Trowbridge (/ˈtrbrɪ/ TROH-brij) 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. The town is also 38 miles (61 km) south of Gloucester and 20 miles (32 km) south east of Bristol.


Trowbridge Town Hall, seen from Fore Street
Location within Wiltshire
Population33,108 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid referenceST8557
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townTrowbridge
Postcode districtBA14
Dialling code01225
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
UK Parliament
WebsiteTown Council

Long a market town, the Kennet and Avon canal to the north of Trowbridge has played an instrumental part in the town's development as it allowed 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, Frome and Devizes.



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 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 Domesday Book

There is evidence 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 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 when it was besieged.[7] The castle is thought to have been a motte-and-bailey castle, and its influence can still be seen in the town today. Fore Street follows the path of the castle ditch,[8] and town has a Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

It is likely the Castle was built by Humphrey I de Bohun; his family dominated 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 shopkeepers. The outline of these plots can still be seen today in the footprints of some of the present shops in Fore Street.

Within Trowbridge Castle was a 10th-century Anglo-Saxon church. Henry de Bohun turned this to secular use and instead had a new church built outside the Castle; this was the first St James's Church. In the base of the tower of the present day church, below the subsequently added spire, can be seen the Romanesque architecture of the period.

In 1200 Henry de Bohun was created Earl of Hereford by King John. Like other barons, Henry was later threatened by King John and his caput of Trowbridge was taken from him. Henry then joined with the other barons to oppose John's arbitrary rule and forced him to seal Magna Carta (the Great Charter) at Runnymede; and was elected as one of the 25 enforcers of the charter. Some years after Runnymede, Henry regained control of Trowbridge.

Woollen cloth industry

Trowbridge developed as a centre for woollen cloth production from the 14th century. Thus before the start of the Tudor period, 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 VII, when England's annual woollen exports increased from some 60,000 to some 80,000 cloths of assize.[9]

During the 17th century, the production of woollen cloth became increasingly industrialised. However, mechanisation was resisted by workers in traditional trades; there were riots in 1785 and 1792 and again in the era of Luddism (1811-1816) 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 it was 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; the displays include an extremely rare Spinning Jenny, one of only five 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 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 sought a place which representatives from Swindon and Salisbury, among others, could reach and return home from in one day. Trowbridge fulfilled this criterion by virtue of its railway connections and thus was chosen 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 and its equipment was sold to North Korea, where it forms the core of the Taedonggang brewery, just outside Pyongyang.[15][16]

Food production continues in the town through companies such as frozen food processor Apetito. The largest employers 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 has six Grade I listed buildings, being St James's Church, Lovemead House and numbers 46, 64, 68 and 70, Fore Street.

The town hall is in Market Street, opposite the entrance to the now-pedestrianised Fore Street. This three-storey building with an Italianate clock-tower[17] 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.[18] The building was the seat of local government until 1974 and also housed magistrates' courts and coroners' inquests;[19] it is now a centre for arts and community events.[20]


Trowbridge railway station was opened in 1848 on the WestburyBradford-on-Avon section of the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway. Today this line forms part of both the Wessex Main Line (Bristol–Westbury–Southampton) and the Heart of Wessex Line (Bristol–Westbury–Weymouth), while the original route to Melksham, Chippenham and Swindon is used by the TransWilts service. Other services from Trowbridge join the Great Western main line at Bath and Chippenham, or 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.


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. From 1951 to 2011, the population increased by 133%.[21] Coinciding with this increase a considerable conversion of arable fields and some riverside meadows to residential estates took place.

In 2018 the Office for National Statistics estimated the population of the larger "community area" at 45,822, making Trowbridge the largest area in Wiltshire (excluding Swindon), with Chippenham close behind in second place and Salisbury third.[22]

Population of Trowbridge[21]
Population 5,7996,0759,54510,86311,05011,14811,04011,717
Population 11,52611,81512,13012,011n/a13,85915,84428,16332,304


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 London.[1][23][24]


There are seven electoral divisions in Trowbridge for elections to Wiltshire Council, which are also the wards of the town council. Together, they cover the same area as the civil parish.

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

County Hall in Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, is the administrative centre for Wiltshire Council, a unitary authority created in April 2009 which replaced both West Wiltshire District Council and the former Wiltshire County Council, also headquartered at County Hall since 1940.

The Town Council is the first tier of local government.[25]


Primary schools in the town include Bellefield Primary School, The Grove Primary School, Holbrook Primary School, Oasis Academy Longmeadow, Paxcroft Primary School, The Mead Community Primary School, Castle Mead School, St John's Catholic Primary School, Studley Green Primary School and Walwayne Court Primary School. Children may also attend schools in adjacent parishes including North Bradley CE Primary School, Hilperton CE Primary School and Staverton CE Primary School.

Secondary schools in Trowbridge are the Clarendon Academy, the John of Gaunt School and St Augustine's Catholic College.[26][27][28] All of the secondary schools also operate their own sixth forms. Larkrise School is a special school for children aged 3 to 19.[29]

Wiltshire College has a campus in Trowbridge offering a range of vocational courses for school-leavers.[30]

Shopping and entertainment

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 civic centre, opened in 2011[31] and next to the town's central park, is a conference and entertainment venue and is home to the town's information centre as well as Trowbridge Town Council. A nearby leisure development includes an Odeon cinema and several food vendors (Wagamama, Nando's etc.).

The former Town Hall, a large Victorian building, is a performance and exhibition venue and is also used by community groups.[20] At Wiltshire College the Arc Theatre is used by students and local groups.[32] There is a concert hall at Wiltshire Music Centre in neighbouring Bradford-on-Avon.

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 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. Currently the event, renamed Trowbridge Festival, takes place at Stowford Manor Farm between Wingfield near Trowbridge and Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset.

Notable people

Trowbridge was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Pitman, developer of the Pitman Shorthand system of shorthand writing.[33] He is remembered in the town through several memorial plaques, and his name was used by a pub in the town centre run by Wetherspoons, which closed in April 2017.[34] Matthew Hutton (Archbishop of Canterbury) was the town's rector from 1726 to 1730.[35] The poet George Crabbe held the same position from 1814 until his death in 1832.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

Nick Blackwell, professional boxer and former British middleweight champion, is from Trowbridge, as are footballer Nathan Dyer (who played for Leicester City in the 2015 season[39] when they won the Premier League), disgraced[40] snooker player Stephen Lee, and Daniel Talbot (winner of the 4x100m relay at the London Stadium on 12 August 2017 at the World Athletics Championships in a time of 37.47sec – the 3rd fastest time in history).

The Oliver Twins, who created the Dizzy series of games amongst others, and founded Interactive Studios (later Blitz Games), grew up in Trowbridge. A building at the Clarendon Academy is named after the brothers.[41]

Town redevelopment

Since 2002, there have been plans in place to redevelop significant town centre sites.[42]

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, known as 'The Trodeon', 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.

Developers Modus had signed up to provide a Vue cinema in the plan for the Waterside complex.[43] 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.[44]

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 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.

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.[45]


Trowbridge Community Area Future (TCAF) is responsible for the production of the Trowbridge Community Area Plan,[46] 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.[47] 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

The 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 Cricket Club play at Trowbridge Cricket Club Ground which is also used by Wiltshire County. The town's 1st XI play in the Wiltshire division of the West of England Premier League.

Trowbridge Rugby Football Club, whose ground is at Hilperton to the northeast of the town, play in Southern Counties South.

Trowbridge Sports Centre, on the same site as The Clarendon Academy, has the town's only indoor swimming pool.[48]

A greyhound racing track was opened around the Frome Road ground used by Trowbridge Town F.C. from 3 July 1976 until July 1979. The racing was independent (not affiliated to the sports governing body the National Greyhound Racing Club) and was known as a flapping track, which was the nickname given to independent tracks.[49] A series of meetings were also held during 1953.[50]

Town twinning

Trowbridge is twinned with four towns: Oujda, the area of Morocco where most of the town's immigrant population originate,[24] since 2006.[51] Leer in Germany, since 1989;[51] Charenton-le-Pont in France since 1996;[51][52] and Elbląg in Poland, as part of West Wiltshire district twinning, since 2000.[51] Trowbridge was the first English town to twin with an Arab Muslim country.[23]

See also


  1. "Trowbridge - 2011 Census". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  2. "Wiltshire Council – Wiltshire Community History Get Community Information". Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  3. Town Official Guide, Trowbridge Town Council, 2008
  4. 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. Anna Powell-Smith. "Domesday Map". Domesday Map. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  7. First mention of Trowbridge Castle Archived 28 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  8. 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. p. 1.
  9. Elizabeth Crittall, ed. (1959). "The woollen industry before 1550". A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  10. Jeff Horn (Spring 2005). "Machine-breaking in England and France during the Age of Revolution". 55: 143–166. JSTOR 25149563. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. "Economic History". Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  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. "Wiltshire History Questions Search Results". 26 April 2007. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2010.; another example is at Bowlish near Shepton Mallet.
  14. "Wiltshire Council - Wiltshire Community History Get Wiltshire History Question Information". Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  15. "How Ushers' Trowbridge brewery is now the toast of North Korea". Wiltshire Times. 5 July 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2009.
  16. "Kim Jong-ale: How did Ushers brewery of Trowbridge end up in North Korea producing Pyongyang's number one beer - and what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?". 18 April 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  17. Historic England. "Town Hall (1364209)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  18. Pugh, R.B.; Crittall, Elizabeth, eds. (1953). "Victoria County History: Wiltshire: Vol 7 pp125-171 - Parishes: Trowbridge". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  19. Thomas, Helen (31 May 2007). "Will town hall revamp be axed?". Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  20. "Welcome to Trowbridge Arts". Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  21. "Census: Trowbridge". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  22. "Community area population estimates". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  23. "Backing For Link To Morocco (from Wiltshire Times)". 22 September 2006. Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  24. "Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities – The Moroccan Muslim Community in England" (PDF). Change Institute. Communities and Local Government. April 2009. Archived from the original on 26 August 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  25. "Trowbridge Town Council". Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  26. "The John of Gaunt School". The John of Gaunt School. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  27. "Clarendon Academy". Clarendon Academy. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  28. "St Augustine's Catholic College". St Augustine's Catholic College. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  29. "Larkrise School". Larkrise School. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  30. "Trowbridge campus". Wiltshire College. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  31. "The Civic Centre". Trowbridge Town Council. 2011. Archived from the original on 25 August 2011.
  32. "Arc Theatre". Wiltshire College. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  33. Sir Isaac Pitman, born in Trowbridge: NNDB website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  34. The "Sir Isaac Pitman" pub (Wetherspoon's): website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  35. Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of Canterbury Archived 7 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine, town's rector: Troweb website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  36. George Crabbe, poet Archived 27 October 2003 at the Wayback Machine and rector of Trowbridge: Britain Unlimited website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  37. "Trowbridge Inventors". Trowbridge Museum. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  38. Sir William Cook KCB Kt FRS Archived 6 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, notable resident: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  39. "Nathan Dyer: Leicester sign Swansea winger on loan". BBC Sport. BBC News. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  40. Keogh, Frank (25 September 2013). "Stephen Lee: Snooker player given 12-year ban for match-fixing". BBC Sport. BBC News. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  41. "News :: Archive :: Oliver Twins honoured with naming of school building". Blitz Games Studios. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  42. Redevelopment plans Archived 16 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine (since 2002): Transforming Trowbridge website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  43. Plan for cinema in Trowbridge (Waterside development): West Wiltshire District Council website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  44. "Go-ahead for Waterside project", County Hall East area, March 2008: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  45. Ushers Brewery site, proposed plans for redevelopment: Wiltshire Times website. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  46. "Trowbridge Community Area Plan". Trowbridge Town Council. Archived from the original on 20 August 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  47. Wiltshire Council Community Area Partnership, Community Area Partnership: Wiltshire Council website. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  48. "Trowbridge Sports Centre". Places for People Leisure. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  49. Barnes, Julia (1988). Daily Mirror Greyhound Fact File, page 419. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-15-5.
  50. "Trowbridge Greyhound Stadium". Greyhound Racing Times.
  51. "Trowbridge - Market town twins with Arab city". BBC News. BBC News Channel. 3 October 2006. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  52. "British towns twinned with French towns [via]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
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