History of the town

On the edge of the Cotswolds and only a stones throw from Bath, Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire makes the perfect base for visitors to the area.

It’s an architectural treasure chest with buildings from centuries past – many made from local Bath stone. Visitors can discover dwellings from tiny weavers’ cottages to grand clothiers’ houses, ancient alleyways and places of worship, which reflect the town’s development from Iron Age settlement to 21st century working town.

Flowing from the weir at Greenland Mill and winding through the centre of the town is the River Avon, where Saxons drove their carts across the ‘broad ford’ that gave the early settlement its name.

When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, Bradford on Avon was already a market town engaged in agriculture. From the middle ages until the late-19th century much of Bradford on Avon’s prosperity depended upon wool and the manufacture of woollen cloth, gradually evolving from a cottage industry to one based in large factories.

The declining cloth industry, following the development of woollen mills in the north of England, was replaced from 1848 by pioneering rubber works, which operated here until 1994.

Things to see and do

Stroll through the town and you will walk through time. The Romans, Saxons, Normans, Georgians and Victorians have all left their mark, each creating a chapter in Bradford on Avon’s remarkable story.

Still a natural focus in the centre is The Town Bridge. It was initially built in the 13th century as a packhorse bridge and two of the arches you see today are from this period. It was widened in the 17th century and today it offers a fabulous view of the hillside above the town.

Experience the magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn in the beautifully restored Barton Farm Country Park, which has tea rooms and craft workshops close to the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The early 11th century Saxon Church of St Laurence was used as a school and house until it was ‘rediscovered’ in 1856. Visitors can see the remains of a Saxon cross above the altar and angel carvings above the chancel arch.

There are plenty of outdoor leisure activities to keep you busy. Enjoy walking along the canal or hire bikes or canoes from Towpath Trail Bike and Canoe Hire plus there are tennis and golf facilities too! The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust operate boat day trips on Barbara McKellan Narrowboat which are available from March through to October.

Iford Manor and the Peto Garden, idyllically situated by the River Frome, is an award-winning Grade I Italian style garden famous for its tranquil beauty.

This unspoilt market town offers a mix of delightful shops, restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts lining the narrow streets, not to mention a weekly market on Thursdays.

Where to eat and shop

Numerous lovely shops and restaurants add to Bradford on Avon’s charm and variety. The pedestrianised ‘Shambles’ was formerly part of the medieval meat market and today it is home to an array of independent shops and cafés.

Travel back in time when you visit The Bridge Tea Rooms which serves very ‘British’ afternoon teas, lunches and light meals with waitresses dressed in Victorian costume, whilst The Lock Inn Café offers the famous ‘Boaters Breakfast’ in a fun and quirky canal side location as well as on a moored boat.

The Boat House overlooks the picturesque marina, has manicured gardens and children’s play area - children under 12 years old eat free (T&Cs apply)!

The New Inn welcomes both drinkers and diners in this dog-friendly family pub.

The Swan serves authentic Thai food in a traditional English Inn. Timbrell’s Yard is open all day for drinking and eating, has a superb restaurant and fantastic range of beers, with a bar that overlooks the river.