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Trowbridge Industry

The town was held by Brictric, a Saxon in 1086 after his father had held it at the conquest of William the conqueror in 1066. Brictric was the most important Saxon landowner in Wiltshire therefore showing us that Trowbridge was a desirable settlement to own in this period of time. The settlement had increased economic activity in the 13th century as the building of the castle, the holding of honour courts, the presence of a garrison and at times of the baron and his retinue all were an economic burden on the settlement.

The town’s staple trade is the cloth industry and it began in the 15th century although the prosperity of this trade would last several centuries. John Leland came to Trowbridge shortly after 1543 he was impressed by the towns trade when he stated ‘the towne flourishith by drapery.’ The prosperity of certain individuals at this time can be realised when looking at the vast personal wealth that they held. When Thomas Bailey, a clothman died in 1543 he left 1000 marks to his wife and vestments to the churches of Wingfield and Keevil. The quality of his grand house also needs to be considered as his fine timber-framed house survived for four centuries after his death; it was located in Fore Street.        

The cloth industry continued to be the town’s main employment trade into the 20th century and mills sprung up in and around the town. Trowbridge was known as the Manchester of the west and exported its cloth worldwide. Unfortunately the industry declined in the later 20th century and the mills was demolished and they could no longer achieve a profit.

Content derived from research undertaken as part of the Victoria County History project