Trowbridge and the Surrounding Area
Trowbridge is best known as the county town of Wiltshire, and sits in the west of county on the River Biss, 12 miles SE of Bath. September 1848 saw the first steam train pass through Trowbridge as part of the new Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth railway.
The advent of the steam railway in the area played a huge part in its development into a town of importance as it enabled coal to be transported, which brought steam powered manufacturing into the woollen mills.
The town was at the forefront of the woollen cloth industry in the south west, and in the late 18th century into the early 19th century the town was called the Manchester of the west. When the last mill closed its doors in 1982 it was turned into a museum tracing the history of the town. The access to fascinating collections housed within the Trowbridge Museum is via the Shires Shopping Centre, which was built on part of the mill site and houses over 50 shops.
For those interested in the rich architectural heritage of the town that pertains to the woollen trade should take a look at the Trowbridge Town Trail, which is a tour of the most important buildings in the town.
You will get the chance to see what remains of some of the worlds oldest steam driven mills, as well as what is now the Lloyds Bank building and is considered to be Wiltshire’s finest Georgian building and was the former home of the finest clothier in the west. The nearby Parade boasts the finest array of clothiers houses anywhere in the county and is also a must see.
Due to its location on the western edge of Salisbury Plain, Trowbridge makes an excellent base whether you are visiting the north or the south of Wiltshire. The charming town of Bradford on Avon is close by, and there are a number of major tourist attractions within a short driving distance including the Kennet & Avon Canal and Lacock, a National Trust village.
Bradford-on-Avon is a very pretty town that nestles on the edge of the Vale of Pewsey on the banks of the River Avon. It’s located on one of the many fords which cross the Avon and there is a stone bridge still being used to cross the river that dates back to Norman times. The hills are dotted with cottages and houses built from Cotswold Stone and the variety of shapes and sizes provide the town with a quaint backdrop.
The focal point of the town centre is the Saxon Church of St Laurence. This stone building dates back to around 700AD and is unique in that the whole building was created all at one time with nothing being added on at later dates. It has served many purposes during its lifetime and has undergone extensive renovation to take it back to its original purpose.
As was Trowbridge, Bradford on Avon has its history as a thriving centre for textiles as the Avon provided the water necessary to power the mills. The houses that line the hills surrounding the town were once the homes of the weavers and the spinners that worked in the mills.
When the bottom fell out of the textile market, many mills were taken over by the rubber industry, and when this moved onto larger industrial areas, they were sold off and now many of the old mill buildings have been renovated into desirable riverside residences.
Another town in west Wiltshire that deserves to be explored is Westbury. Lying in the north western hills of Salisbury Plain, it has been known in the past as Westbury-under-the-Plain and life here centres around the historic market.
The town is also noted for All Saints’ church which was built in the 14th century and has the third heaviest bells in the world. Other notable artefacts in the church are the clock created in the 16th century by a local blacksmith and an original Erasmus bible.
Probably the most famous feature of Westbury is its White Horse, which some argue dates back to 878AD although there is no evidence to suggest that it was created any earlier than 1720.
It is, however, both the largest and the oldest of the famous Wiltshire horses. Cut into the hills underneath Bratton Camp Hill Fort, it can be viewed from the B3098 viewpoint, and if you brave the steep hills on foot you will be rewarded with spectacular views.
To the south of Salisbury Plain on the River Were is Warminster, a town that first saw settlers in Saxon times. There has been evidence found that people lived in the general area even before then, at Cley Hill and Battlesbury Camp. The town has strong links with the military, and there are still troops based in the surrounding areas.
Those who love architecture will love Warminster, as the town was created almost entirely from local rubble stones as well as Bath and Chilmark stone. Any bricks or tiles you will see were sourced from Crockerton. Some of the oldest buildings that still remain today include the Bath Arms inn, the Old Bell inn and the Anchor inn.
The middle ages were good to Warminster as the town thrived due to the corn, cloth and wool trades. This prosperity allowed them to build the Minster Church of St Denys, an oustanding religious building that was constructed within a sacred yew grove and is a huge tourist attraction.
When the older industries died out in Warminster light and rural industries took over, including banana ripening, paint manufacture, barley breeding and silk throwing. Cradle Hill in Warminster found fame in the 1960s with the stories of crop circles and UFOs, and some locals even claimed to have met aliens in person. The interest has waned over the years but those who believe in little green men still turn up in hope.