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Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon town bridge (2).JPG
The Town Bridge over the river Avon.
The small domed building is the lockup, where the town's troublemakers were put for the night.
Bradford on Avon is located in Wiltshire
Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon
Population 9,402 (in 2011)
OS grid reference ST826609
Civil parish
  • Bradford on Avon
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BA15
Dialling code 01225
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • Chippenham
Website Town Council
List of places
WiltshireCoordinates: 51°20′49″N 2°15′04″W / 51.347°N 2.251°W / 51.347; -2.251

Bradford on Avon (sometimes Bradford-on-Avon) is a town and civil parish in west Wiltshire, England, with a population of 9,402 at the 2011 census. The town's canal, historic buildings, shops, pubs and restaurants make it popular with tourists.

The history of the town can be traced back to Roman origins. It has several buildings dating from the 17th century, when the town grew due to the thriving English woollen textile industry.


The town lies partly on the Avon Valley, and partly on the hill that marks the Vale's western edge, eight miles southeast of Bath, in the hilly countryside between the Mendip Hills, Salisbury Plain and the Cotswold Hills. The local area around Bath provides the Jurassic limestone (Bath Stone) from which the older buildings are constructed. The River Avon (the Bristol Avon) runs through the town. The town directly borders Trowbridge to the south east.

The town includes the suburbs of Bearfield and Woolley; the parish includes the hamlets of Widbrook and Woolley Green.


The earliest evidence of habitation is fragments of Roman settlements above the town. In particular, archaeological digs have revealed the remains of a large Roman villa with a well-preserved mosaic on the playing fields of St Laurence School. The centre of the town grew up around the ford across the river Avon, hence the origin of the town's name ("Broad-Ford"). This was supplemented in Norman times by the stone bridge that still stands today. The Norman side is upstream, and has pointed arches; the newer side has curved arches. The Town Bridge and Chapel is a grade I listed building. It was originally a packhorse bridge, but widened in the 17th century by rebuilding the western side. On 2 July 1643 the town was the site of a skirmish in the English Civil War, when Royalists seized control of the bridge on their way to the Battle of Lansdowne.

On the bridge stands a small building which was originally a chapel but was later used as a town lockup. The weather vane on top takes the form of a gudgeon, (an early Christian symbol), hence the local saying "under the fish and over the water".

Widbrook Grange is a Georgian manor house on the edge of the town. It was built as a model farm on Earl Manvers' estate; it is now run as a hotel.

The river provided power for the wool mills that gave the town its wealth. The town has 17th-century buildings dating from the most successful period of the local textile industry. The best examples of weavers' cottages are on Newtown, Middle Rank and Tory Terraces. Daniel Defoe visited Bradford on Avon in the early 18th century and commented: "They told me at Bradford on Avon that it was no extra-ordinary thing to have clothiers in that county worth £10,000 to £40,000 per man" (equivalent to £1.3M to £5.3M in 2007).

With improving mechanisation in textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, the wool weaving industry moved from cottages to purpose-built woollen mills adjacent to the river, where they used water and steam to power the looms. Around thirty such mills were built in Bradford on Avon alone, and these prospered further until the English woollen industry shifted its centre of power to Yorkshire in the late 19th century. The last local mill closed in 1905. Many have since stood empty and some became derelict.

Tithe Barn at Bradford on Avon
Barton Farm Tithe Barn

A notable feature of Bradford on Avon is the large Grade II* listed tithe barn, known as the Saxon Tithe Barn, 180 feet long and 30 feet wide, which was constructed in the 14th century and is now part of Barton Farm Country Park. The barn would have been used for collecting taxes, in the form of goods, to fund the church.

There are several notable buildings in and around the town centre. Many of the old textile factories have been converted into modern flats and apartments; however, few of the buildings are still used today in their original roles. One of the few is The Swan, a public house and hotel set in the centre of town; the building is 17th century and retains many original features, in particular the stone flag floors. Records show that there has been a public house on the same site since the 1500s.

In 1998 the Wiltshire Music Centre was opened in Bradford on Avon, on the grounds of St Laurence School. In 2000, the millennium sculpture nicknamed "Millie" was unveiled.

On 8 October 2003, Bradford on Avon was granted Fairtrade Town status.

Religious sites

St Laurence's Church
St Laurence's сhurch
Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon
Holy Trinity church

The Saxon church dedicated to St. Laurence may have been founded by St. Aldhelm around 705, and could have been a temporary burial site for King Edward the Martyr. It was rediscovered by Canon William Frampton in 1856, having been used for secular purposes (apparently becoming a house, a school and part of a factory). In his research Canon Frampton, who had an interest in archaeology, found reference to the church in the writings of William of Malmesbury.

It is suggested that some of the building, containing the blind arcades at a higher level, may belong to a later period while a leaflet available at the church, February 2012, seems to prefer the period 950-1050 for the whole building. The elaborate ornamentation of the exterior consists of pilaster-strips, a broad frieze of two plain string-courses between which is a blind arcade of round-headed arches whose short vertical pilasters have trapezoidal capitals and bases, while on the eastern gable and the corners adjacent there is a series of mouldings as vertical triple semi-cylinders.

Inside the church, high in the wall above a small chancel arch, are the carved figures of two flying angels, the right-hand figure reportedly "intended to be clothed in transparent drapery ... the legs from the knee downward are depicted as showing through the transparent robe" which is referred to as a "quaint fancy".

In addition to the Saxon church, the town has four Church of England churches, one Church of England chapel, two Baptist chapels, a United Church (Methodist and United Reformed Church), a free nonconformist church, a community church, a Quaker (Society of Friends) meeting house and a Roman Catholic church.

The original parish church has a dedication to the Holy Trinity, and is located near the town centre by the river. It is Norman in origin, and it is possible that the chancel was built over the remains of an older church. Several chapels were added on the north side, and the wall in between was later opened up and the chapels now form the north aisle. A squint, or hagioscope, near the altar is claimed to be England's longest. The tower and spire was built around 1480, replacing an older one, and the south wall was largely rebuilt in the 19th century. The church has a ring of eight bells, with the tenor (heaviest bell) weighing 29-2-26 (1.5 tons) and is tuned to Dflat.

The other Anglican church has dedication of Christ Church, and is entirely a Victorian construction. The Catholic church, dedicated to St. Thomas More, occupies the building that used to be the town hall.

There is also a Buddhist monastery in the town, under the auspices of the Aukana Trust; it comprises a monastic building each for men and for women, and a meditation hall. There are also workshops, gardens and a library, and the elegant buildings look down upon the town from a hill. The monastery practises the Theravadin tradition of Buddhism, and offers opportunities for both full-time residential and part-time practise and study.



Bradford-on-Avon lies on the A363 Trowbridge to Bath road, which runs through the town from south to north, and crossed over by the B3109 linking Bradford-on-Avon with Melksham and Frome. All other road routes are minor, affording access to local settlements.


Bradford-on-Avon railway station lies on what is now the Bristol—Weymouth railway line. It opened in the mid-19th century and was built by the original (pre-grouping) Great Western Railway. Northwards the line runs past Avoncliff and Freshford stations, and joins the Great Western main line east of Bath. Trains run to Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff. Southwards, the line is joined by the minor Melksham branch from Chippenham shortly before Trowbridge. At Westbury the line crosses the main London to Plymouth line. From Westbury, trains run to Southampton, Portsmouth or Weymouth, and occasionally to Frome or Castle Cary.


Running parallel to the railway through the town is the Kennet and Avon Canal and Bradford Lock. The use of this canal declined as the railways grew but it was restored to full working order during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The canal provides a link through to the Avon at Bath in the west, and the Thames at Reading in the east.

Sport and leisure

Bradford on Avon has a Non-League football club, Bradford Town F.C., who play at the Sports and Social Club on Trowbridge Road. There is also Bradford on Avon Rowing Club, based in Pound Lane near to the Tithe Barn. The club caters for rowing and canoeing.

Wiltshire Music Centre is a purpose-built, 300-seat concert hall that attracts internationally-renowned musicians. Situated within the grounds of the St Laurence School, it is renowned for its fine acoustics.

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