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Over 2,500 years ago the earliest settlement was established at Bradford-on-Avon by an Iron Age Tribes arrival on the promontory above Tory, remaining as a community more of less since then.

Through Roman times these people remained in their small settlement, gradually spreading out towards Bath and Monkton Farleigh. The Romans too left their mark. During excavations in the grounds of the Old Ride School, part of a Roman road was discovered, plus coffins, coins and the remains of a prosperous Romano-British villa found on the site of the St. Laurence playing fields.

Then came the Saxons, possibly settling on the high ground now known as St. Margaret's Hill. Leaving as their main legacy, the Saxon Church.

Later the Norman's became dominant; leaving behind them the Church of Holy Trinity and the original bridge that spanned the River Avon, although the Saxons may have built a wooden one.

The Town Bridge crosses the 'broad ford' on the River Avon and is most likely the origin of the name Bradford-on-Avon. The Norman bridge was narrow with no parapets so many people must have fallen into the river. The bridge was doubled in width by having another built along side it. Two ribbed and pointed arches of the original Norman bridge can still be seen on the eastern side, and looking under the bridge you can clearly see the join. The small building constructed on the bridge was a chapel and the fish on the weather vane is a Gudgeon; an early Christian symbol. The chapel was later used as a 'Blind House' or small prison where local drunks and troublemakers were left overnight to either sober up or cool off.

By the middle of the 14th century Bradford-on Avon had become a centre for the production of textiles, mostly wool, and the town as it is today was shaped at that time. Many of the large buildings along the river were formerly woolen mills, while a lot of the houses on the hill (Tory, Middle Rank) are where the weavers and spinners lived.

In time, during the industrial revolution the woolen trade declined in the area, moving Northward to the large industrial centres of the Midlands such as Bradford, which is said to have been named after Bradford-on Avon. The large mill buildings were taken over by the then new and upcoming rubber industry, which became the main employer in the town making tyres, wiper blades and hoses. Unfortunately this industry has also moved on and many of the mills have now become residential.

Near the centre of Bradford-on-Avon is Culver Close where rabbits were bred for food and Conigre Hill where pigeons were bred for the same purpose. The Shambles, whose name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "scamel", meaning a bench laid out with goods for sale, runs between Silver Street and Market Street. The shops there still display their fruit and vegetables this way today.

The Catholic Church, St. Thomas More, which stands in the heart of the town, was built in 1854 to the design of Thomas Fuller who also designed the Canadian Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. He took a rather international approach in designing the church, incorporating German, French and Italian Gothic elements. Resulting in a magnificent Bath stone building with massive oriel windows, Tudor style Jacobean gables and onion dome on top of an octagonal tower.

A splendid Tithe Barn at Barton Farm - used in some scenes from the movie version of Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', has been restored in resent years and boasts one of the largest stone roofs in Europe. Wealthy landowners used it as a place to collect taxes from the local people. These taxes would be paid in the form of livestock or produce.

Bradford-on-Avon - St Lawrence
Photo by: Mattana.  Source: Wikimedia

Bradford-on-Avon - Holy Trinity.
Photo by: Stephen G Graham.  Source: Wikimedia

Bradford- on-Avon
Photo by: Claire Rowland.  Source: Wikimedia