Coal Merchants

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Bird, coal merchant, Bradford on Avon

Birds’ advertisement from the 1920s

Coal merchants were generally based at the two points where coal came into the town: the goods yard of the railway station and the lower wharf of the Kennet & Avon Canal. Some also had offices in town. Until the opening of the canal in 1810, transport of any heavy bulk material, such as coal, relied on very expensive carting by road; water transport reduced the price and brought coals from the Somerset Coalfield, from Bristol and even South Wales. For the more distant sources at least, the railway, from 1857, reduced prices further.

ticket from Bradford Town weighbridge

The town weighing machine provided an independent certificate of the weight of coal supplied to a customer

Until electricity was available, coal was used to heat homes and businesses, fire up the steam engines that drove the woollen cloth mills and rubber factories and the forges of blacksmiths and foundries. Even the smallest of homes had a coal-fired range that provided both heating and cooking, while the largest had fires in every room, tended by housemaids.