The name of this stretch of road is a reminder that it was once the ancient high street of the former village of Twerton. Richard Graves, in his Triflers, written in 1805, states that Henry Fielding, whilst writing his novel of Tom Jones, lived for a while at Twerton ‘in the first house on the right hand, with a spread eagle over the door, now inhabited by Mr.Williams, a respectable brewer’. This suggests that in his time the street extended eastward as far as ‘Fieldings Lodge’ (demolished in the 1960s for the Herman Miller furniture factory) on the Lower Bristol Road, but was later cut off by the Great Western Railway. At the other end of the street, one of the mills became isolated in a similar way. Nevertheless the street as it is now defined, between the eastern railway arch by old Twerton Station, and the western arch below the church, still represents the core of the old village and therefore forms the basis of this study.
From earliest times Twerton village stood on the main road between Bath and Bristol on the south side of the River Avon (the ‘Lower Bristol Road’), and the High Street has much in common with other village High Streets in the area (particularly Batheaston) which formed part of the ‘king’s highway’. Because it was by-passed by alterations in the mid 19th century, the High Street still preserves much of the character of the old road, and provides an interesting example of the radical changes in the transport and industrial systems on the outskirts of Bath that occurred during that time.
These developments can be followed by means of a good sequence of historical maps and development plans of Twerton which exist from the late 18th century onwards, and it is for this reason that the present study concentrates on changes that have taken place since then. Except for occasional references in the Minutes of the Bath Turnpike Trust in the 18th century, there are otherwise few early administrative records relating to the highways in Twerton, and it is regretted that the records of the Bath Rural District Council (to which Twerton belonged in the late 19th century) were destroyed, it would seem, during the blitz on Bath in WWII. Nevertheless the processes of road construction and management commonly employed in North Somerset during this period are now better understood thanks to the Historic Streetscape Surveys recently carried out for the present local authority in Bath and Norton Radstock. A comprehensive picture can therefore be built up in combination with other documentary sources such as postal directories, property deeds, old photographs or illustrations, and of course, the testimony of the inhabitants themselves.
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