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Westbury House

St Margaret’s Street, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Westbury House

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Westbury House is a former clothier’s mansion of three storeys and basement that was built in the early part of the 18th century. It was connected with cloth workshops and dyeworks to the rear and one side, with St Margaret’s Hall remaining.

Its main front, facing the street, is of Bath Stone ashlar in a baroque style that has the central bay emphasised on each of the floors in different classical orders. It is probably related to houses in Bath, Bristol and Trowbridge with similar designs. Another example in Bradford is Druce’s Hill House in Church Street.

The house and its garden were parts of a property that covered about an acre, including St Margaret’s House and all the space occupied by St Margaret’s Hall and the car park around it.

It was built for a clothier, Matthew Smith and was in existence by 1720.  In 1767 the workshops, dyehouse and the house were occupied by the clothier Joseph Saunders. Joseph Phelps, another clothier, was leasing it in 1788. In 1791 Phelps enraged some of the local woollen workers by converting a carding engine for scribbling, potentially putting many out of work. A  mob of 500 people attacked the house and Phelps’ people opened fire, killing 3 people (a man, a woman and a boy- Richard Naish, Elizabeth Tucker and James Bancroft). However, he had to sacrifice the machine, which the rioters burnt on the bridge.
Phelps died in 1794 and the property was advertised to let. Dr Richard Bethell  took up occupation before going on to practice in Bristol. His son, another Richard (1800-1873), was born here, became a lawyer and rose to be Lord Chancellor as Baron Westbury -hence the present name of the house. After the Bethells it was the home of farmer and brewer George Spencer (1813-1890) and then of the County Architect Charles Septimus Adye (1841-1906), son of a local medical doctor.

In 1911 Westbury House became the seat of Bradford on Avon Urban District Council and its garden became a public park. In 1974 West Wiltshire District Council took over the UDC’s duties and the house was then converted into flats that were sold off.

fire station 1948Between Westbury House and St Margaret’s House were buildings, especially St Margaret’s Hall, that were until 1905 involved in a wool-dyeing business. Also here was the Quakers Meeting House, which was converted into a school. Some of the buildings became Stamper’s Garage and Bradford’s Fire Station. They were demolished in the 1960s when the footbridge (the McKeever Bridge) was built and St Margaret’s car park created.