Main Births etc
Coordinates: 51°19′01″N 2°13′01″W / 51.317, -2.217
Town Hall, Trowbridge
Trowbridge Town Hall, as seen from Fore Street

Wiltshire outline map with UK (2009)
Red pog.svg

Red pog.svg Trowbridge shown within Wiltshire
Population 28,163 [1]
OS grid reference ST8557
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 Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South West Wiltshire
List of places: UK • England • Wiltshire

Trowbridge (play /ˈtrbrɪ/) is the county town of Wiltshire, England, situated on the River Biss in the west of the county, approximately 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Bath, Somerset.

On the 5th September 1848 the first train steamed through Trowbridge as the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway was established.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 the woollen cloth mills. The town was the foremost centre of woollen cloth production in south west England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was described as "The Manchester of the West".[2]

Trowbridge has a railway station on the Wessex Main Line. The civil parish of Trowbridge had a population of 28,163 at the 2001 census.[1] Neighbouring towns and villages include Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Devizes, Hilperton, Southwick and Semington.

History and HeritageEdit


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 BookEdit

There is evidence that the land on which Trowbridge is built was being farmed more than 3,000 years ago. In the 10th century there is clear evidence of Trowbridge's existence and in the Domesday Book the village of Straburg, as Trowbridge was then known, was recorded as having 100 residents.[4]


The first mention of Trowbridge Castle was in 1139[6] while it was besieged – so it must have been built before this.

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,[7] and its name is given to Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

Woollen cloth industryEdit

Trowbridge developed as a centre for woollen cloth production from the 14th century. 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.[8] 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.[9] 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,[10] 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.[11]

1800s to presentEdit

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.[12]

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.


Frome Road Well, Trowbridge

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 fiftieth year on the throne.[13] It is currently used for military and other inquests.[14][15] 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 facilitiesEdit

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.[16]


The first official census of 1801 showed Trowbridge having 5,799 inhabitants, while the most recent of 2001 lists 28,163. No census was taken in 1941 due to the Second World War. Since 1951, the population has increased by 103%.[1] Trowbridge has one of the highest population of Moroccans in the United Kingdom outside of London.[17][18]


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.[19]

Entertainment and communicationsEdit

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 peopleEdit

Trowbridge was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Pitman, developer of the Pitman Shorthand system of shorthand writing.[20] 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.[21] Matthew Hutton (Archbishop of Canterbury) was the town's rector from 1726 to 1730.[22] The poet George Crabbe held the same position from 1814 until his death in 1832.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]

Town redevelopmentEdit


River Biss flowing under the Town Bridge, renovated in November 2007

Holy Trinity Church, Trowbridge

Holy Trinity Church on Stallard Street

Since 2002, there have been plans in place to redevelop significant town centre sites.[26]

In the early 1990s the supermarket chain Tesco relocated from St Stephens Place to a site adjoining the A361 on County Way. The previous site has remained dormant since its demolition.

Local residents have frequently voiced their desire for new facilities to be built on the site, with reference often made to Trowbridge's lack of a cinema. Developers Modus have signed up to provide a Vue Cinema in the plan for the Waterside complex.[27] 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.[28] In the same week, the Town Council supported plans for Waitrose Supermarkets to build a store on land at Cradle Bridge/County Way containing a derelict factory once occupied by the Peter Black Group.[29]

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.

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.[30]


Trowbridge Community Area Future (TCAF) is responsible for the production of the Trowbridge Community Area Plan,[31] 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.[32] 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 leisureEdit

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.

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.

Town twinningEdit

Trowbridge is twinned with four towns: Oujda, the area of Morocco where most the town's immigrant population originate,[18] since 2006.[33] Leer in Germany, since 1989;[33] Charenton-le-Pont in France since 1996;[33] and Elbląg in Poland, as part of West Wiltshire district twinning, since 2000.[33] Trowbridge was the first English town to twin with an Arab Muslim country.[17]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c = Trowbridge "Trowbridge Census Information". Wiltshire Council. = Trowbridge. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Wiltshire Council – Wiltshire Community History Get Community Information". Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Town Official Guide, Trowbridge Town Council, 2008
  4. ^ a b Origins of the name Trowbridge: website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  5. ^ Lewis, Harold (1978). The Church Rambler, Volume 2. Hamilton, Adams & Co.. pp. 199–226. 
  6. ^ First mention of Trowbridge Castle: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  7. ^ Graham, Alan H., and Susan M. Davies (1993). Excavations in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 1977 and 1986–1988: The Prehistoric, Saxon, and Saxo-Norman Settlements and the Anarchy Period Castle. Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology. pp. 1. 
  8. ^ "Machine-breaking in England and France during the Age of Revolution". Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  9. ^ "Economic History". Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Wiltshire History Questions Search Results". 26 April 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2010. ; although another example can be found at Bowlish near Shepton Mallet.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Architecture – Trowbridge Town Hall: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  14. ^ Town Hall used for military inquests: Wiltshire Times article. Retrieved on 7 February 2008
  15. ^ Other inquests also at the Town Hall: The Independent newspaper article. Retrieved on 7 February 2008
  16. ^ [1]:Town Council website. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Backing For Link To Morocco (from Wiltshire Times)". 22 September 2006. Retrieved 28 July 2008. 
  18. ^ a b "Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities – The Moroccan Muslim Community in England" (PDF). Change Institute. Communities and Local Government. April 2009. 
  19. ^ "Trowbridge Community Website". Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  20. ^ Sir Isaac Pitman, born in Trowbridge: NNDB website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  21. ^ The "Sir Isaac Pitman" pub (Wetherspoon's): website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  22. ^ Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of Canterbury, town's rector: Troweb website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  23. ^ George Crabbe, poet and rector of Trowbridge: Britain Unlimited website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  24. ^ John Dyer and the fulling machine: Trowbridge Museum website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  25. ^ Sir William Cook KCB Kt FRS, notable resident: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  26. ^ Redevelopment plans (since 2002): Transforming Trowbridge website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  27. ^ Plan for cinema in Trowbridge (Waterside development): West Wiltshire District Council website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  28. ^ "Go-ahead for Waterside project", County Hall East area, March 2008: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  29. ^ "Waitrose plans win backing", Cradle Bridge, March 2008: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  30. ^ Ushers Brewery site, proposed plans for redevelopment: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  31. ^ Trowbridge Community Area Plan, Community Area Plan: Trowbridge Town Council website. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  32. ^ Wiltshire Council Community Area Partnership, Community Area Partnership: Wiltshire Council website. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  33. ^ a b c d Twin towns in Germany, France, Poland and Morocco: website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.

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