"TROWBRIDGE, a parish and post and market town in the hundred of Melksham, North division of the county of Wilts, 103 miles from London, 10 S.W. from Devizes, 9½ N.W. from Warminster, and 32 N.W. from Salisbury. It is a station on the Great Western railway. It is situated on a rocky eminence near the river Bias, across which is a stone bridge, and about a mile from the Kennet and Avon canal. The parish contains the tythings of Studley, Staverton, and Little Trowle, the two last of which are mentioned in Domesday book. It was anciently a royal manor, and had a castle at Courthill with seven towers, which Stephen took from Humphrey de Bohun, who held it for the Empress Matilda.
This castle was rebuilt by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, but having fallen into decay, its site was given by Henry VIII. to Sir Edward Seymour, in whose possession it remained until the marriage of Lady Frances Seymour, daughter of Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset, with the Marquess of Granby, afterwards Duke of Rutland, from whose family it was purchased by Thomas Timbrel. It is now in the possession of William Stancomb, Esq., who purchased it from the widow of the late Thomas Timbrel, since which he has built a very fine market-house at a cost of nearly £5,000.
The town is irregularly built, and the streets are narrow and ill-constructed, except the main thoroughfare, which is spacious. It is paved, lighted with gas, and supplied with excellent water. The stone cross in the market-place, which stood here in Leland's time, was removed in the early part of the present century. There are two banks, a savings-bank, police-station, and court-hall. Petty sessions are held on the first Wednesday in every month, and a county court every two months. The town is under the management of a local board and town commissioners.
The manufacture of woollen cloth was introduced at an early period, and must have soon become a thriving branch of trade, as Camden mentions that Trowbridge was then famous for the clothing trade: the articles made are kerseymeres, tweed, and broadcloth. The population of the parish in 1861 was 10,487, and of the town 9,626.
The living is a rectory,* with the curacy of St. Stephen's annexed, in the diocese of Sarum, value £600. The church, dedicated to St. James, is old, with a square tower at the W. end, containing eight bells; it has been restored at an outlay of about £8,000. There are fragments of ancient painted glass in some of the windows, and attached to the eastern ends of the aisles are two private chapels. In addition to the parish church are the district churches of Trinity, Studley, and Staverton, the livings of which are perpetual curacies, varying in value from £230 to £110.
Trinity church was erected in 1838 at the W. end of the town. The parochial charities produce about £285 per annum, besides several almshouses. There are National and British schools for both sexes, including infants. The Independents, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and General and Particular Baptists have chapels. Market days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. An annual fair is held on the 5th August and two following days."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]