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The History of Trowbridge

Trowbridge is the county town of Wiltshire, England, situated on the River Biss in the west of the county, approximately 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Bath, Somerset. The origin of the name 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. Trowbridge has a railway station on the Wessex Main Line. The civil parish of Trowbridge had a population of 28,163 at the 2001 census, making it the third largest settlement in the county after the town of Swindon and the city of Salisbury. Neighbouring towns and villages include Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Devizes, Hilperton, Southwick and Semington.

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. From the 13th century onwards Trowbridge developed a clothing industry, increasingly becoming industrialised from the 17th century onwards. However increasing mechanisation was resisted by workers in traditional trades and there were riots in 1785, 1792 and in the era of luddism due to the introduction of the flying shuttle. At one point in 1820 Trowbridge was being described as the "Manchester of the West" as it had over 2,000 wool-producing factories, comparable to Northern industrial towns such as Rochdale. The wool industry declined in the late 19th century with the advent of ring-spinning and this decline continued throughout the 20th century. The last mill, Salter's Home Mill, closed in 1982 and is now the home of Trowbridge Museum.

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 was announced, with production moving to both the Shaftesbury and Nottingham factory. Today Trowbridge is still a bustling business town. It has two shopping centres, Castle Place on the site of the former cattle market and The Shires in a modern complex that has been built around Salter’s Mill, which now houses the town’s excellent museum. The two centres are linked by a pedestrianised shopping area that offers a wide range of shops from the traditional to the specialised retailers.

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