Giving Bradford bounce

THINK of Bradford on Avon, you think of beautiful buildings, friendly locals and a town rich in history. We played a key part in the industrial revolutions, producing cloth, thriving factories and mills. But did you know Bradford on Avon’s rubber industry was key to the entire process?

Yes, the “dirty, industrial” aspect of the town was key to its ongoing prosperity, according to Mervyn Harris, chairman of Bradford on Avon museum, and author Dan Farrell, 43, who lives in Frankleigh House.

Mr Farrell, technical director at Moulton Bicycle Company, has written a book on the subject entitled Riding on Rubber: The Story of Bradford on Avon’s World-Renowned Rubber Industry. He has lived in the town since 2014 and says that the legacy of Stephen Moulton, who lived in the town in the 1840s, can be traced right up to the present day.

“The rubber suspension developed by Moulton is still used today in cars, trailers and bikes,” Mr Farrell said. “Steven was a friend of American Charles Goodyear, who invented the vulcanization of rubber, making it much more durable. When Stephen Moulton bought The Hall and set up manufacturing works in the old woollen mills, his innovative products sold around the world. The company was later sold to the Avon Rubber Company in 1956. It put Bradford on Avon on the map, not just as an industrial town but also as an inventive town.”

Mr Harris agrees.

“The dirty, industrial aspect of our town’s history is not seen or known, and explaining this important aspect of the town’s story is the Museum’s great challenge,” he said. “We intend to rise to this challenge, with the help of media journalists such as yourself.”

On June 8, Mr Farrell will give a talk at the museum, which is free for anyone to attend, on the subject. To secure a seat, call 01225 863280.

“The subject matter is key to our industrial history,” Mr Harris said. “Without it, Bradford on Avon would be an entirely different town to what it is today – no mill buildings, no grand clothiers houses, no Hall, no pride in the industrial history since 1850s by people who worked in the rubber factories, no leisure facilities provided by Spencer Moulton, no social cohesion that arises from a factory environment.”

Riding on Rubber by Dan Farrell is available to buy from Bradford-on-Avon museum or the Tourist Information Centre

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Comment

    • Having been born and brought up in BoA I remember the numbers of people who worked at what was Spencer Moulton later Avon. The steam whistle that would go off signifying the start and end of the lunch break, this came in handy for my Dad who didn’t work there but started and finished at the same time.
      Also the number of stay at home Mums who would work from home trimming tennis balls etc. At the time the fire brigade was made up of a number of Spencer Moulton workers and the call was a WWII siren and not unusual to see blokes screaming through the town on their bikes to get to the fire station. A vibrant industrial town, sadly now a bit of a Bath overspill and tourist town.

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