Bradford on Avon a winter history walk

The bridge over the river Avon Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon is a small Wiltshire town a few miles upriver from Bath. It is famous for its stone Saxon church as well as its huge medieval tithe barn. Visitors can enjoy walks along the river Avon or the Kennet and Avon canal.

Our first February walk was a four mile ramble around Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. The town has long been a favourite of ours and we love to stroll along the tow paths of the Kennet and Avon canal which connects the river Avon in  Bath to the Thames at Reading and stop for a drink at one of the canal side pubs.

The canal is very popular with narrow boats and there are always dozens moored along the banks. Some have been converted to use as houseboats.

The canal tow path with a red narrow boat
Bill strolling along the tow path.

It has been a mild winter and I was pleased to spot this patch of snowdrops under the trees. We were also lucky enough to see a kingfisher but unfortunately I did not manage to get a photo.

Snowdrops in the wood #Bradford on Avon
Snowdrops

Bradford on Avon history

As this was a history walk we also took in some of the tourist attractions. Bradford on Avon became important in Saxon times when the land was given to the nunnery of Shafetsbury in Dorset. St Laurence church which dates from about 1000 A.D. is one of the few surviving stone Saxon churches in England. The high walls and small windows are typical of the period.

The stone facade of St Laurence Church
St Laurence a Saxon church

Equally famous is the large medieval tithe barn which forms part of the Barton farm estate. It is 51 metres long and its size shows how prosperous the region was. Nearby buildings house a teashop, artgallery and craft centre. In medieval times the area was a centre for wool cloth manufacturing and you can still see the remains of the old cloth mills and weavers’ cottages. One was later used to manufacture rubber.

The wooden roof of the Tithe barn
Inside the tithe barn

The name Bradford is a corruption of broad ford. The town bridge in my top photo dates from the Norman period although it has been widened. Two of the original arches remain. The small domed building in the centre is a former chapel which was later used as the town jail.  The fish pointer on the weather vane is a christian symbol which has become the symbol for the town. In a couple of weeks time participants in the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race will run across the bridge brandishing their frying pans.

Fish weather vane

Another favourite of mine was this old doorway.

The wooden doorway
15th century doorway Tolsey house

It is situated in the shambles and the house once belonged to the Tolsey who was responsible for collecting fees from market stall holders. Shambles comes from an anglo-saxon word for a stall holder.

Visitor information

Getting there

Train: frequent service from Bristol or Bath

Car.  There is a large long stay carpark close to Sainsbury’s

Bicycle It is part of a long distance cycle path along the Kennet and Avon canal. Bicycles can be hired locally.

Find out more. Bradford on Avon visitor guide.

Author: Anne Fraser

Hi, I am Anne, I am a retired nurse from Bristol in South West England. I am married with five grown up children, four boys and a girl , a grandson and a cat. I like History, travel and reading. I hope to connect with other people with similar interests.

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