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Bradford on Avon

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"BRADFORD ON AVON, (or Great Bradford), a parish and market town, in the hundred of Bradford, in the county of Wilts, 8 miles to the S.E. of Bath, 30 miles from Salisbury, and 102 miles W. from London by road, or 109 by railway. It is a station on the Great Western railway. The parish is situated on the banks of the river Avon, and the Kennet and Avon canal. It contains the chapelries of Atworth with South Wraxhall, Holt, and Winsley with Limpley Stoke, and the tythings of Leigh Woolley and Trowle. The name of this place signifies "broad ford", and is a contraction of the Saxon Bradenford.


A battle is said to have been fought here in the 7th century, in which Cenwulf, king of the West Saxons, defeated the insurgents under his kinsman Cuthred. Early in the following century, about the year 705, a monastery was founded here by St. Aldhelm. At a later time the manor of Bradford was granted to the abbey of Shaftesbury. There is still a fine old barn, situated on the side of Grip Hill, called "Barton barn", which formerly belonged to the "Grange", or principal farm of the abbess of Shaftesbury. Bradford returned two members to parliament on one occasion during the reign of Edward I.; but has not since exercised the elective franchise. It still bears the appellation of the borough of Bradford; but whether it was ever incorporated, and had a separate jurisdiction, seems not to be determined. It is at present governed by the county magistrates, who meet here once a month.


The situation of the town is pleasant and very picturesque. It stands on both banks of the Avon, which is crossed by two bridges of ancient date, one of nine, the other of four arches. The ground rises sharply from the north bank of the river, and the principal part of the town consists of three streets, or terraces, extending at different elevations along the hillside. The houses are mostly gable-fronted, built with stone, and roofed with the same material. The streets are generally narrow and irregularly built, though since the passing of the Bradford Improvement Act, in 1839, some attempt has been made to widen and improve them. The town is now lighted with gas, and has a good supply of water. There is much fine scenery in the neighbourhood, especially along the course of the Avon, on which are situated many respectable residences and several ancient mansions. Kingston House, once the residence of the celebrated Duchess of Kingston, has recently been restored in strict accordance with its original design, by the present proprietor, S. Moulton, Esq.


Bradford is a noted seat of the woollen cloth manufacture, which was carried on here as early as the reign of Edward I. Many of the clothworkers invited over by Edward III. are said to have settled in this town; and in 1740 the manufacture of superfine broadcloth was greatly improved by Flemings, brought over by Anthony Methuen, the ancestor of the present Lord Methuen, of Corsham House. Its kerseymeres and fancy cloths are highly esteemed, the former fabrics being first made at this place. There are numerous factories on the banks of the Avon, in which many of the inhabitants are employed, and the Bethel quarries are extensively worked by Messrs. Rogers. By means of the Kennet and Avon canal, which passes close by the town, Bradford has water communication with London, Bath, and Bristol, and many important towns.


In the town are a townhall and market-house (a handsome stone structure in the early English style lately erected), a savings-bank, and a gaol. It is the seat of a Poor-law Union, and the head of a County Court district. The Union poorhouse is at Westwood, 2 miles from Bradford. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Salisbury, of the value with the rectory of Westwood, of £602, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Bristol. The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is a large and handsome building, which, though now chiefly in the perpendicular style of architecture, has traces left of the original Norman structure, and contains some fine marble monuments and two brasses. It has two modern stained-glass windows.


Christ Church is a district church within the precincts of the town, built in 1840. It is a handsome structure in the perpendicular style, with a tower and lofty spire; the living of which is a perpetual curacy,* worth £150, and is in the gift of the vicar of the parish. There are chapels belonging to the Baptists, Independents, Unitarians, Countess of Huntingdon's Connection, and Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists. A free school for boys was founded and endowed in 1712 by Francis Smith, and further endowed subsequently by John Shawbridge. It has a revenue of about £50 per annum.


There are also National, British, and infant schools, and two almshouses for aged men and women, with an endowment of £40 a year. They are of ancient date, and were partly founded by John Hall, a member of an old family of the town. The building now used as a gaol was anciently an oratory belonging to the monastery. A chapel formerly stood on the old bridge of nine arches. In the vicinity are several old seats, and numerous remains of ancient edifices, such as the Priory, Chantry House, Tory Hermitage, &c. Saturday is the weekly market day, and a corn and cattle market is held on alternate Tuesdays. Fairs are held on Trinity Monday, and the Monday after St. Bartholomew's Day. The latter is held at Leigh."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]



Church Records

  • Common to all parishes is a IGI Chr 1791-1857 Batch C077601


Description and Travel

  • Bradford on Avon website - provides a wide collection of maps, photographs and other sources for local history and genealogy. There are over 200 in depth links to the many Historic buildings and families associated with this ancient Market Town.

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Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which Bradford on Avon has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.





You can also see Family History Societies covering the nearby area, plotted on a map. This facility is being developed, and is awaiting societies to enter information about the places they cover.