Trowbridge, the County Town of Wiltshire, has ancient roots, was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Straburg’. Trowbridge castle, recorded in 1139 as besieged during a civil war between King Stephen and Empress Mathilda no longer exists, but has it left its mark on the town, Fore Street follows the line of the castle ditch.
Trowbridge holds Wiltshire’s earliest market charter dating back to 1200 and today offers a weekly street market each Wednesday, farmers markets on the second and fourth Friday each month and a range of shops including diverse independent retailers, supermarkets and national chains with plentiful free and reasonably priced parking including Castle Place and the Shires and excellent public transport links, DISCOVER Trowbridge.
In 1215 Henry de Bohun, who is depicted in a stained glass window in St James’ Church, held the castle and was one of the English Barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. Trowbridge will be celebrating the 800th anniversary in 2015 with a Charter Fayre. Wiltshire is the only county where you can visit a Baron town as well as a copy of the Magna Carta.
Trowbridge grew and developed through a long history of woollen cloth production which began in Anglo-Saxon times, expanded in the 14th century and has left a rich architectural legacy; ranging from the fine 18th-century homes of wealthy clothiers (the industry’s middle men), to the rare Handle House (which was used to dry teasels) and former mill buildings. The scale of West of England cloth production was once so great that the town became known as ‘the Manchester of the West’. This fascinating past can be relived in the town’s award winning Museum and Art Gallery which houses a nationally significant collection dedicated to woollen cloth production, including working looms. Displays trace the mechanisation of the processes, as part of industrialisation and the impact it had on society. The Museum also has an area dedicated to Trowbridge’s famous Victorians including the Trowbridge-born creator of shorthand, Sir Isaac Pitman.
Despite its significant heritage, Trowbridge is still firmly rooted in the present with leisure facilities and cultural activities to meet the demands of the 21st century. The Civic Centre in St Stephen’s Place runs a programme of events, next door to the multi-screen Odeon offering the latest cinematic blockbusters, adjacent to cafes, hotels and restaurants. Throughout the summer, the Town Park hosts events such as Armed Forces Weekend, Sports Festival and Country Fayre. Trowbridge has a thriving arts scene including an annual autumn Arts Festival, and a biennial Cloth Road Arts event alternating with the museum’s Textile and Weaving Festival. There is also a state-of-the-art library at County Hall.
Even Christmas in the town has a unique feel. The craft fayre and street market on the last Saturday in November (with free parking) is followed by our Dickensian Christmas Experience which has at its heart a traditional Father Christmas dressed in green velvet (based on the character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol) and located in the museum’s grotto throughout December.
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