Bradford-on-Avon

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The Town Bridge over the river Avon. The small domed building on the right is the lockup, where the town's troublemakers and drunks were put for the night.

Bradford-on-Avon is a town in west Wiltshire, England. The population is about 10,000, the smallest of the five towns in West Wiltshire.

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Location

The town lies partly on the Vale of Pewsey and partly on the hill that marks the Vale's Western edge. It is located a few miles southeast of Bath, in the hilly countryside between the Mendip Hills, Salisbury Plain and the Cotswold Hills. The Mendips provide the Jurassic limestone from which the older buildings are made. The River Avon (the Bristol Avon) runs through the town.

The town lies on the Bath - Weymouth railway line, which opened in the mid-19th century. The station was built a number of years before the track. The line was laid by the original (pre-grouping) Great Western Railway not long afterwards. Northwards the line runs past Avoncliff and Freshford stations, and joins the Great Western main line east of Bath. Trains run through to Bristol Temple Meads, and often beyond to Cardiff. Southwards, the line is joined by the minor Melksham branch from Chippenham shortly before Trowbridge. At Westbury the line crosses the main London to Plymouth line. From Westbury, trains run to Southampton, Portsmouth or Weymouth, and occasionally to Frome or Castle Cary.

Running parallel to the railway through the town is the Kennet and Avon Canal. The use of this declined as the railways grew. It was restored to full working order during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The canal provides a link through to the Avon at Bath in the West, and the Thames at Reading in the East.

History

The earliest evidence of habitation is the remains of Roman settlements above the town. In particular, recent archeological digs have revealed the remains of a large Roman villa. The centre of the town grew up around the ford across the river Avon, hence the origin of the town's name ("Broad-Ford"). This was supplemented in Norman times by the stone bridge that still stands today. The width of the bridge was doubled by the construction of another alongside it, and the join could still be seen until it was paved over at the start of the 20th century. The Norman side is upstream, and has pointed arches. The newer side has curved arches (as seen in the photograph).

On the middle of a bridge stands a small building. This was originally a chapel, but was later used as a town lockup. The weather vane on top takes the form of a gudgeon (an early Christian symbol), hence the saying "under the fish but over the water".

The river provided the power for the wool mills that gave the town its wealth. The town has many seventeenth century buildings dating from the most successful period of the textile industry.

Two of the many notable features of Bradford-on-Avon are the huge tithe barn, and the Saxon church. The tithe barn would have been used for collecting taxes, in the form of goods, to fund the church. The Saxon church (dedicated to St Laurence) may have been founded by St. Aldhelm around 700, and could have been a temporary burial site for King Edward the Martyr. It was "re-discovered" in the 19th century, having been used as a residence.

On October 8, 2003, Bradford-on-Avon was granted Fairtrade Town status.

Churches

In addition to the famous Saxon church described, Bradford has two Church of England churches, one CoE chapel, two Baptist chapel, a United Reformed church Church (Methodist and United Reformed), a Congregational Church, a Quaker (Society of Friends) meeting house and a catholic church.

The original parish church has a dedication of Holy Trinity, and is located near the town centre by the river. It is Norman in origin, and it is possible that the chancel was built over the remains of an older church. Several chapels were added on the north side, and the wall in between was later opened up and the chapels now form the north aisle. The tower and spire was built around 1480, replacing an older one, and the south wall was largely rebuilt in the 19th century. The church has a ring of eight bells, by a variety of founders, with the tenor (heaviest bell) weighing 30cwt (1.5 tons). The current organ was built by Henry Willis in 1923.

The other Anglican church has dedication of Christ Church, and is entirley a Victorian construction. The bells are a Gillet & Johnson eight, tenor 12cwt, and were installed between the wars.

The catholic church, dedicated to St. Thomas More, occupies the building that used to be the town hall.

Economy

Bradford-on-Avon was the headquarters of the Avon Rubber plc, a manufacturer of rubber products for the automotive and other industries.They have since relocated to Melksham, Wiltshire.

With its canal, historic buildings, boutique shops, pubs and restaurants. Bradford-on-Avon is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Tourism is now the main revenue for business in this small town.

Local government

Bradford-upon-Avon falls within the Westbury parliamentary constituency.de:Bradford-on-Avon

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