History and Heritage

Set on the eastern edge of the Mendip Hills, Frome is built on steep handsome hills around the river. Frome means ‘brisk-flowing water’ and the early town and its Market Place grew around springs. To this day, these provide continuous supplies of fresh clean water, as it has done throughout the town’s long history. This can be seen in Cheap Street, one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. Here, the leat winds its way down the centre of the pavement.

Frome is a stunning market town with a beautiful heart. Distinct areas of historic buildings are connected by sinuous streets, elevated walkways and alleys winding up and down the hillside and providing ever changing views of the townscape. Along the way, interesting shops nestle within one of the largest collections of listed buildings in Somerset. Frome’s town centre is largely unaffected by redevelopment. Some central streets are still cobbled and many of the buildings date back to the 1700s, and as such there is a wealth of historic places of interest for you to visit.

Founding Frome

The town dates from around the 7th century when the Abbot of Malmesbury, St Aldhelm, founded a monastery here. The monastery has long since disappeared. However, interesting religious buildings continue to dominate the skyline including St John’s Church with its unusual Via Crucis and Rook Lane Congregational Church built in 1707, now an arts centre – these are only two of Frome’s 370 historic buildings.

A Centre for the Cloth Trade

Frome was an acclaimed centre for cloth production from c.1475 to 1790. John Leland (1542) describes a town of “fayre stone howsys” built on the proceeds of the cloth trade and the markets. Cloth from Frome was sold through London and exported to Europe. According to Daniel Defoe, in 1742-1747, Frome was larger than Bath.

The architecture you see today is illustrative of the legacy of earlier industry and trade in Frome. That architecture includes the beautiful Silk Mill in Merchant’s Barton. The Ward family, silk throwsters of Evercreech, Bruton and Shepton Mallet, constructed the building, which served as a mill, in the closing years of the 1700s. Now, it is a thriving art space, rescued by local people and lovingly brought back to life.

A Historic Market Town

As a result of the decline of the cloth trade, Frome became a market town for the agricultural area around. The Cheese and Grain building, the frontage of which has recently been restored, provides a key link to Frome’s history as a market town. Multiple markets existed at the time of the Norman Conquest; their presence has helped form the town’s cultural identity. One of the defining events was the completion of the New Market Hall in 1875 with a siding from the Radstock branch railway completed in 1854 and the opening of the building for sales of cheese and grain which give the building its name today. The tradition of markets continues at the Cheese & Grain. Further, it serves as a popular music venue and business hub.

The Frome Community

Throughout history, Frome local aristocrats or a borough government did not control Frome. Rather, the local clothier families, many of whom were non-conformist, dominated. The weavers & other cloth workers were also often literate and independently minded. This tradition and sentiment continues today amongst the engaged population of Frome.

Today, a visit around Frome will take you through independent shops and arts venues, as the town continues to be a vibrant social and cultural centre.

Explore Frome’s Heritage

The best way to learn about Frome is to look around and see the sights, from winding streets to historic churches. For example, the Frome Museum also many local industrial artefacts, maps and photographs. Look around our interactive map to see what you can find around Frome.

Below you can find more information on the historic areas to visit in our places of interest. You can also read our history blogs, which highlight some interesting and lesser-known aspects of Frome’s history and you can find out more about the lives of Frome industry workers on the Working Memories website.

Additionally, you can pop in to the Information point at the Black Swan Arts or Frome Town Hall to find out more on what there is to visit.

With such a long and diverse history, Frome has amassed many historical sites and places of interest. These will give you a glimpse into its medieval history and heritage as a mill town. And for some more in-depth stories, read through our history blogs.

There are many places to visit both in Frome and in the surrounding area. Here you will find historic buildings and homes, churches and castles, as well as historical pubs. There are also many streets and open places to explore on a walk around town, and quite a few landmarks to spot.

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Archangel

The Archangel is located on King Street in Frome. The building now boasts a free-floating glass restaurant where you can dine on sumptuous and …

Black Swan Arts

A contemporary crafts centre with gallery, craft studios and café. The building also features a vibrant exhibitions programme of contemporary and innovative art and crafts. …

Frome Heritage Museum

Frome Heritage Museum is located in the centre of the town in a historic building. It was built for the Frome Literary and Scientific …

Nunney Castle

A picturesque moated medieval castle, Nunney Castle in Somerset dates from the 1370s. Its builder was Sir John de la Mare, a local knight …

Longleat

Enter a land of adventure. Where Lions roam. Tigers prowl. And monkeys swing. Travel through time in a grand stately home. Lose yourself in …

Cley Hill

Cley Hill is a distinctive landmark that is rich in wildlife and archaeology, with a tremendous panorama. It was once part of the Longleat …

Farleigh Hungerford Castle

The Hungerford family occupied this fortifies mansion for 300 years, and as such their stories are inextricably linked to the castle. When visiting, you …

Radstock Museum

Radstock Museum is a local history museum that covers the social and industrial history of the former North Somerset Coalfield. This award winning Museum …

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow is one of the country’s finest accessible examples of a Neolithic chambered tomb. Dating from about 3500 BC, it is …

Iford Manor

Ilford Manor is a Grade 1 Italian style garden. The Ilford valley has been occupied since Roman times and the manor house sits idyllically …

East Somerset Railway

Preserved steam railway with regular running days and special events including Thomas Weekend and Santa Specials, situated in the village of Cranmore, near Shepton Mallet …

Bratton Camp & White Horse

An Iron Age hill fort and white horse carved into the hillside. The original Iron Age hillfort defences were built at Bratton Camp over …

Westwood Manor

A 15th-century Wiltshire stone manor house with Gothic and Jacobean windows. Built over three centuries from the fifteenth century, and adapted and changed on …

Stourhead

World-famous 18th-century landscape garden, Palladian mansion, parkland, woods and chalk downs. Alfred’s Tower overlooks surrounding estate. The Home at Stourhead This was the home …

Bath

World Heritage City with world famous Roman Baths, Abbey, Royal Crescent and Thermae Bath Spa. There are numerous museums including the American Museum at Claverton …

Wells

The smallest city in England but packed with historic interest from the splendid Cathedral to the moated Bishops Palace and Medieval Vicars Close.

Wookey Hole Caves

The UK’s largest show caves system, with underground lakes. It is home to the infamous Witch of Wookey. Attractions include the prehistoric Valley Of The …

Lacock

Lacock is set in rural Wiltshire and is owned by the National Trust. Lacock villa is famous for its picturesque streets and historic buildings. …

Glastonbury

Legendary resting place of King Arthur, the Isle of Avalon. There are impressive Abbey ruins and the Tor standing prominently over the surrounding Somerset …

Cheddar Gorge and caves

Cheddar Gorge is one of England’s most iconic and spectacular landscapes. At almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, this is England’s largest …

Stonehenge

Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in …

The Old Bath Arms

Enjoy fine dining at The Old Bath Arms – serving home made food from the finest fresh ingredients. Food is served in the comfort of …

The Blue Boar

Centrally situated in the Market Place, The Blue Boar is an old 17th century pub that has now also become available as a bed …

The Three Swans

The Three Swans is one of the oldest pubs in Frome and provides the perfect spot to enjoy a drink or two, homemade snacks, …

Cheap Street

Cheap Street is Frome’s pride and joy and one of our prettiest streets. The street has retained its historic medieval character, with a leat …

Market Place and Boyle Cross Monument

The Market Place stands in the centre of Frome. Many fine 19th century building can be found here, as well as the historic George …

Silk Mill Studios And Galleries

The Silk Mill is an artist studio project and gallery in the centre of the arts destination town of Frome. The gallery hosts exhibitions …

Rook Lane

Rook Lane is a space for art, architecture, performance and education. Rook Lane is home to NVB Architects and the base for Rook Lane …

Frome Town Hall

Recently renovated, Frome Town Hall now houses Frome Town Council and Information Centre. Please come see us if you would like to know more …

Gentle Street

Gentle Street is a narrow and historic street, with many houses dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This interesting, cobbled street provides …

Monmouth Chambers

This house sheltered James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, from 28th-30th June, 1685, when Frome people ‘called him King as confidently as if he had …

Frome Railway Station

Frome railway station designed by T. R. Hannaford, an assistant to I. K. Brunel, and opened on 7 October 1850. = Isambard Kingdom Brunel …

Lion Fountain

This intriguing landmark can be found at the top of King Street, next to St. John’s Church. The fountain is an important part of …

Frome Bridge

The Frome Bridge, besides the best example of Pulteney Bridge in Bath, is one of only two in Britain, the other being in Lincoln, …

Valentine Lamp

The Frome Valentine’s Lamp is located at the top of Catherine Hill and is one of the town’s most romantic landmarks. It is a …

The Blue House

The Blue house was built more than 500 years ago, likely between 1465 and 1485 by William Leversedge. It originally consisted of a hall, …

Christ Church

The church was built to serve the needs of the fast-growing town in the early years of the 19th century, and to take some …

Holy Trinity Church

The Holy Trinity Church is situated in the historic Trinity area of Frome, at the top of Welsh Mill Hill. Built in 1838, this …

St John’s Church

Frome’s large parish church, fitting for a town that was larger than Bath until 1650, lies a short distance up a hill from the …

St Catherine’s

Traditionally referred to as Frome’s Artisan Quarter, St Catherine’s consists of Catherine Hill, Palmer Street, Paul Street, Stony Street and the lower part of …

Bradford-on-Avon

A short drive from Frome, Bradford-on-Avon, is a pretty, historic market town nestled on the banks of the River Avon. Explore the town’s characterful …

Mendip Hills

Dramatic gorges and ancient woodland rising above the Somerset Levels. The Mendip Hills run east-west across Somerset from Frome to Brean Down. Inside they …