A Guide to the 5 Biggest Towns in Wiltshire - Facts and Figures

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Published: 25th July 2012
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The county of Wiltshire is one of the richest historical counties in the country with an abundance of prehistory on display including the world famous sites of Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill. Although not densely populated, the county has many settlements of note and this two parted article looks at the varying profiles of the five largest. In part one we’ll run down the top five whilst taking a look at each town’s history and culture in the following part.

Swindon is a town located in the north of Wiltshire. It is by far the largest town in the county with a population of over 155,000 according the 2001 census and is the only town in Wiltshire to witness large scale industrialisation in its role as an important transport hub; initially with the canals, more significantly with the railways and latterly with the M4 corridor stretching from London to Bristol and on to Swansea. Alongside other M4 corridor towns such as Slough, Reading, Newbury and Bristol, it has become a centre, in particular for the services and technology industries. Whilst it sits within the boundaries of the ceremonial county of Wiltshire it actually belongs to the borough of Swindon and therefore apart from the governance of the rest of county.

Otherwise known as New Sarum, Salisbury is the only city in the county of Wiltshire and is the second largest settlement behind Swindon with a population around 40,000. Formerly at the centre of Salisbury District it now sits under the control of the Unitary Authority of Wiltshire Council, with the city’s charter being held by Salisbury City Council. The city is located in the south of the county on the confluence of the Salisbury/Hampshire Avon with the Bourne, Nadder, Wylye and Ebble, near the border with Hampshire. Notably, it also lends its name to the expanse of chalkland, Salisbury Plain, that stretches north and covers the interior of the county. It has been a city since time immemorial and due to its proximity to Stonehenge, the New Forest and a number of historical attractions such as its famous Cathedral and Old Sarum, it is a notable tourist destination as well as a thriving market town.

Despite being only the third largest town in Wiltshire with a population of over 28,000, Trowbridge is also the ceremonial and administrative capital of the county. In a county where the two largest settlements are found in the north and south, the town was deemed the ideal place to locate the county’s administrative functions due to its more central location in a cluster of westerly settlements. Trowbridge is found on the river Biss with the Kennet and Avon Canal also running through it, and is only 12 miles from the historic spa city of Bath.

In the north west of the county of Wiltshire is the fourth largest settlement, Chippenham, with a population of around 28,000, fractionally behind that of Trowbridge. The historic market town is situated on the river Avon (Bristol Avon), roughly mid-way between the relative metropolis of Swindon and Bath. As such it largely serves as a commuter town but with growing industry due to its healthy transport links.

The smallest of Wiltshire’s top five towns is Melksham with a population of just 21,000. The town is another of Wiltshire’s settlements which sits on the Bristol Avon in the west of the county and, similar to both nearby Trowbridge and Chippenham, it is found only just across the county border from Bath. As with its near neighbours, the town’s profile is that of a small market town with burgeoning business estates due to its proximity to the M4 corridor.

Having highlighted and introduced Wiltshire’s top five settlements, the second part of this article, which will follow soon, will delve into the rich history and culture of each in a little more detail.

© Stuart Mitchell 2012

If you want to find out more about legal services that are available in the Wiltshire area then visit Solicitors Melksham.

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