The County of Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a very rural county with a population of approximately 727,000. Much of the county is farmland. The army occupies Salisbury Plain for manoeuvres. The population has grown with major housing developments in Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, and Westbury.
The county town is Trowbridge in West Wiltshire, which surprises many, as Salisbury in the south is a City, and there is the much larger town of Swindon in the north. There is an impressive County Hall in Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, for the home of Wiltshire County Council.
Wiltshire’s economy was based much more on agriculture and farming in the past. The woollen industry grew in West Wiltshire with many mills in Trowbridge, the last closing in 1982 and is now the home of the Trowbridge Museum. Bradford on Avon, a few miles away, also had several mills, some of which went on to house rubber factories, as did a former mill in Melksham. Avon Tyres (now Cooper Avon) still has a major factory in Melksham, and the former one in Bradford on Avon has been developed into shops and housing in the town centre.
Meat factories such as Bowyers in Trowbridge and Harris’ at Calne were major employers until they closed down. The Bowyers site is still awaiting redevelopment. Bed manufacture also grew, and leather too was an industry in Wiltshire. Airsprung Beds still continues in Trowbridge, and Dents in Warminster produce leather goods.
Swindon was a major railway town. The Swindon Railway Works opened in 1843, initially as a repair and maintenance facility for the Great Western Railway (GWR). The works expanded and by 1900 employed over 12,000 persons. It reached its peak in the 1930s and could produce three steam locomotives a week. It covered an impressive 300 acres.
Today, Wiltshire has many large and small businesses producing a wide variety of products and services. It is also a welcome place for tourists with many beautiful areas and historic towns to visit, not forgetting Stonehenge and the stones at Avebury. History goes back a long way here! Tourism supports, hotels, B&B’s, campsites and caravan parks and Centre Parcs at Longleat all boost the economy.
Wiltshire - Places to Visit
Wiltshire has so many places to visit that the list would be too long in this post. However, here are just a few that I would recommend.
Many Wiltshire towns have museums for a rainy day and show you the history of each area. Some are free of charge to visit, and others a modest amount.
Trowbridge, Devizes, Bradford on Avon, and Chippenham.
The villages of Castle Combe and Lacock are always a ‘must’ for any visitor to Wiltshire and can be quite busy at peak times. I have a video tour of Lacock you can enjoy here.
The City of Salisbury is full of history and old buildings, and not to forget the impressive cathedral with the spire that can be seen from many miles away. Not too far from Salisbury is Stonehenge, an impressive view of a time long ago. There is a visitor centre where you can learn about the stones and also the connection to Avebury and its stones, which you probably should also see if you like this period in history.
Lying just outside the market town of Warminster, you will find Longleat, the seat of Lord Bath, and now Ceawlin Thynn, 8th Marquess of Bath with its historic house and safari park. The ‘Lions of Longleat’ is well known around the world.
Not too far from Warminster, you can make your way to Stourhead's outstanding National Trust Gardens; this also has a magnificent house you can tour. Please do get a glimpse by watching my video of the gardens here.
I am sure that you will find something to enjoy in Wiltshire, and I encourage you to come along and see the places I too enjoy.