Hot Spot: Trowbridge

The combination of country life with an industrial past makes this Wiltshire town more affordable, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

The venerable link between Trowbridge and the Widecombe Wallop has been broken. Wiltshire's county town was a flourishing centre for wool production for many centuries (the last mill closed in 1982), and was also home to the brewers, Ushers. But Ushers beer is no longer made here. In 2000 the brewing equipment - barrels, vats, brew kettles and mash tuns - went to their new home in Korea - North Korea.

The venerable link between Trowbridge and the Widecombe Wallop has been broken. Wiltshire's county town was a flourishing centre for wool production for many centuries (the last mill closed in 1982), and was also home to the brewers, Ushers. But Ushers beer is no longer made here. In 2000 the brewing equipment - barrels, vats, brew kettles and mash tuns - went to their new home in Korea - North Korea.

Trowbridge, along with Bradford on Avon, Melksham, Westbury and Warminster, is one of a cluster of five industrial towns in West Wiltshire. "Careful searching in this area can produce excellent value for money, and prices generally reflect the distance from the M4," says Jo Aldridge of search agency Stacks. "Trowbridge is not as attractive as Steeple Ashton, Norton St Phillip and Farleigh Hungerford. Nearby Bradford on Avon is a small, mainly Georgian town with some lovely townhouses. But rail commuters have to go to Bath, Westbury or Chippenham."

Bath-based architect Aaron Evans designed Trowbridge's modern police station. "The old station was in a series of four little terraced houses, right out of a typical Agatha Christie mystery. We could not find another site for the new station, so we had to take them down."

Having spent much of his professional life refurbishing the town centre of Calne, Evans has firm views on market-town revitalisation. "Trowbridge needs some tender loving care but it sits in a delightful area. Instead of the urban sprawl of a Paxcroft Mead, more should have been done with its brownfield sites. Trowbridge is not a high-value area, but it is affordable for low- to middle-income people who commute to Bath, Bristol and even Swindon."

Paxcroft Mead is a rapidly expanding new community on the town's outskirts. Hundreds of new homes are in the pipeline, in addition to the more than 1,000 that have already been built.

Overshadowed by attractive neighbours, Trowbridge is nevertheless an old town with period buildings and attractions, such as its Blind House - an old windowless prison. Running through it is the Kennet and Avon Canal, recipient of a £25m Lottery Grant for its complete restoration. Also attractive are the Ushers buildings, left behind by the Koreans and destined to become shops and houses.

Local homeowners, according to David Bexon of SmartNewHomes.com, have enjoyed price increases of 30 per cent over the last year.

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Trowbridge is on the Cardiff to Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton line with links to Bath and Westbury for services to London and the West Country. The nearest airport is Bristol International.

Shopping

The town has two large shopping centres, Castle Place and The Shires, four supermarkets, a family-run department store, Knees (established in 1879), and a traditional indoor market six days a week.

Sport

Trowbridge Sport Centre has a swimming pool, and fitness equipment is available at Castle Place Leisure Centre. Trowbridge Park has floodlit tennis and basketball courts

Entertainment

The Arc Theatre hosts theatre, dance, music and film events. It celebrates its fifth anniversary on 26 October with an open day featuring backstage tours and other activities, including a hunt for hidden £5 notes. Frome has a theatre and cinema, and many other cultural venues are located in Bath and Bristol.

Museums

Trowbridge Museum, opened in 1990 by author Terry Pratchett, occupies the second floor of a former cloth factory, Home Mills, the last working mill in Trowbridge (it closed in 1982). Highlights are working looms, a history of brewing, and the life of shorthand inventor Sir Isaac Pitman.

Attractions

Southwick Country Park on the southern edge of town has an arboretum and woods. The Trowbridge Town Trail and Industrial Trail walking tours encompass architectural and industrial history, including the townhouses owned by the successful 18th- and 19th-century clothiers. Nearby are Avebury and Stonehenge, and stately homes Bowood and Longleat.

Prices

A one-bed flat with allocated parking in a period conversion near the town centre is £72,950. Three-bed semis cost about £150,000. The Willows is a detached four-bed Georgian house with 24ft drawing room, tennis court, gardens and paddock in Wingfield just outside Trowbridge, £685,000. Agents are Kingstons.

Good manors

In Warminster, a one-bed flat in Portway House, a Grade I-listed former manor house, has reserved car parking and communal walled gardens; £115,000 at Davis & Latcham. The central section of the 16th-century Winsley Manor, in Bradford on Avon, has three bedrooms and paddock and cricket pitch; £875,000 at Cobb Farr.

Mill conversion

Three or four maisonettes are still available in a newly refurbished mill with prominent circular entry in Frome, nine miles from Trowbridge. The two lower units have garden access, and the upper flats have the better view; £205,000 at Cobb Farr.

New

In Trowbridge, Wilson Connolly is selling two-, three- and four-bed homes near the centre: a four-bed detached house with garage costs £199,950. Colburn Homes have built 11 three-bed terraces and detached houses north of the town centre, priced around £135,000.

Estate agents

Cobb Farr (Bradford on Avon), 01225 866111; Warminster (Davis & Latcham), 01985 846985; Kingstons, 01225 777720; Stacks, 01666 841142.

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