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Early Annals of Trowbridge.
By the Rev. W. H. Jones, M.A., F.S.A.,
Canon and Prebendary of Salisbury.
in Wiltshire. Its history has never yet been fully written, and yet few towns have fairer claims to our notice, both on account of the old and interesting associations that are connected with it, as well as from the important position it has now assumed for some years as one of the principal seats of the woollen manufacture in the West of England.
Some years ago a brief sketch of its history, comprised in thirty pages, was attempted by Mr. James Bodman. His little book, written in 1814, has this value at all events, that as a connecting link between the present and the past it enables us to identify one or two points of interest, all traces of which have now disappeared. Otherwise it is a very superficial work, and of little worth. At best he is not over complimentary to his fellow-townsmen. He tells us that “though Trowbridge was renowned for trade, it could not in his time boast of first-rate professional gentlemen for such generally resided in more genteel towns or cities :" and that of those who in his time inhabited Trowbridge, there were “few rich but what had come from
poor but what had sprung from rich ancestors.”
The following pages are offered as a contribution towards the history of Trowbridge, and may be regarded as two or three of the introductory chapters, dealing only with its annals in early days. Already two papers bearing more or less on the same subject_one on “ Terumber's Chantry at Trowbridge,” and the other on “Lord Clarendon and his Trowbridge ancestry”_have appeared in this Magazine. The complete history of this town however can never be given, unless a detailed account can be written on the rise and
progress of the wool trade, of which for so many years Trowbridge has been an important centre. Let us hope that some townsman, with special qualifications for the task, may be induced to take up the story where we leave it, and so to complete the narrative.
The parish of TROWBRIDGE forms part of the hundred of Melksham. On the south side it adjoins the hundred of Wherwelsdown, and on the west that of Bradford-on-Avon. It consists of a strip of land some three miles long, and on an average one mile broad, and contains in all 2443 acres. It is divided into several tithings :-on the north is that of STAVERTON containing 679 acres—on the west is that of little TROWLE, with 232 acres-on the south that of STUDLEY, with 1027 acres—and there is also the Town Liberty consisting of some 505 acres. The town itself is situated, as nearly as may be, in the centre of the whole parish. The entire population amounted at the last census, in 1871, to about 11,000. As you look at the map, the first thing which strikes you is the comparatively small acreage for so large a population. The neighbouring parish, that of Bradford-on-Avon, has nearly five times the extent of acreage, and yet had in 1871 but little more than 8000 inhabitants—some 20 per cent. less than Trowbridge. No doubt it is owing to the extent and prosperity of its manufactures, and especially to the factory system, the tendency of which is to congregate large masses in towns, that this increase of population has taken place. The population has in fact doubled itself during the last century, and it is now the largest town in Wiltshire.
For those who have all their lives been accustomed to regard the town as a large hive of active industry, and to whom no sound is more familiar than the busy hum of numerous artizans swarming periodically to and from their respective scenes of labour, it is by no means easy to realize the time when the whole parish was comparatively speaking a solitude, its inhabitants being numbered by tens, rather than as now by thousands. And yet, even within what we may almost call modern times—that is to say some two centuries ago—much that is now covered with buildings, or in a state of cultivation, was either wood, or waste and common land.
The names of places still remaining are suggestive of a very
different state of things to what we see now.
Thus the name STUDLEY, or as it was formerly written, Stód-leah, means the open pastureland on which horses grazed, from the Anglo-Saxon stód, the origin of our words steed and stud as applied to horses. POLE-BARN, the name given now to a lane just where Trowbridge and Steeple Ashton parishes have their border-line close to the stream, is most probably a corruption of the word pól-bearo, not unfrequently met with in charters, which signifies a "woody plot by a stream,” or it may be in some cases what we term a "water-meadow.” GOOSE-ACRE, if the former part be not a corruption of gærs (= grass), or an equivalent to our modern gorse, may be derived from the ancient word for "water,” which, as we have seen in a previous paper in this Magazine, assumes so many forms and amongst them Gos (as in Gos-port), and so imply simply the “acre by the river.” STAVERTON was originally Stán-ford-tún, that is, the village by the “stone (or paved) “ford.”
Trowbridge is said by Camden to be situated on the river Were. Modern authorities and guide books call the river the Biss. It is not often that seemingly conflicting statements are both right, but it really is so to a great extent in the present case. The fact is that there are two streams, the one rising near Bratton, which (after flowing through North Bradley), enters the parish at its southeast corner and forms for some three quarters of a mile the parochial boundary ;—the other rising somewhere below Southwick, entering the parish at its south western extremity, and forming for some three miles the boundary between Trowbridge and Bradfordon-Avon, on the west. The former of these streams flows through the town, and they unite their waters at Trowle Bridge, a spot not far from what is now called Cock-hill farm. At Lady-Down this stream flows into the Avon.
The former of these streams, including the portion of the river from this point of junction to the Avon, would seem more properly to be called the Biss. A field at Lady-Down is still called “Bissmouth” meadow, and no less than 850 years ago this part of the
1 Wilts Arch. Mag., xiv., 168.
river bore the name of “ Biss." I The latter of these streams, as far as the junction near Cock-hill farm, is called in Andrews' and Dury's map (1773) the “ Were.” Against this proposed solution of the difficulty, such as it is, may be set the fact that in two maps, each drawn about a century ago, one of which is in the possession of the present Lord of the Manor, the name “ Were” is applied to that portion of the stream which flows behind what are still called “the Courts.” It would be more correctly, as we think, called the “ Biss ;” though no doubt at different times both names have been applied to it.
There is in most of us a natural love of "ancient” things; our feeling towards those who lived in times long since passed away is somewhat akin to the reverence we all entertain for age. It is hardly surprising therefore that writers on Trowbridge, especially those connected with it, should seek to establish for their town a greater antiquity than has generally been conceded to it. Hence they have caught at a stray conjecture of Leland, who, after giving us an extract from an ancient record to the effect that Dunwallo Molmutius, the first crowned king of the entire realm of Britain, who lived about B.C. 550 founded three cities with three castles, Cær-Bladon (afterwards called Malmesbury), Lacock, and a place called Tetronburgh, adds concerning the last “nunc forsan Trouburg in Comitatu Wiltunensi” (now perhaps Trowbridge, in Wiltshire). We may quiet such dreamers with the assurance, that the place alluded to was no doubt Tetbury, in Gloucestershire, and further that most probably, for at least 1600 years after that date, there was nothing approaching either a castle, or a town, at what we now call Trowbridge.
It is indeed a long jump, but nevertheless, till we come to the end of the eleventh century after Christ, we can find no trace of the history of this place. And then we find it in that marvellous record -the oldest survey of a kingdom now existing in the worldDomesday Book.
The entries respecting what is now included in the parish of Trowbridge are three in number.
1 Wilts Arch. Mag., V., 19.
The first is respecting what, in the Record, is called STRABURG ; a strange form of the name, but nevertheless pretty clearly to be identified with what we now call Trowbridge. It is as follows :
“ BRICTRIC holds STRABURG. His father held it in the time of King Edward and it paid geld for 10 hides. The land is 9 carucates. In demesne are 2 carucates, and 7 serfs. There are 11 villans and 6 coscets with 7 carucates. There is a mill paying 10 shillings, and 10 acres of meadow, and 12 acres of pasture. The wood is 5 furlongs long and 3 furlongs broad. It was worth £4; it is now worth £8." Wilts Domesday, p. 131.
The entries for STAVERTON and TROWLE are as follows:
6 BBICTRIC holds STAVRETONE. His father held it in the time of King Edward and it paid geld for 5 hides. The land is 3 carucates. In demesne are 2 carucates and 7 serfs; and there are 2 villans and 2 coscets with 1 carucate. There is a mill paying 20 shillings, and 20 acres of meadow, and 20 acres of pasture. It is worth 70 shillings.” Ibid, p. 132.
“BRICTRIC holds 1 hide in TROLE. The land is 1 carucate, which is there with 1 villan. It is worth 10 shillings.” Ibid, p. 131.
It is probable that whilst the tithing of Staverton remains much as it was, the present town of Trowbridge was taken out of one, or it may be partly out of both, of the tithings of Studley and Trowle. The eleven hides at which Straburg and Trole were assessed, and which might fairly be reckoned at some 1450—1500 acres, would correspond remarkably in extent with the 1530 acres in Studley and the Town Liberty.
STAVERTON and TROWLE were held, it will be observed, as tainland (or thane-land by one BRICTRIC, an English nobleman (or thane) who inherited the same from his father. This takes us back to the days of Edward the Confessor.
Tain-land, I may perhaps explain, comprised originally estates bestowed by the King on military men engaged in the national defence, and it was held subject to the rendering of certain services to the state. It was not liable to many of the ordinary imposts; in fact it was held with all immunities, except what was called the trinoda necessitas-the three-fold necessity of helping in expeditions, repairing castles, and mending bridges. The tenure was a very honorable one, and the estates so held became practically hereditary, descending from father to son.
BRICTRIC was an English nobleman, who was sent by King Edward