Trowbridge, in the heart of West Wiltshire, has ancient roots, having been first mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Straburg’. Trowbridge even had a castle, first mentioned in 1139, when it was besieged during a civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda. Although the castle no longer exists it left its mark on the town, as Fore Street follows the line of the castle ditch.
Trowbridge expanded and developed as a result of its lengthy involvement with woollen cloth production which began in Anglo-Saxon times but commenced in earnest in the 14th century. This has left a rich architectural legacy ranging from the fine 18th-century homes of wealthy clothiers (the woollen cloth industry’s middle men) to the rare, the Handle House (which was used to dry teasels) to 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 fine Museum and Art Gallery which houses a nationally significant collection dedicated to woollen cloth production, including working looms. In addition, 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 and has leisure and arts activities and facilities to meet the demands of the 21st century. The Civic Centre runs a diverse programme of events and the multi-screen cinema offers the latest cinematic blockbusters. Throughout the summer months, the town park hosts an Armed Forces Weekend, a Sports Festival and a Country Fayre.
Trowbridge has a thriving arts scene which includes an annual Arts Festival, and a biennial Cloth Road Arts event which alternates with the museum’s Textile and Weaving Festival. There is also a state-of -the-art library.
Even Christmas in the town has a unique feel. The Dickensian Christmas Experience 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, there are traditionally decorated shop windows, a Dickens Trail around the town centre and a Victorian street market.
Trowbridge holds Wiltshire’s earliest market charter dating back to 1200 and it still offers fantastic retail opportunities including diverse independent shops, national chains and regular high-quality markets. With wide-scale cheap parking and excellent public transport links, Trowbridge has become a top destination.
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