Trowbridge

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Trowbridge 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.

The town’s market charter dates from 1200; Wiltshire County Council has recently re-introduced a weekly market – Wednesday in Fore Street.

The NT property of Westwood Manor is close by.

The Kennet and Avon canal runs to the north of Trowbridge and played a large part in the development of the town as it allowed coal to be transported from the Somerset Coalfield. The town was also a major centre in the textile industry in south west England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was described as “The Manchester of the West”.

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, making it the third largest settlement in the county after the town of Swindon and the city of Salisbury. Neighbouring towns and villages include Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Devizes, Hilperton, Southwick and Semington.

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.

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.

The first mention of Trowbridge Castle was in 1139  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, and its name is given to Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

From the 13th century onwards Trowbridge developed a clothing industry, increasingly becoming industrialised from the 17th century onwards. However increasing mechanisation was resisted by workers in traditional trades and there were riots in 1785, 1792 and in the era of luddism due 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 Salisbury. Nevertheless at one point in 1820 Trowbridge was being described as the “Manchester of the West” as it had over 2,000 wool-producing factories, comparable to Northern industrial towns such as Rochdale. The wool industry declined in the late 19th century with the advent of ring-spinning and this decline continued throughout the 20th century. The last mill, Salter’s Home Mill, closed in 1982 and is now the home of Trowbridge Museum, integrated into The Shires Shopping Centre. 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.

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 was announced, with production moving to the Shaftesbury and Nottingham factories.

The town became the county town of Wiltshire in 1889 when the 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, with Apetito. The largest employers in the town are now Wiltshire Council, apetito, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile.

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 single track railway with limited services. Services from Trowbridge join the Reading to Taunton line at Westbury.

Trowbridge is situated about 20 miles (32 km) from junction 18 of the M4 motorway (Bath) and 20 miles from junction 17 (Chippenham). The A361 runs through the town connecting it to Swindon to the north-east and Barnstaple to the south-west.

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. As of August 2011, not all of the shops in this new development have been filled. The Civic Hall, a conference and entertainment venue, is next to the Town Park, which is also home to the tourist information kiosk. The civic hall has recently undergone a major redevelopment due to be completed at the end of 2011, with hand over to Trowbridge Town Council in November 2011.

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%. Trowbridge has one of the highest population of Moroccans in the United Kingdom outside of London.

Trowbridge is within the Westbury parliamentary constituency and represented by Andrew Murrison (Conservative). The Boundary Commission announced changes to the constituency, and from 2009-2010 it became South West Wiltshire.

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.

The Arc Theatre (West Wiltshire’s playhouse), based in Trowbridge, shows international theatre and dance.

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 Town F.C. is the local football club, based at North Bradley near Trowbridge. They play in the Hellenic Football League Division One West.

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.

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.

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

In the early 1990s the supermarket chain Tesco changed location from their site at St Stephens Place to a site adjoining the A361 on County Way. The previous site has been dormant since being demolished some years ago, and has become notorious for its extremely large mound of crushed concrete and other remains (pictured below). Redevelopment has since suffered through several delayed starts.

Trowbridge 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. 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. 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.

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

The former Ushers brewery site has also been in the process of redevelopment for a number of years. A development on the old Ushers brewing site is well underway by Newland Homes, building town centre apartments, incorporating the old frontage of the Ushers brewery.

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.

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.

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