Trowbridge has a railway station on the Wessex Main Line. On 5 September 1848, the first train steamed through as the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway was established. Long a market town, the Kennet and Avon canal runs to the north of Trowbridge and played an instrumental part in the town's development as it enabled coal to be transported from the Somerset Coalfield and so marked the advent of steam-powered manufacturing in woollen cloth mills. The town was foremost producer of this mainstay of contemporary clothing and blankets in south west England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by which time it held the nickname "The Manchester of the West".
The civil parish of Trowbridge had a population of 32,304 at the 2011 census. Nearby towns are Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Devizes and ly are the parishes of Hilperton, North Bradley and Semington.
The origin of the name Trowbridge is uncertain; one source claims derivation from treow-brycg, meaning "Tree Bridge", referring to the first bridge over the Biss, while another states that the true meaning is the bridge by Trowle, the name of a hamlet and a common to the west of the town. On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the name is spelt Trubridge.