Trowbridge is the county town of Wiltshire. It is situated on the River Biss in the west of the county, approximately 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Bath, Somerset. Trowbridge has ancient roots, its earliest known written record can been found in the Domesday Book.
The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon words treow-brycg meaning tree and bridge.
Henry de Bohun, the Magna Carta enforcer, did much to shape the town, including building a castle sometime in the early twelfth century and the fine church of St James. King John also awarded him one of the earliest recorded market charters in 1200 and a market has been now been regularly held in the town for over 800 years.
Weaving fine West of England cloth is what helped Trowbridge to develop and expand beyond its modest beginnings. Evidence from Anglo-Saxon excavations has uncovered loom weights which indicate that weaving has taken place in the town for over 1,000 years. The town centre has been a focal point for producing woollen cloth from the 14th century.
|The Jenny Factory, which dates from 1830||A weaver’s cottage, which dates from the 18th century|
Three hundred years later Trowbridge was producing medley or Spanish cloth which according to the author Daniel Defoe (was) “the finest medley Spanish cloths, not in England but in the whole world...”.Defoe’s testimony to the quality of the Trowbridge cloth was born out by a request received by local clothier John Clark on the 4th May 1747 from an agent for Elizabeth, Empress of Russia for “plump cloths and good full colours.”
This industry generated great wealth which resulted in the building of fine clothier’s houses many of which can still be seen in the town and which the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described as a ‘stretch of palaces’and a building currently operated by Lloyds Bank as to be ‘so stately as to recall Genoa’ and the finest building in Wiltshire. In the nineteenth century industrialisation and the embracing of new technology within the West of England cloth mills had a major impact on the town resulting in it being described as ‘The Manchester of the West’. The woollen cloth industry has left a rich and notable architectural legacy, ranging from the late sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, which according to English Heritage ‘is a quite exceptional chronological range for industrial buildings in a town centre’.
Trowbridge was producing high quality cloth well into the twentieth century and supplying members of the Royal family including Queen Mary, Edward the VIII and the current Queen Elizabeth II who came to Trowbridge Mill, Palmer and Mackay to obtain Culloden tartan for the Trooping of the colour. Trowbridge mills also supplied top sixties designer Mary Quant.
Trowbridge Museum is the focal point for this fascinating heritage and contains unique working machinery relating to West of England woollen cloth production including an extremely rare Spinning Jenny. To discover more check out our website at www.trowbridgemuseum.co.uk