Trowbridge Town Hall, as seen from Fore Street
Trowbridge shown within Wiltshire
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||South West Wiltshire|
Trowbridge // is the county town of Wiltshire, England on the Biss in the west of the county, 8 miles (13 km) south east of Bath, Somerset, from which is it 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".
The civil parish of Trowbridge had a population of 32,304 at the 2011 census. Nearby towns are Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Devizes and contiguously are the parishes of Hilperton, North Bradley and Semington.
- 1 History
- 2 Ancient history and the Domesday Book
- 3 Architecture
- 4 Transport
- 5 Shopping and other facilities
- 6 Demography
- 7 Government
- 8 Entertainment and communications
- 9 Notable people
- 10 Town redevelopment
- 11 Sport and leisure
- 12 Town twinning
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
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, 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. 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.
The first mention of Trowbridge Castle was in 1139 while it was besieged. 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, and its name is given to Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.
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 of England, 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.
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. 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. 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 Cafe' and Trowbridge Museum and Art Gallery, 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.
Salter's Mill, now the centrepiece of the Shires Shopping Centre
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.
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.
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 fiftieth year on the throne. It is currently used for military and other inquests. The town has six Grade I listed buildings, being St James Church, Lovemead House, and 46, 64, 68 and 60 Fore Street.
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.
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 World War II. From 1951 to 2011, the population increased by 133%. 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.
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.
Trowbridge was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Pitman, developer of the Pitman Shorthand system of shorthand writing. He is remembered in the town through several memorial plaques, and his name has been taken by a pub in the town centre run by Wetherspoons. Matthew Hutton (Archbishop of Canterbury) was the town's rector from 1726 to 1730. The poet George Crabbe held the same position from 1814 until his death in 1832.
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.
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.
Since 2002, there have been plans in place to redevelop significant town centre sites.
In the early 1990s the supermarket chain Tesco relocated from St Stephens 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 are due to open in 2014.
Developers Modus had signed up to provide a Vue Cinema in the plan for the Waterside complex. 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.
The former Ushers brewery site has also undergone redevelopment over a number of years with Newland Homes building town centre apartments incorporating the former frontage of the building.
In April 2009, building work started on one of the town's biggest brownfield sites, the former Ushers bottling plant. This site developed into a Sainsbury supermarket, a public square and housing.
Trowbridge Community Area Future (TCAF) is responsible for the production of the Trowbridge Community Area Plan, 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 focussed way that relates more directly to the needs and aspirations of local people via Community Area Partnerships. 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.
Sport and leisure
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 is twinned with four towns: Oujda, the area of Morocco where most the town's immigrant population originate, since 2006. Leer in Germany, since 1989; Charenton-le-Pont in France since 1996; and Elbląg in Poland, as part of West Wiltshire district twinning, since 2000. Trowbridge was the first English town to twin with an Arab Muslim country.