This magnificent Wiltshire market town developed from the riches of the medieval textile industry. Situated on the edge of the Cotswolds and close to Bath, it is an ideal base for visitors wishing to tour the Cotswold area.
Bradford-on-Avon © Travel About Britain
The town is brimming with attractive honey-coloured limestone buildings. With excellent examples of Saxon, Mediaeval, Tudor and Georgian architecture, all grouped together on a terraced hillside that slopes down to the River Avon. Many of the older buildings were originally Dutch weavers homes from the medieval period. Just behind the lowest terrace is Lady Well, a spring which bubbles from under a 17th-c house.
Bridge Chapel, Bradford on Avon © TAB
The most photographed structure in the town is the multi arched stone bridge, which incorporates a rare traveller's chapel; one of only a few such remaining bridge chapels in Britain. It was originally provided as a place of rest for pilgrims travelling between Malmesbury and Glastonbury. It became the town lock-up during the 17th century. The current bridge has nine short arches, dating mainly from the 17th-c. Although the two central arches are believed to be of a much older 13th-c construction.
The oldest structure in the town is an ancient Saxon church located just behind the Abbey Mill. Founded by St Adelin in the 8th-c, it is one the finest standing Saxon buildings in Britain. It was lost for centuries among the surrounding cottages but was rediscovered by local workmen in 1856. It is believed that some stones found in the nave are fragments of a shrine in which the body of King Edward the Martyr (962 – 978) was once interred.
Just below the Saxon church lies Holy Trinity Parish, a mixture of architectural periods, dating from 1150 onwards. A footbridge near the entrance leads over the river to the attractive riverside Westbury Gardens. The gardens are dominated by the impressive 19th-c Abbey Mill (currently offices) on one side and the old town bridge on the other.
The south bank of the river, which also has the Kennet and Avon Canal running through it, is a peaceful meadow and country park. A walk across the meadow brings you to an early 14th-c packhorse bridge (Barton Bridge). Barton Farm once occupied this area, which provided food for Shaftesbury Abbey. A 14th-c Tithe Barn can be found alongside the canal here (open to public).
Other buildings of interest in the town include the ornate St Thomas More, Roman Catholic Church, Westbury House, the formal Liberal Club and Hall's Almshouses (1700) on Frome Road. Also, Kingston House in Kingston Street, built by a local clothier in 1610, which was named after the two Dukes of Kingston who owned it in the 18th-c (not open to public).
The Shambles, Bradford on Avon © TAB
The Hall, on the eastern outskirts of the town, is an outstanding example of Jacobean architecture. Home to the Alex Moulton Charitable Trust, it is open on special event and open garden days in summer.
The town centre provides a unique shopping experience, with a number of good independent shops in Market Street and Silver Street. Which are linked by a narrow Shambles, containing several fine timber-framed buildings. Good pubs include the Bunch of Grapes in Silver St, and the Swan Hotel and The Dandy Lion on Market Street.
A trail leaflet is available from the library for a self guided town walks.
Located above the library near the town bridge, the museum covers the social and natural history of the town , with ancient artifacts, old photographs, paintings, drawings and prints. Exhibits cover the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Roman, Medieval and Post-medieval periods. Also displays on natural science, fossils, minerals and geology.
Opening times: times vary see website for details - Free Entry
Location: Bridge Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1BY
Just beyond the river meadow is a 14th-c Tithe Barn, standing in Barton Farm Country Park, originally part of the grounds of Shaftesbury Abbey. Originally belonging to the abbey, it once housed the tithe (one-tenth) of the farm's yearly output. It is a stone built structure, 167 ft long by 30 ft wide, and constructed of 14 great bays with gabled porches. Run by English Heritage.
Opening times: daily, 10.30am-4pm - Free Entry
Location: Pound Lane, Bradford-On-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LF