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Town Hall, Trowbridge.jpg
Trowbridge Town Hall, seen from Fore Street
Trowbridge is located in Wiltshire
Population 33,108 (in 2011)
OS grid reference ST856579
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
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
Website Town Council
List of places
51°19′12″N 2°12′29″W / 51.320°N 2.208°W / 51.320; -2.208

Trowbridge ( TROH-brij) is the county town of Wiltshire, England, on the River Biss in the west of the county. It is near the border with Somerset and lies 8 miles (13 km) southeast of Bath, 31 miles (49 km) southwest of Swindon and 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Bristol.

Long a market town, the Kennet and Avon canal to the north of Trowbridge 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 the 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 33,108 at the 2011 census. The parish encompasses the settlements of Longfield, Lower Studley, Upper Studley, Studley Green and Trowle Common.



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. 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. 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, and town has a Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

It is likely that 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' 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 (headquarters) 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. Soon after Runnymede, Henry regained control of Trowbridge.

A statue of Henry de Bohun stands high up in the House of Lords, looking down on the Lords in the chamber. This commemorates his presence at Runnymede and his role as one of the enforcers of the Charter. In 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a copy of the statue, from the now closed Westgate Tower Museum in Canterbury, was loaned to Trowbridge Museum where it is now on display.

The capita or headquarters of the 25 enforcers are known as the Magna Carta Baron Towns. Most of these towns are in the north and east of England: only Trowbridge and the small village of Curry Mallet in Somerset are in the West of England.

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.

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 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 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. 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, 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.

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 sought a place that representatives from Swindon and Salisbury, among others, could reach and return home in one day. Trowbridge fulfilled this criterion by virtue 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 and its equipment was sold to North Korea, where it forms the core of the Taedonggang brewery, just outside Pyongyang.

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
'Studley Pump' 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 golden jubilee. It is currently used for military and other inquests. The town has six Grade I listed buildings, being St James' Church, Lovemead House and numbers 46, 64, 68 and 70, Fore Street. There is also the Polebarn Hotel which is a Grade II* listed building.


Trowbridge railway station was opened in 1848 on the Westbury–Bradford-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 17 of the M4 motorway at 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%. 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.

Census Population of Trowbridge
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1881 1891
Population 5,799 6,075 9,545 10,863 11,050 11,148 11,040 11,717
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 2001 2011
Population 11,526 11,815 12,130 12,011 13,859 15,844 28,163 32,304

According to census in 2011, the ethnic breakdown of the population was made up of the following percentages: White 94.8%, Mixed/multiple ethnic groups 1.9%, Asian/Asian British 1.5%, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British 1.1%, Other ethnic group 0.8%.

Town redevelopment

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.

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 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. 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 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.


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 focused 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

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.

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. A series of meetings were also held during 1953.

Town twinning

Welcome to Trowbridge - - 383389
Welcome to Trowbridge
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the United Kingdom

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.


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, Newtown 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. All of the secondary schools also operate their own sixth forms. Larkrise School is a special school for children aged 3 to 19.

Wiltshire College has one of its four campuses in Trowbridge offering a range of vocational courses for school-leavers.

Notable people

Trowbridge, St James' church (31290136848)
St James, the town's parish church

Trowbridge was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Pitman, developer of the Pitman system of shorthand writing, who is remembered in the town through several memorial plaques. Matthew Hutton (later 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.

Mary Mortimer, born in Trowbridge in 1816, became an American educator. Sir William Cook, 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.

David Stratton, the film critic, journalist, film historian and lecturer, television personality and producer, was born in Trowbridge in 1939. He founded the Melksham and District Film Society before emigrating to Australia in 1963, where he was the Director of the Sydney Film Festival for 17 years, as well as presenting the film review shows The Movie Show on SBS and At The Movies on the ABC.

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 when they won the Premier League), disgraced snooker player Stephen Lee, and Daniel Talbot, winner of the 4 × 100 m relay at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in a time of 37.47sec – the third fastest time in history.

The Oliver Twins, who created the Dizzy series of games amongst others, and in 1990 founded Interactive Studios (later Blitz Games), grew up in Trowbridge. A building at the Clarendon Academy is named after the brothers.

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