Bradford on Avon began as a crossing point of the Avon but owes most of its scale, architecture, and character to the wealthy days of a booming textile industry which kicked off early in the 17 th century and spanned nearly 200 years. Timbrell’s Yard was originally the house of one of the local dye works owners (then known as St Margaret’s House) at the centre of that industry.
Scattered remains around the town show that Bradford on Avon was an important location dating back to the Roman era. The main bridge crossing the Avon was built by the Normans, originally sized for pack horses, and then widened in the 17 th century. There are few river crossings in the area and the bridge was the site of a major skirmish in the English Civil War, prior to the battle of Lansdowne.
The Avon provided power for the many wool mills built in the town using water and steam to drive the looms. These factories expanded as the industrial revolution took hold and moved production from cottages to purpose-built buildings. At one point Bradford on Avon had 30 of these mills.
The main building at Timbrell’s Yard is St Margaret’s House which appears to date from the 17 th century and faces the river, housing our bar and six bedrooms on two floors directly above. A second building sits at right angles to the bar, was originally detached and may even pre-date St Margaret’s House. It’s a beautiful double height space with an elegant three section window overlooking the courtyard, which had been partly obscured before our refurbishment. The third and final section of Timbrell’s Yard was built in the 1960s directly beside the river and houses 11 bedrooms and The Club Room.
St Margaret’s House was occupied originally by Thomas Timbrell, who was the town’s only independent dyer until at least 1840 and ran the neighbouring dye works shown in the painting by Samuel Spode, left. It is believed to have been the only communal dye works in the town which served the many specialised local clothiers.
The dye works stayed in business until 1890 and St Margaret’s House was lived in by various owners or managers. This changed five years after the business closed at the turn of the century and St Margaret’s House was bought by Unionist supporters of the Conservative Party to create the Tariff Reform Club. The old dye works was converted into a picture theatre (which had become St Margaret’s Hall) and the rest was demolished and now forms part of the public car park.
Timbrell’s Yard existed as a club for nearly sixty years and even briefly housed the town’s library. It was listed by English Heritage in 1952, grade II. Eight years later Bradford on Avon Rowing Club took over the building, having merged with the Conservative Club, and they built an extension which now houses part of the restaurant and some of the first-floor bedrooms.
The Rowing Club moved out to a new clubhouse in the early 1980s and the property was converted into a pub with rooms, known as the Riverside Inn. For several years it was famous locally for live music and the ‘Black Cat’ night club. Sadly, it went into a long decline, and we came along after the inn had closed its doors and the property was about to be converted into offices and housing. We spent 18 months rebuilding and renovating this proud and important building, which by then was in a very dilapidated state. We encountered fire & flood damage, decay, and many unsympathetic modifications but we hope that we have managed to preserve some of the most attractive features and character of this historic property.