Britain at its best: discovering why dazzling Bradford on Avon is so much more than a miniature replica of Bath
- Kate Wickers of the Daily Mail took a tour of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire with a local historian.
- For six centuries, the city was known for its textile industry and the great mills of the 18th century.
- The Lock Up is a medieval chapel that was used as an overnight cooling station for the city’s drunks.
Made with bath stone? I ask Ivor Slocombe, a local historian, who is going to give me a tour of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.
We are looking at the monumental building of what began life in 1854 as the City Hall designed by Thomas Fuller, who mixed Gothic, Tudor and Jacobean architectural elements, crowning it with an onion-shaped dome. It is now the Roman Catholic Church of St. Thomas More.
Not just Bath; Bradford Stone too, ” he replies. “There were several limestone quarries nearby.”
A Cup of Good Mood: The Evocative 16th Century Bridge Tea Rooms in Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon is often referred to as ‘Miniature Bathroom’, but for locals this is an annoying analogy, as clearly the city is much more than a replica of costume jewelery.
For six centuries, it was known for its fabric industry and great 18th-century mills, and large mansions (once owned by wealthy merchants) still dominate. We passed The Shambles, a narrow, winding street lined with half-timbered buildings, which takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word scamel, a bench used by merchants to display goods.
Nearby is the nine-arched Town Bridge, where Saxons drove their chariots across a “wide ford” (the River Avon) from which the city takes its name.
Sitting in the middle is the Lock Up, a medieval chapel that was later used as an overnight cooling station for the city’s drunks and rioters. “ We have a saying here that says if you’re under the fish and over the water, you’re in jail, ” Ivor tells me, referring to the gudgeon (a freshwater fish) found on The Lock Up’s weather vane. .
The bridge doubled in width in 1767 because people kept falling into the river. The two ribbed and pointed arches of the original can be seen on the east side.
When the cloth trade fell into decline in the late 1800s, Victorian businessman Stephen Moulton bought leftover factories and began his production of rubber goods.
Pictured is the city’s bridge, where Saxons drove their chariots across a ‘wide ford’ (the Avon River) from which the city takes its name.
The grounds of Moulton Hall, a large Jacobean house built in 1600, are surrounded by a cycle track installed by Moulton’s grandson, Alex Moulton, in the 1960s, which he used to test Moulton’s bikes, which are still made today. in town today.
The 14th-century Tithe Barn is described by English Heritage as the most impressive in Britain, and was used by wealthy landowners to collect tithes (taxes), paid with livestock and agricultural products.
It is 168 feet long and 33 feet wide with a large wooden A-truss roof that supports shingles weighing more than 100 tons. The interlocking circle patterns, found in the masonry near the massive wooden barn doors, are there to scare away the witches. Behind here, pleasure barges cruise at a leisurely speed along the Kennet and Avon Canal, part of an 87-mile waterway linking the River Kennet in Reading to the River Avon in Bath.
“Bradford on Avon is often referred to as ‘Miniature Bathroom’, but for locals this is an annoying analogy,” writes Kate.
On Packhorse Bridge, I make the hectic climb through rows of weaver huts to pretty St. Mary Tory (as in Tor, which means mountain peak). From here, the entire city stretches before you and beyond to the Marlborough Downs and the Mendip Hills. Nearby is St Mary’s Chapel, where pilgrims stopped for a breather on their way to Glastonbury.
Ask Ivor what the star attraction of Bradford on Avon is, and he will direct you to St Laurence’s Church, one of the most comprehensive Saxon buildings in existence. It has a raw beauty: tall and narrow, with slender arches.
In the riverside area near Lamb Yard, once the industrial heart of the city, you will find what is known as the ‘Bradford Riviera’. At Pablo’s Bistro, I order a G&T and watch the afternoon sun turn Bradford’s stone walls from a warm buttery yellow to a radiant gold. Only one though, as I don’t want to end up in the Lock Up.