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Trowbridge Town Hall, seen from Fore Street
Trowbridge is located in Wiltshire
 Trowbridge shown within Wiltshire
Population 33,108 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid reference
Unitary authority Wiltshire
Ceremonial county Wiltshire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Trowbridge
Postcode district BA14
Dialling code 01225
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South West Wiltshire
Website Town Council
List of places

Trowbridge is the county town of Wiltshire, England on the River Biss in the west of the county, 8 miles (13 km) south east of Bath, Somerset, from which it is separated by the Mendip Hills which rise 3 miles (4.8 km) to the west.

Trowbridge has a railway station on the Wessex Main Line. On 5 September 1848, the first train steamed through as the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway was established. Long a market town, the Kennet and Avon canal runs to the north of Trowbridge and played an instrumental part in the town's development as it enabled coal to be transported from the Somerset Coalfield and so marked the advent of steam-powered manufacturing in woollen cloth mills. The town was foremost producer of this mainstay of contemporary clothing and blankets in south west England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by which time it held the nickname "The Manchester of the West".[2]

The civil parish of Trowbridge had a population of 33,108 at the 2011 census.[1] The parish encompasses the settlements of Longfield, Lower Studley, Upper Studley, Studley Green and Trowle Common. Adjacent parishes include Staverton, Hilperton, West Ashton, North Bradley, Southwick and Wingfield; nearby towns are Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham and Devizes.


  • History 1
    • Toponymy 1.1
  • Ancient history and the Domesday Book 2
    • Castle 2.1
    • Woollen cloth industry 2.2
    • 1800s to present 2.3
  • Architecture 3
  • Transport 4
  • Shopping and other facilities 5
  • Demography 6
  • Government 7
  • Education 8
  • Entertainment and communications 9
  • Notable people 10
  • Town redevelopment 11
    • TCAF 11.1
  • Sport and leisure 12
  • Town twinning 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16



The origin of the name Trowbridge is uncertain; one source claims derivation from treow-brycg, meaning "Tree Bridge", referring to the first bridge over the Biss,[3][4] while another states that the true meaning is the bridge by Trowle, the name of a hamlet and a common to the west of the town.[5] On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the name is spelt Trubridge.

Ancient history and the Domesday Book

There is evidence that the land on which Trowbridge is built was being farmed more than 3,000 years ago. In the 10th century written records and architectural ruins begin marking Trowbridge's existence as a village. In the Domesday Book the village of Straburg, as Trowbridge was then known, was recorded as having 24 households, very well endowed with land, particularly arable ploughlands, and rendering 8 pounds sterling to its feudal lord a year.[4][6] Its feudal lord was an Anglo-Saxon named Brictric who was the largest landowner in Wiltshire. He seems to have administered his estates from Trowbridge.


The first mention of Trowbridge Castle was in 1139 while it was besieged.[7] The castle is thought to have been a motte-and-bailey castle, and its influences can still be seen in the town today. Fore Street follows the path of the castle ditch,[8] and its name is given to Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

It is likely that the Castle was built by Humphrey I de Bohun and that family were to dominate the town for over a hundred years.

The most notable member of the family was Henry de Bohun, born around 1176, who became lord of the manor when he was about 15 years of age. It was he who really began to shape the medieval town. in 1200 he obtained a market charter, arguably the earliest for a town in Wiltshire, and one of the earliest in England. His officials were to lay out burgage plots for traders,artisans, and shop keepers. The outline of these plots can still be seen today in the footprints of some of the present shops in Fore Street. Property lines and boundaries can persist for centuries.

Within Trowbridge Castle was a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon church. This, Henry de Bohun turned into secular use and in its place had built a new church outside the Castle; this is the first St James Church. In the base of the tower, below the subsequently added spire, of the present day church can be seen the Romanesque architecture of the period.

Also in 1200 Henry de Bohun was created Earl of Hereford by King John. Like other barons, Henry was to be subsequently threatened by King John and his caput (headquarters) of Trowbridge was taken from him. Henry then joined with the other barons to oppose John's arbitiary rule and forced him to seal Magna Carta (Grand Charter) at Runnymede, and was elected as one of the twenty-five enforcers of the charter. Soon after Runnymede Henry regained control of Trowbridge.

A statue of Henry de Bohun stands high up in the House of Lords looking down on the Lords in the chamber commemorating his part and presence in and at Runnymede and his role as one of the enforcers of the Charter. During the course of 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a copy of the statue, from the now closed Westgate Tower Museum in Canterbury, has been loaned to Trowbridge Museum where it is now on display.

The caputs or headquarters of the twenty five enforcers are known as the Magna Carta Baron Towns. Most of such towns are in the north and east of England, only Trowbridge and the small village of Curry Malet in Somerset are in the West of England.

Woollen cloth industry

Trowbridge developed as a centre for woollen cloth production from the 14th century.

Thus before the start of the reign of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, the towns of south-west Wiltshire stood out from the rest of the county with all the signs of increasing wealth and prosperity during the period of trade recovery led by exports begun under Yorkist Edward IV and, still more, during expansion under Henry, when England's annual woollen exports increased from some 60,000 to some 80,000 cloths of assize.[9]

As the 17th century progressed the process became increasingly industrialised. However, mechanisation was resisted by workers in traditional trades and there were riots in 1785, 1792 and in the era of Luddism owing to the introduction of the flying shuttle.[10] Thomas Helliker, a shearman's apprentice, became one of the martyrs of the Industrial Revolution in 1803 when he was hanged at Fisherton Jail Salisbury. Nevertheless, at one point in 1820 Trowbridge's scale of production was such that it resulted in it being described as the "Manchester of the West". It had over 20 woollen cloth producing factories, making it comparable to Northern industrial towns such as Rochdale.[11] The woollen cloth industry declined in the late 19th century with the advent of ring-spinning and this decline continued throughout the 20th century. However, Trowbridge's West of England cloth maintained a reputation for excellent quality until the end. The last mill, Salter's Home Mill, closed in 1982 and is now the home of Boswell's Café and Trowbridge Museum and Art Gallery,[12] integrated into the Shires Shopping Centre.The Museum portrays the history of woollen cloth production in the town and displays include an extremely rare Spinning Jenny one of only 5 remaining worldwide. There are also working looms on display. Clark's Mill is now home to offices and the County Court; straddling the nearby River Biss is the "Handle House", formerly used for drying and storage of teazles used to raise the nap of cloth. This is one of very few such buildings still known to exist in the United Kingdom.[13]

1800s to present

In its place a bedding industry developed, initially using wool cast off from the mills – the company now known as Airsprung Furniture Group PLC was started in the town in the 1870s. Food production also developed in the town when Abraham Bowyer started his business in 1805 which eventually, as Pork Farms Bowyers, became one of the largest employers in the town until closure in April 2008 when production moved to the Shaftesbury and Nottingham factories.

The town became the county town of Wiltshire in 1889 when Wiltshire County Council was formed and needed a place where representatives from Swindon and Salisbury, among others, could reach and return home in one day. Trowbridge fulfilled this criterion by dint of its railway connections and thus evolved as the county town, further reinforced by the construction of the county hall in 1939.[14]

The brewing company Ushers of Trowbridge opened in 1824, and developed the brewery in the town – this was finally shut in 2000 following several changes of ownership. Food production continues in the town through companies such as frozen food processor Apetito. The largest employers in the town are Wiltshire Council and Apetito.


'Studley Pump' drinking well, Frome Road. Victorian in origin, restored in 1977
Changes in Trowbridge's population 1801 – 2001

There is much of architectural interest in Trowbridge, including many of the old buildings associated with the textile industry, and the Newtown conservation area, a protected zone of mostly Victorian houses. The town hall is in Market Street, opposite the entrance to the pedestrianised Fore Street. This "imposing building" was presented to the residents of the town by a local businessman, Sir William Roger Brown in 1889, to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.[15] It is currently used for military and other inquests.[16][17] The town has six Grade I listed buildings, being St James Church, Lovemead House and 46, 64, 68 and 60 Fore Street. There is also the Polebarn Hotel which is a Grade II* listed building.


Trowbridge railway station, which has two platforms, is situated on the Wessex mainline between Bradford-on-Avon and Westbury. Services from Trowbridge join the Great Western main line at Bath and Chippenham. Between Trowbridge and Chippenham the line is a single track with limited services. Services from Trowbridge join the Reading to Taunton line at Westbury.

Trowbridge is about 18 miles (29 km) from junction 18 of the M4 motorway (Bath) and the same distance from junction 17 (Chippenham). The A361 runs through the town connecting it to Swindon to the north-east and Barnstaple to the south-west, while the north-south A350 primary route to Poole passes close to the town.

The nearest airport is Bristol Airport, which is 30 miles (48 km) west.

Shopping and other facilities

The town centre is compact, and the focus for shops is the ancient Fore Street; the more modern Shires and Castle Place shopping centres provide a wide variety of outlets. The Shires Gateway, situated by the entrance to the Shires shopping centre car park, was opened in 2009. The new civic centre is a conference and entertainment venue and home to the town's information centre. It is also the headquarters of Trowbridge Town Council. It is located in the heart of Trowbridge's Town Park.[18]


The first official census of 1801 showed Trowbridge having 5,799 inhabitants, which rose very rapidly to 9,545 in 1821. The population rose by less than 50% in the 130 years to 1951, compared to a considerably larger increase in the population of the country as a whole. No census was taken in 1941 due to the Second World War. From 1951 to 2011, the population increased by 133%.[19] Coinciding with this increase a considerable conversion of arable fields and some riverside meadows to residential estates took place.


While the proportion of people in 2011 who identified themselves as within an ethnic minority is lower than the average for England, at 11.7% (compared with 20.2%), approximately 1% of the population (0.93%) described themselves to be in the mixed/multiple ethnic group: white and black Caribbean, with the next largest minority being of black Caribbean ethnicity and descent. In order of percentage, the next largest minority are people of ethnicity which is 'other Asian' which does not refer to India, China, Pakistan or Bangladesh but to other Asian countries, outside of the Arab ethnicity area, which in turn falls one place behind this classification. Although this fourth group accounted in 2011 for less than 0.4% of the population, Trowbridge has one of the highest demographics of Moroccan birth or ancestry in the United Kingdom outside of London.[1][20][21]

Population of Trowbridge[19]
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1881 1891
Population 5,799 6,075 9,545 10,863 11,050 11,148 11,040 11,717
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 2001 2011
Population 11,526 11,815 12,130 12,011 n/a 13,859 15,844 28,163 32,304


There are 7 electoral wards in Trowbridge. Their total area and population is identical to that quoted above.

Trowbridge is within the South West Wiltshire parliamentary constituency and represented by Andrew Murrison (Conservative).

Main Wiltshire Council building in Bythsea Road

It is the centre for Wiltshire Council, a unitary authority created in April 2009 which replaced (for relevant purposes) West Wiltshire District Council and the former Wiltshire County Council.

The Town Council is the lowest level of government.[22]


Primary schools in the town include Bellefield Primary School, Grove Primary School, Holbrook Primary School, Oasis Academy Longmeadow, Paxcroft Primary School, St John's Catholic Primary School, Studley Green Primary School and Walwayne Court Primary School.

Secondary schools in Trowbridge include the Clarendon Academy, the John of Gaunt School and St Augustine's Catholic College. All of the secondary schools also operate their own sixth forms. Larkrise School is a special school for children aged 3 to 19 which is also located in the town.

Wiltshire College operates a campus in Trowbridge offering a range of vocational courses aimed at school-leavers.

Entertainment and communications

The Arc Theatre (West Wiltshire's playhouse), based in Trowbridge, shows international theatre and dance. In 2011 it was announced by Wiltshire College that the Arc Theatre would close as a professional theatre, but would continue as a resource for the students of the college and for amateur productions.

Plans were unveiled in March 2012 to redevelop Trowbridge Town Hall as an arts centre, including a 300-seat auditorium by former Arc Theatre Director and Trowbridge Arts Development Manager Tracy Sullivan.

Trowbridge is part of the historic West Country Carnival circuit, and has also given its name to the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival. The festival was originally held in the old stablehouse of the Lamb Inn public house on Mortimer Street in Trowbridge, and was founded by Alan Briars and Dave Newman, although the event is now held at Stowford Manor Farm between Wingfield near Trowbridge and Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset.

Notable people

Trowbridge was the birthplace of Sir

  • Trowbridge travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Town Council website
  • Trowbridge history (Wiltshire County Council)
  • Trowbridge at DMOZ

External links

  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ Town Official Guide, Trowbridge Town Council, 2008
  4. ^ a b Origins of the name Trowbridge: website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Domesday Map
  7. ^ First mention of Trowbridge Castle: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ The Trowbridge Woollen Industry as Illustrated by the Stock Books of John and Thomas Clark, 1804–1824, John Clark & Thomas Clark & R. P. Beckinsale, Wiltshire Record Society/Biddles Ltd, 1973.
  13. ^ ; although another example can be found at Bowlish near Shepton Mallet.
  14. ^ Wiltshire Council - Wiltshire Community History Get Wiltshire History Question Information
  15. ^ Architecture – Trowbridge Town Hall: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  16. ^ Town Hall used for military inquests: Wiltshire Times article. Retrieved on 7 February 2008
  17. ^ Other inquests also at the Town Hall: The Independent newspaper article. Retrieved on 7 February 2008
  18. ^ [1]:Town Council website. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^ Sir Isaac Pitman, born in Trowbridge: NNDB website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  24. ^ The "Sir Isaac Pitman" pub (Wetherspoon's): website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  25. ^ Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of Canterbury, town's rector: Troweb website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  26. ^ George Crabbe, poet and rector of Trowbridge: Britain Unlimited website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  27. ^ John Dyer and the fulling machine: Trowbridge Museum website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  28. ^ Sir William Cook KCB Kt FRS, notable resident: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  29. ^ BBC Sport - Stephen Lee: Snooker player given 12-year ban for match-fixing
  30. ^ SNOOKER: Lee’s waiting game (From This Is Wiltshire)
  31. ^ Blitz Games Studios :: News :: Archive :: Oliver Twins honoured with naming of school building
  32. ^ Redevelopment plans (since 2002): Transforming Trowbridge website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  33. ^ Plan for cinema in Trowbridge (Waterside development): West Wiltshire District Council website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  34. ^ "Go-ahead for Waterside project", County Hall East area, March 2008: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  35. ^ Ushers Brewery site, proposed plans for redevelopment: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  36. ^ Trowbridge Community Area Plan, Community Area Plan: Trowbridge Town Council website. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  37. ^ Wiltshire Council Community Area Partnership, Community Area Partnership: Wiltshire Council website. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  38. ^ a b c d
  39. ^


See also

Trowbridge is twinned with four towns: Oujda, the area of Morocco where most the town's immigrant population originate,[21] since 2006.[38] Leer in Germany, since 1989;[38] Charenton-le-Pont in France since 1996;[38][39] and Elbląg in Poland, as part of West Wiltshire district twinning, since 2000.[38] Trowbridge was the first English town to twin with an Arab Muslim country.[20]

Welcome to Trowbridge

Town twinning

Trowbridge also has a cricket club who play at Trowbridge Cricket Club Ground. They have four adult teams and a thriving youth section. Trowbridge Cricket Club 1st XI currently play in the West of England Premier League Gloucestershire & Wiltshire division.

Trowbridge Town has a Non-League football club Trowbridge Town F.C. who play at Woodmarsh to the south of the town, near North Bradley.

Sport and leisure

Trowbridge Community Area Future (TCAF) is responsible for the production of the Trowbridge Community Area Plan,[36] which will help influence service providers to improve Trowbridge and guide future development. This is part of a county-wide commitment by Wiltshire Council to deliver services in a more community focused way that relates more directly to the needs and aspirations of local people via Community Area Partnerships.[37] These community run, independent and autonomous groups are producing local Community Area Plans across the county in partnership with Wiltshire Council and other organisations, stake holders and service providers.


In April 2009, building work started on one of the town's biggest brownfield sites, the former Usher's bottling plant. This site developed into a Sainsbury supermarket, a public square and housing.[35]

The former Usher's brewery site has also undergone redevelopment over a number of years with Newland Homes building town centre flats incorporating the former frontage of the building.

The developer Parkridge has constructed a retail centre between the Shires and the railway station, bringing firms such as Next and Brantano to the town.

Developers Modus had signed up to provide a Vue cinema in the plan for the Waterside complex.[33] In March 2008, an outline planning application for the proposed development was approved by West Wiltshire District Council, to include a new library, cinema, ten-pin bowling, hotel and restaurants, however the proposals fell through.[34]

In the early 1990s the supermarket chain Tesco moved from St Stephen's Place to a site adjoining the A361 on County Way. The former site remained dormant for a decade. The building was demolished but a pile of rubble, nicknamed 'Mount Crushmore' by local media, remained. Legal and General acquired the land and construction of St Stephen’s Place Leisure Park began in 2012. A seven screen Odeon cinema and Nando's restaurant opened to the public in October 2013. A Premier Inn, Frankie and Benny's and Prezzo were due to open in 2014.

Since 2002, there have been plans in place to redevelop significant town centre sites.[32]

Holy Trinity Church on Stallard Street
River Biss flowing under the Town Bridge, renovated in November 2007

Town redevelopment

The Oliver Twins, who created the Dizzy series of games amongst others and founded Interactive Studios (now known as Blitz games) grew up in Trowbridge. A building at the Clarendon Academy is named after the brothers.[31]

Disgraced[29] snooker player Stephen Lee is from Trowbridge.[30]

Sir William Cook KCB Kt FRS, born in Trowbridge in 1905, was involved with the development of the British nuclear bomb at Aldermaston in the 1950s, becoming the establishment's deputy director.[28]

John Dyer was a Trowbridge born inventor and engineer whose most important invention was the rotary fulling machine in 1833. A version of the machine, developed for the local woollen industry, is still in use today.[27]


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