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Things to See & Do

History & Heritage of Westbury

A simple timeline:

The name “Westbury” derives from the Saxon meaning West Burgh, presumably the fortified place in the west of the county.  

Westbury has a long and interesting history dating back to 1086 when the Domesday Book describes an estate of about 5,000 acres previously held by Edith, wife of the Saxon King Edward the Confessor.  According to the Domesday Book its population was probably in the region of 600 including 9 beekeepers, 29 pigmen and an unspecified number of potters. 

The medieval town developed and the right to hold a weekly market and an annual fair was granted in 1252 and added to in 1291.  

A Borough Court was meeting by the mid-15th century and from 1448, representatives took their seats in Parliament.    

Westbury became an important centre in the production of high-quality woollen cloths for which the west of England was renowned throughout the world.  Originally a cottage industry, weaving started to be industrialised as early as 1573 with a fulling mill at Bitham.  With many more mills in operation, the town prospered as a result of this right through to the 19th century.  

As a result of this prosperity, Westbury is lucky to have benefitted from the philanthropy of the Laverton family of clothiers, in that they provided the Laverton Institute, the Public Baths and Prospect Square (almshouses for former clothworkers).

The cloth industry declined and so too did Westbury but the town’s fortunes were revived by the arrival of the railway in 1848 and the discovery of iron ore on land surrounding the existing railway station.  

The traditional industries of cloth manufacturing, gloving and iron ore production have all been replaced by other manufacturing, both large and small, on the industrial estates within the town. Westbury is fortunate also to still have its railway station, which is on the direct line from London through to the west country, allowing residents to commute to the larger commercial areas of Bristol, Reading and London.  

Visit or pop into the Visitor Centre in the High Street to learn more about Westbury’s rich history.

Discover more about the history of Westbury and visit our Blue Plaque page