Industrialisation led to a decline in employment in the woollen cloth mills of Westbury. This was balanced out by the opening of Westbury Iron Works, which opened in 1858, Just beyond the railway station.
The construction of the railway in Westbury during the 1840s had led to the discovery of iron ore in sufficient quantities for commercial exploitation. The works closed permanently in 1933, and all that remains of the industry today are the the open pits, now filled with water and known locally as the Mineholes, and the tunnels under Station Road and Hawkeridge Road.
Boultons and Jefferies were two glove making firms in Westbury. They took over disused mills and built their own in Station Road. A medical officer for health reported in 1915 that there were around 500 outworkers for the gloving firms.
In the middle of the 19th century, public health became an agenda across England. An outbreak of cholera in London in the late 1840s lead to the creation of the first public health board and the 1854 discovery that polluted water led to illness.
In 1870, local Government boards were set up to monitor local authorities. The board took responsibility for public health, which resulted in inspections of health from 1875. In 1878, Westbury’s sanitary system was declared ‘exceedingly bad’ by an engineer of Trowbridge Water Company.
The engineer highlighted that water flowed from a local spring through several water closets to Abraham Laverton’s factory. The water was used at the factory for steam and to clean the cloth before continuing its journey to cottages near the churchyard, where the residents used it for washing and beer making.
In Prospect Square, the houses Abraham Laverton built, only seven earth closets were found in a ‘fair’ state. Twenty-five of them were ‘foul’, as were those in the school Laverton also built. An adequate sewage system was finally put in place in Westbury in 1922.