Wool and Clothiers

As the town grew, so did the manufacture of woollen cloth, and it became associated with the town for the first time. One of the foremost clothiers of this period was Alexander Langford, whose great grandaughter Mary married Henry Hyde in Trowbridge Parish church. Their son, Edward Hyde, was made Earl of Clarendon by Charles II, for supporting him during his long exile, and becoming Chief minister to the King and susequently one of England’s chief historians.

His daughter, Anne Hyde, married the Duke of York, later James II, and became mother to the last Stuart Queens, Mary II and Anne.

A plaque on the Town Hall commemorating Trowbridge's cloth making heritage

A plaque on the Town Hall commemorating Trowbridge’s cloth making heritage

By the Tudor period, Trowbridge had grown wealthy and the town continued to develop a reputation for fine quality wool. 

As the woollen industry became more important, clothiers started to dominate the trade and became very wealthy. Many clothiers built fine houses, including The Parade, which Pevsner considered one of the finest row of clothier’s houses in the country, and the house that now serves as Lloyd’s bank was said to have been the finest Georgian building in Wiltshire. At this time, many of the cloth processes took place in the workshops behind these buildings or in the workers own homes. By the 18th century, machinery had revolutionised the production of cloth, though weaving still required handlooms.

A sketch of The Parade, a row of fine clothiers houses in Trowbridge

Next: Mechanisation and Thomas Hilliker