Domesday Book of 1086 shows a Saxon called Brictric as the major Wiltshire landowner, apparently administering his estates from his main Trowbridge residence. By the 12th century, it was one of a handful of Wiltshire towns defended by a Norman castle and by 1200 it was also the first town in the county to be granted a market charter.

The town was well developed when the wool trade took off and shared in the general wealth associated with weaving mills. The woollen industry was always important. In the 18th century Daniel Defoe wrote that " ...the finest medley Spanish cloths, not in England but in the whole world are made" in the area. The huge wealth enabled several fine clothiers houses to be built in the town.

When the wool trade died out industry was replaced by a factory making steam engines, some breweries and a bed making firm.

Trowbridge has been the county town since 1893. To visitors this may seem a little strange, with Salisbury being the cathedral town, Swindon being the largest, and Devizes being more central but the reason for this is due to its accessibility. Because of the Salisbury plain, all the main railway lines ran east to west in the south of the county, hence Trowbridge was the more accessible as it could be reached by rail.

The town built on its early market charter from the 12th century and now boasts a busy and thriving sub-regional shopping centre, which is one of the best for its size in the county, with national retailers such as Bodyshop, Monsoon, Waterstones and M & S Food as well as a wide selection of independent shops with the addition of excellent public transport links across Wiltshire. As times and needs change there are now plans to redevelop certain areas of the town and introduce more big-name stores and leisure facilities.

Trowbridge is also home to the well-known Knees department store, established in 1879. There is a local saying: "if you can't get it anywhere else, try Knees they're bound to have it" as the shop seems to stock almost anything.

The town is also known for its stately Georgian buildings, said by Pevsner, to be "finer than any in Bristol". The Lloyds Bank building in Fore Street was said to be the best clothiers' house in the West country, and the finest Georgian building in Wiltshire. The nearby Parade, described by Pevsner as "a stretch of palaces", is recognised as the finest group of clothiers' houses in the county.

Wiltshire Times: Georgian House Wiltshire Times: St James Church

The parish church of St. James was built around 1200. Rebuilt on grander lines in the 1450s, only the tower, spire and chancel of the old church remain. It was restored substantially in 1848.

There has also been more recent restoration. In May 1986 the roof of the nave caught fire and then in January 1990 a strong gale that blew the top of the spire through the nave and ceiling. At the cost of well over half a million pounds, the beautiful ceiling of the nave can now been seen along with the numerous striking stain glass windows.

The beautiful banding on the graceful spire, the second tallest in Wiltshire, is also well worth a study. The best known rector was the poet George Crabbe, much admired by Jane Austen, who was here from 1814 until his death in 1832. See www.poetsgraves.co.uk/crabbe.htm

The Trowbridge Museum is a popular tourist attraction and has many exhibitions about the town's past, and the history of other towns in the area. It is a great place to learn about local events in a fun and interesting way. The museum is located in Salters Mill, the last woollen mill to close in the town in 1982. The successful annual Textile and Weaving Festival will be held again in Aug to Nov 2009.

Trowbridge has has an annual music festival, the Trowbridge Pump Festival which takes place at Stowford Manor Farm, which is about two miles outside the town. The festival features internationally known folk and roots acts as well as many other bands and celebrated its 35th year in 2008.

Situated midway between Bath and Stonehenge, Trowbridge is also an excellent touring centre for those interested in the heritage of prehistoric sites of Stonehenge and Avebury, Glastonbury Tor, Roman Britain, white horses, crop circles and historic stately homes like Longleat House with its safari park, Bowood House and Great Chalford Manor. With gardens like the award winning The Courts and the Peto Gardens, there is much to enjoy locally.

  • Trowbridge Tourist Information Centre, St Stephens Place, Trowbridge Tel: (01225) 710535

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