Frome shown within Somerset
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||Somerton and Frome|
|List of places: UK • England • Somerset|
Frome (pronounced /ˈfruːm/ ( listen)) is a medium-sized town and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England. The town is approximately 13 miles (21 km) south of Bath, and located at the eastern end of the Mendip Hills. The centre of the town, through which the River Frome runs, is surrounded by hills.
The town has grown substantially in recent years but still retains a very large number of listed buildings, and most of the centre falls within a conservation area. Although it is a separate parish the town now includes most of Selwood as a suburb.
There is almost no evidence for prehistoric or Roman settlement of the area. A monastery built by St. Aldhelm in 685 is the earliest evidence of Saxon occupation of Frome (Froome). The Saxon kings appear to have used Frome as a base from which to hunt in Selwood Forest and in 934 a witenagemot was held there, indicating that Frome must already have been a place of some size.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor was owned by King William, and was the principal settlement of the largest and wealthiest hundred in Somerset. Over the following years parts of the original manor were separated off as distinct manors, for example one was owned by the minster, later passing to the Abbey at Cirencester, which others were leased by the Crown to important families. By the 13th century, the Abbey had bought up some of the other manors (although it did let them out again) and was exploiting the profits from market and trade in the town.
Local tradition asserts that Frome was a medieval borough, and the reeve of Frome is occasionally mentioned in documents after the reign of Edward I, but there is no direct evidence that Frome was a borough and no trace of any charter granted to it. However Henry VII did grant a charter to Edmund Leversedge, then lord of the manor, giving him the right to hold fairs on July 22 and September 21.
The manufacture of woollen cloth was established as the town's principal industry in the 15th century, and Frome remained the only Somerset town in which this staple industry flourished. Families of clothiers gradually came to be the principal landowners in the town, with the manor of Frome itself finally passing into the ownership of a cloth merchant in 1714.
"so prodigiously increased within these last 20-30 years, that they have built a new church, and so many new streets of houses, and those houses are so full of inhabitants, that Frome is now reckoned to have more people in it than the city of Bath, and some say, than even Salisbury itself, and if their trade continues to increase for a few years more ... it is likely to be one of the greatest and wealthiest towns in England"—Daniel Defoe , 1720s
However poverty, the decline of the wool industry in the mid-18th century, increased industrialisation and rising food prices, led to some unrest amongst the inhabitants of Frome, and there were a number of riots during the century. By 1791, the town was described in less flattering terms than those Defoe had used 70 years earlier. 
In the early 19th century, plans were developed to reinvigorate the town and once again elevate it to its former position as a more important town than Bath. These plans, the idea of a local businessman, Thomas Bunn, mostly failed to come to fruition, although some public buildings were erected and a wide new approach road to the town centre from the south was cut (named Bath Street after the landowner, Lord Bath of Longleat House).
Whilst wool remained an important part of the town's economy into the 19th (and even 20th) centuries, other industries were established in the town. A bell-foundry started in 1684 by William Cockey grew to be a major producer of components for the developing gas industry and employer of 800 people. The J W Singer brass foundry and bronze-casting works, established by the Frome-born J. W. Singer in 1854, was a major employer and produced a number of well-known bronze statues such as that of Justice on the The Old Bailey in London. Printing was another major industry, with the Butler and Tanner printworks being set up in the middle of the century. Brewing was also a source of employment. 
The town elects three members to Somerset County Council, each from a separate county division. At the last election in June 2009, Liberal Democrats were elected in Frome South and Frome Selwood, and a Conservative in Frome North. Frome also has eleven councillors on Mendip District Council, two from each of the town council wards except for Oakfield, which elects only one. Following elections in 2008, all eleven were Liberal Democrats.
The civil parish of Frome has adopted the style of a town, and there is a Town Council of 17 members. Councillors are split between six wards: three each for the Berkley Down, College, Keyford, Market and Park Wards, and two for the Oakfield Ward. The most recent elections were in May 2007, following which the council is made up of 10 Liberal Democrats, five Conservatives, one member of the Labour Party and one independent councillor. 
The town was not represented in Parliament until given one member in the House of Commons by the Reform Act of 1832. Separate representation was abolished for the 1950 general election, with Frome itself being transferred to the Wells division, whilst most of the remainder of the constituency formed the bulk of the new Somerset North constituency. Further changes took place for the 1983 general election when the current Somerton and Frome constituency was created. The current representative is Liberal Democrat MP David Heath CBE, although the seat has been contested for many years by the Conservatives. During the general election of 2005, in which 70% of those eligible turned out to vote, David Heath achieved a relatively slim majority of 812 votes (1.5% of the total).
Frome is within the South West England European Parliamentary constituency which elects six MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
The town has a new National Health Service community hospital, operated by Somerset Primary Care Trust, located on the site of the former Showground at Fromefield. The new hospital was opened in 2008, replacing the former Frome Victoria Hospital in Park Road which had been in use since 1901. The nearest general hospital is the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
Frome is unevenly built on high ground above the River Frome, which is crossed by the 16th century town bridge in the town centre. The town centre is approximately 65 metres (213 ft) above sea-level, whilst the outer parts of the town are between 90 metres (295 ft) and 135 metres (443 ft) above sea-level.
The main areas of the town are (approximately clockwise from the north-west): Innox Hill, Welshmill, Packsaddle, Fromefield, Stonebridge, Clink, Berkley Down, Easthill, Wallbridge, The Mount, Keyford and Lower Keyford, Marston Gate, The Butts, Critchill, Trinity, and Gould's Ground.
To the west of the town, on the edge of the Mendip Hills, there are a number of large active limestone quarries, such as Whatley Quarry and Merehead Quarry, along with many disused quarries. The working quarries are served by a dedicated railway line which branches off the main line at Frome, passes through the town centre and out through the Welshmill and Spring Gardens areas in the north-west quadrant of the town.
The population of Frome was 12,240 in the 1831 census, however it then declined to 11,057 in 1901 and remained between 11,000 and 12,000 until the 1970s. Since then, it has expanded considerably, reaching over 23,000 in 1991. 
In the 2001 census, the population was 24,510, comprising 11,863 (48.4%) males and 12,647 (51.6%) females. 7,674 (31.3%) residents were aged 16 or below, 13,150 (63.3%) between 16 and 65, and 3,686 (15.0%) aged 65 or over.
Of the population aged between 16 and 74, 11,580 (67%) were in employment, with only 513 (3%) unemployed (the remainder being economically inactive). About 68% of those in employment were in service industries, with the remainder in manufacturing. 4,323 people were employed in managerial or professional occupations, 1,362 were self-employed, and 4,635 in routine and semi-routine occupations.
10,198 households were recorded in the town, of which 7,679 (75%) were owner-occupied, 981 (10%) rented from private landlords, and 1,538 (15%) rented from the local authority or other social landlord. 10,122 (99.3%) heads of households were white.
The metal-working and printing industries which replaced wool as Frome's main industry have declined but not left the town. Singers still has a presence in the town, as does Butler and Tanner, although the latter has recently (2008) been in major financial difficulties, making a large part of its workforce redundant.
Almost half of the economically active population of Frome commute to work outside the town (in Bath, Bristol, Warminster, Westbury or further afield). About 2,700 people commute into the town. A substantial part of the workforce has no formal qualifications and is poorly skilled, leaving them vulnerable to a decline in manufacturing work. There are no major local government employment in the town, and the principal public sector employers are the Primary Care Trust and the schools.
Frome town centre contains a considerable number of independent shops, and a few, but not many, chain stores. Retail is primarily aimed at serving the local population's requirements for food (there are two large supermarkets on opposite edges of the town, and three smaller supermarkets in the town centre), basic clothing, health and beauty, DIY and some electrical goods. However studies show that only about a quarter of the town's population do their non-food shopping in the town. Several banks and building societies have branches in the town centre.
Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the town centre: some in the Market Yard car park, and others in the former agricultural warehouse, the Cheese and Grain. The Saturday cattle market was moved from the centre of the town to nearby Standerwick in the 1980s. In 2003, Frome was granted Fairtrade Town status.
The older parts of Frome - for example, around Sheppard's Barton and Catherine Hill - are picturesque, containing an outstanding collection of late 17th and 18th century small houses.
The Trinity area, which was built in the latter half of the 17th century and first half of the 18th century, is a fine (and rare) example of early industrial housing. Over 300 houses were built between 1660 and 1756 in a very unusual early example of a planned grid-pattern. Although about half the area was demolished in the 1960s under a Slum Clearance Order, before its historical importance was realised, the remainder was saved and was restored at a cost of £4 million between 1980 and 1984. Also in this area is the elaborate former Selwood Printing Works.
Stoney Street, which leads into Catherine Hill, is a steep, cobbled road climbing out of the town centre. Also in the centre of the town, Cheap Street contains many buildings dating to the 16th and 17th centuries, and has a stream running down the middle, fed by the spring at St John's Church. Cheap Street has never been used for vehicular traffic and its layout is based on land plots dating to approximately 1500. Despite a fire in 1923, the buildings have remained substantially unchanged since 1830, apart from shop-frontages.
The town bridge, which was originally built in the 14th century, was rebuilt in the 16th century and widened in the 18th century, at which time houses were built on it (making it one of the few bridges in the country to support buildings, the others being Pulteney Bridge in Bath, and one in Lincoln).
The Tourist Information Centre in Justice Lane is contained within a circular dye-house, known to have been in existence by 1813, one of two surviving in the town (the other is in Willow Vale). It was restored in 1994.
In the 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, Frome benefited from considerable investment in the restoration of its historic buildings through the English Heritage Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme and the National Lottery Townscape Heritage Initiative.
In all, Frome has over 500 listed buildings, three of which (including the parish church) are grade I listed.
The Blue House, located adjacent to the town bridge, is a Grade I listed building and was formerly the Bluecoat School and Almshouses, so named due to the colour of the school uniforms. Built in 1726 at a cost of £1,401 8s 9d, it replaced a previous almshouse dating from 1461 and rebuilt in 1621. The Blue House provided a home for twenty widow women and schooling for twenty boys. The front of the building is adorned by two statues, one of a man and the other a woman, indicating the building's dual purpose. They are colloquially known as "Billy Ball" and "Nancy Guy". The building's role as a school came to an end in 1921, and it now provides studio and one-bedroom flats for seventeen elderly residents.
Rook Lane Chapel was a noncomformist chapel built between 1705 and 1707 by James Pope. The chapel had a gallery around three sides, and the centre of the ceiling was domed and supported by two tuscan columns. Rook Lane ceased to be used as a chapel in the 1960s and, following a period of neglect, it was purchased by bought by the Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust and converted by a firm of architects, the ground floor becoming a community hall and arts centre and the galleried upper floor becoming offices.
Frome is reputed to have one or more systems of tunnels beneath the streets of the older parts of the town. Some entrances are visible above ground, for example in the wall at the top of Stoney Street, with other entrances in the cellars of shops and houses. Their purpose and full extent remains unknown, but they have been under investigation in recent years by at least one local group and a documentary has been made.
The parish church of St John the Baptist, was built between the late 12th century and early 15th century replacing a Saxon building that had stood since 685. The building was in very poor condition by the mid-19th century, and major restoration work - almost a complete rebuilding - was carried out in the 1860s, at a cost of almost £40,000. One of the more unusual pieces of work carried out was the construction of the Via Crucis, which is thought to be unique in an Anglican church. Another unusual feature are the carved roundels above the nave arcades depicting parables and miracles, which were added later in the century.  Outside the east end of the church is the tomb of Bishop Thomas Ken.
A daughter church of St John's, Christ Church, was built in 1818, although considerable changes were made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The third Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, was built in 1837-8, and is unusual in that the altar is at the west end due to the position in which the church was built. The stained glass windows are near-contemporary copies of windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
Finally, St Mary's at Innox Hill was built in 1863 as another Chapel of Ease to St John's. It is small with a decorated sanctuary ceiling.
As well as Rook Lane Chapel, there were a number of other non-conformist religious houses in Frome. In 1773, a split in the congregation of Rook Lane led to the establishment of another Zion Congregational Church in Whittox Lane. This building was replaced in 1810, and was extended in 1888 (a separate, octagonal school room with a conical roof having been built in the grounds in 1875).
A Quaker Meeting House existed in Sheppards Barton, now South Parade, from 1675 to 1856. The original building was replaced around 1730 with a simple unadorned stone building comprising a single meeting room with wrought iron gallery above. The building became a school, the town library, Red Cross centre and, since 1999, the offices of a software company. The present chapel-like appearance was created in a 1993 refurbishement by the Red Cross.
Baptists had also been worshiping in the town since 1669, and had two churches. One was built in Sheppards Barton (now South Parade) in 1708. This was demolished and replaced by a new building in 1850, which was itself closed in 2001. Part of this building was converted to residential use but the main church, with a baptism pool, remains disused. A second Baptist Church was built in Badcox Lane (now Catherine Street) in 1711. It was replaced with a new building in 1813, which was embellished with a Doric portico in 1845. It closed in 1962 (later serving as a library, before being converted into flats in the 1908s).
The Methodists built themselves a church in 1812 at Gorehedge, which is still in use (after considerable additions in 1863, restoration in 1871 and major internal rearrangement in the 1980s). Sun Street Chapel was erected by the Primitive Methodists in 1834, and closed in 1982, although it is now being used by another religious group. There is another Methodist church on Portway, built in 1910.
Finally, there is a Dissenters' Cemetery with Chapel at Vallis.
Frome is served by the Bristol to Weymouth railway line which passes the eastern edge of the town. Frome station was opened in 1850 and is one of the oldest railway stations still in operation in Britain. Trains are operated by First Great Western. A freight line branches off through the town to serve the quarries on the Mendip Hills. A continuation of this line, which previously linked Frome to Radstock, is now the route of National Cycle Route 24, otherwise known as the Colliers Way.
Frome has thirteen first schools for pupils aged between 4 and 9 years, including Berkley Church of England First School, Christ Church Church of England First School, Hayesdown First School, St John's Church of England Voluntary Aided First School, St Louis Catholic Primary School, Trinity Church of England First School and Vallis First School.
There are two middle schools for pupils between 9 and 13 years of age, Oakfield Middle School and Selwood Anglican/Methodist Middle School. The town's main college, Frome Community College, provides education between ages 13 and 18, and has specialist "media arts" status. There is also Critchill School which is a special school catering to students who have special educational needs & Farleigh Further Education College for special needs students going on to post 16, for example because of learning difficulties or physical disabilities
There are no further or higher education establishments in Frome. A vocational training facility opened in a temporary building in 2008.
Frome has a thriving arts scene. The high-point is the annual ten-day Frome Festival in July, which in recent years has included more than 160 events held at various venues in and around the town.
There are two theatres in Frome: The Memorial Theatre was built in 1924 in memory of the fallen of the First World War, whilst the 240-seat Merlin Theatre is part of the Community College campus. The Cheese and Grain, a former farm produce warehouse which was converted into a market and concert hall in 1997, has a capacity of up to 800 and hosts regular pop concerts by a variety of bands. Locally-based musicians include American saxophonist Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis. Irish Folk Singer Cara Dillon, rock bands "The Operation", "More Than Life", "Jakarta" and "All Guns Blazing", who won the Somerset Standard and Guardian Battle Of The Bands in 2008. The town is also home to Beatles' tribute "Sgt. Pepper's Only Dart Board Band".
In 2008 a 'not for profit' company called Frome Community Productions was formed by members of the community in order to develop and deliver FromeFM, an internet based community radio station. The station broadcasts 24 hours per day and is completely staffed by volunteers who produce features, interviews and music shows. In 2009 FromeFM commenced a service to stream the broadcasts to mobile phones.
Frome's only cinema, the Westway, is in Cork Street in the town centre.
The Frome & District Agricultural Society holds an annual Agricultural & Cheese Show in September. This was formerly held on the Showground at Fromefield, but in recent years has moved to West Woodland, a couple of miles to the south of the town.
Badgers Hill, currently known as the AlderSmith Stadium, is the home of Frome Town F.C., which in 2009 was promoted from the Western Football League into the Southern Football League. The Frome Town ladies' team also play at Badgers Hill.
Frome Cricket Club play cricket at the Showground on the Bath side of town. The club was formed in 1925 and, for the 2009 season, play in the West of England Premier League: Somerset Division. Somerset County Cricket Club used to use the ground and Harold Gimblett made his debut at the venue in May 1935. The club's most famed players are Colin Herbert Dredge, who played county cricket 209 times for Somerset from 1976-1988 and Mark Harmon, who played for both Somerset and Kent.
Formed in 1883, Frome Rugby Club play at Gypsy Lane. They have four senior teams and a thriving mini and junior section. The First XV, Second XV and Third XV all play in the South West Division of the English Clubs Rugby Union Championship; the First XV play in Southern Counties South, the Second XV in Dorset and Wilts One South and the Third XV in Dorset and Wilts Three West. The Fourth XV, known as the Cavalry, play friendly, social fixtures against other local sides.
Frome has also provided the backdrop to historical dramas, such as Drover's Gold, filmed by BBC Wales in 1996.
There have been a number of housing developments within Frome, many on former industrial sites, and these are continuing with 600 homes being built at Saxonvale and Garsdale.
A Vision for Frome 2008-2028 has been developed following a consultation with local people in the spring of 2008 which received over 3,000 responses.
Mendip District Council and Mendip Strategic Partnership are currently (December 2008) consulting on a Community Strategy and Local Development Framework for the period to 2026 which includes building 2,500-2,600 new homes, providing more employment and office space, developing a new secondary school and two new primary schools, remodelling the town centre and encouraging a wider range of retailers and leisure providers into the town.
Museum on North Parade
Rook Lane Chapel
House on Bath Street
View up Gentle Street
Houses on Gentle Street
View down Gentle Street
St Catherine's Hill
The Blue House
The Valentine Lamp, Catherine Street
Selwood Printing Works
The Via Crucis at St John's Church
FROME, a market town in the Frome parliamentary division of Somersetshire, England, 107 m. W. by S. of London by the Great Western railway. Pop. of urban district (Igor) 11,057. It is unevenly built on high ground above the river Frome, which is here crossed by a stone bridge of five arches. It was formerly called Frome or Froome Selwood, after the neighbouring forest of Selwood; and the country round is still richly wooded and picturesque. The parish church of St John the Baptist, with its fine tower and spire, was built about the close of the 14th century, and, though largely restored, has a beautiful chancel, Lady chapel and baptistery. Fragments of Norman work areleft; the interior is elaborately adorned with sculptures and stained glass. The market-hall, museum, school of art, and a free grammar school, founded under Edward VI., may be noted among buildings and institutions. The chief industries are brewing and art metal-working, also printing, metal-founding, and the manufacture of cloth, silk, tools and cards for wooldressing. Dairy farming is largely practised in the neighbourhood. Selwood forest was long a favourite haunt of brigands, and even in the 18th century gave shelter to a gang of coiners and highwaymen.
The Saxon occupation of Frome (From) is the earliest of which there is evidence, the settlement being due to the foundation of a monastery by Aldhelm in 705. A witenagemot was held there in 934, so that Frome must already have been a place of some size. At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor was owned by King William. Local tradition asserts that Frome was a medieval borough, and the reeve of Frome is, occasionally mentioned in documents after the reign of Edward I., but there is no direct evidence that Frome was a borough and no trace of any charter granted to it. It was not represented in parliament until given one member by the Reform Act of 1832. Separate representation ceased in 1885. Frome was never incorporated. A charter of Henry VII. to Edmund Leversedge, then lord of the manor, granted the right to have fairs on the 22nd of July and the 21st of September. In the 18th century two other fairs on the 24th of February and the 25th of November were held. Cattle fairs are now held on the last Wednesday in February and November, and a cheese fair on the last Wednesday in September. The Wednesday market is held under the charter of Henry VII. There is also a Saturday cattle market. The manufacture of woollen cloth has been established since the 15th century, Frome being the only Somerset town in which this staple industry has flourished continuously.