In and around the unspoilt market town of Bradford on
Avon which is one of the last outpost of the Cotswolds in
the western corner of Wiltshire close to the borders of Somerset and only 8 miles from Bath.
The magical appeal of the town's position on the banks of the River
Avon gives visitors a wonderful setting for leisure, cultural
and tourist activities.
Bradford on Avon has delightful shops, restaurants, hotels and
bed and breakfasts lining the narrow streets of the town centre.
The surrounding hillside is covered with cotswold stone houses
and cottages of every shape and size.
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The Town Bridge (shown in the image above) crosses
the 'broad ford' on the Avon which is the origin of the name Bradford
on Avon. There may have been a wooden or tree bridge over the ford
in Saxon times but the Normans built the first stone bridge.
It was narrow
and dangerous and built without parapets so that people kept falling
into the river. The width of the bridge was doubled by the construction
of another alongside it. Two ribbed and pointed arches of the original
Norman construction can still be seen on the eastern side and if
you look under the bridge you can clearly see the join!
On the bridge is a small building which was originally a chapel,
the fish on the weather vane is a Gudgeon, an early Christian symbol.
However, the chapel was later used as a small prison or "Blind House" where
local Bradford-on-Avon drunks and troublemakers were left overnight
to cool off !
Church of St Laurence
This charming church, in the centre of Bradford on Avon, dates
from approximately AD700. After many different uses and some alteration,
it was rediscovered in 1856. The church was purchased from private
owners in 1871 and its renovations corrected. It differs from the
other Saxon churches in the UK in that the whole building appears
to have been erected at one time, with no additions later.
Delightful Narrow Streets
Varied and delightful
shops and restaurants line Bradford on Avon's narrow streets made
all the more glorious with multi-coloured hanging flower baskets.
The town's position position on the River Avon gives it a magical
Avon developed as a centre for textiles, mostly wool, and the Bradford-on-Avon
you see today was shaped in these times. Many of the large mill
buildings along the river are former woollen mills, and most of
the houses up on the hill (Tory, Middle Rank) are former spinners
and weavers cottages. The wool trade died away in the area, moving
North to large industrial centres Like Bradford Yorkshire which
some say was named after Bradford-on-Avon ! The large mills were
taken over by the new and burgeoning rubber industry, and the rubber
plant was the main employer in the town for decades, manufacturing
tyres and wiper blades. Sadly that industry has moved on too, and
many of the mills are being converted to residences.
Bradford in Yorkshire versus Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire
Shoddy was a Yorkshire term for cloth made of woollen yarn made from the shreds of loosely woven woollen fabrics, these were torn up and then respun into a cheaper, inferior cloth. This cloth then became affordable to the ordinary citizens and was produced in the Bradford mills up in Yorkshire.
The Bradford on Avon mills however were not prepared to produce Shoddy materials and therefore their order books over a period of time soon became empty in comparison to those in Yorkshire which were prospering. Eventually the mills in Bradford on Avon started to close down and the industry went into decline. Such perhaps was the price of pride.
The area around Bradford-on-Avon is riddled with mines, used for
quarrying the local stone which is similar to the stone
which shaped the city of Bath. In the sixties two of the mines
in Bradford were taken over by a mushroom growing firm, the even
and humid atmosphere of the old mines being perfect for such purposes.
The mine at Westwood just outside the town was used for industry,
including the Royal Enfield motorcycle plant. During the 2nd world
war the mine was used to store part of the crown jewels which had
been removed from London for safety!
Culver Close near the centre of Bradford-on-Avon was used for
breeding rabbits mainly for food, and Conigre Hill was where pigeons
were bred mainly also for food. The Shambles is a crooked little
lane running between Silver Street & Market Street. The name
derives from the Anglo-Saxon word "scamel", meaning a bench on
which goods were laid out for sale, and is still used by shops
in much the same way, fresh fruit and veg are displayed each day
on wooden benches.
The St Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in the heart of Bradford-on-Avon
was designed in 1854 by the architect Thomas Fuller, who also
designed the Canadian Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. Thomas Fuller
adopted an eclectic approach, and incorporated French, German and
Italian Gothic elements, resulting in this splendid Bath stone
building with its domestic Tudor style, Jacobean gables, massive
oriel window and onion dome atop an octagonal tower.
The magnificent Tithe Barn at Barton
Farm was used by wealthy landowners to collect "tythes" or taxes
from the people of Bradford-on-Avon. These would be paid in the
form of produce and livestock. The building has been restored and
has one of the largest stone roofs in Europe. Some of the scenes
from the movie version of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" were shot
Built in the early 14th century, produce would be brought to the
barn across the 14th century packhorse bridge which was built especially
for that purpose.
Located 1/4 mile south of town centre, off B3109 (OS Map 173; ref
Open all year except 25 December - 10.30am to 4.00pm Monday
Barton Farm Country Park is a delightful 36-acre countryside facility bounded by the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal that offers something for everyone - walking, rowing, fishing, nature study or just relaxing with a picnic by the River Avon. The Park was acquired by Wiltshire Council in 1971 and is open to visitors all year round, free of charge.
The park is a favourite spot for cycling, picnics, walks and rummaging about in the craft shops in the outbuildings next to the huge tithe barn which is still standing after 600 years.
Exploring on Foot
Any visitor to Bradford-on-Avon will find out that walking uphill
is inevitable sooner or later! Many of the small weaver's cottages
in Bradford-on-Avon are balanced on the side of a steep hill, each
row visible over the rooftops of the rank in front.
The climb to St. Mary's Tory is an exhausting one, through the
narrow passageways between each row of houses, but it is well worth
the effort. From the top of the hill the view is spectacular! The
whole town is spread out before you. The outlying countryside
is clearly visible including the Marlborough Downs, the Mendip
Hills and Westbury White Horse.
Trinity Church - In the centre of Bradford-on-Avon.
The church is originally Norman and was extensively
modified between 1300-1310 and 1350-1500. The Victorians also left
their mark in the north aisle.
Church of St Laurence - Near the Trinity Church is the famous
Saxon . This 7th century building is all that
remains of a monastery which once existed in the area now known
as Abbey Yard.
St Mary's Chapel - On the hill overlooking the town. Originally
this tiny church was a medieval building where pilgrims would stop
on their way to Glastonbury.
Every Thursday - early until 2.00pm at the Library Car Park