Gallery of Places

Old Inns

Frome once had a huge number of Pubs. Many of those remaining claim to be amongst the oldest - if not the oldest.

Here are just a few: The Angel - recently promoted to 'Archangel'! - and The Three Swans (Angel Lane - now King Street), The Wheat Sheaves (Bath Street), The Black Swan (Bridge Street), (formerly) The Trooper (Trooper Street, now Trinity Street), The Pack Horse (Behind Town - now Christchurch St. West), The Sun (Catherine Street - moved uphill from beside the old Baptist Church!), The George, The Crown and The Blue Boar (Market Place), The Lamb and Fountain (Fountain Street - now Castle Street)

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Around Old Frome

Once St Aldhelm and his monks had built St John's Church and monastery, other Saxons started to move in and settle down.

The land between the small bridge over the River Frome and the bottom of the steep hill up to the monastery was fairly level so became an ideal place to set up a market. This is now Market Place. Getting out of it meant climbing through steep and narrow roads and alleys - wide enough only for pedestrians, pack-ponies and small carts. These lanes set the pattern for the centre of Frome we see today.
The main route out of Market Place climbed Stony Street (so named because it was one of the first streets paved with stone to help the horses get a grip when pulling heavy waggons!) From there you had a choice of routes: 1) Climb Catherine Hill through to Badcox. 2) Turn left into Palmer Street (originally part of Stony Street) above the stinking hovels of Anchor Barton, take a sharp right up Rook Lane along the row of old cottages (now in Bath Street) to come out by Rook Lane House. 3) Instead of taking Rook Lane, cross to St John's Church (no archway in those days) then right, up Gentle Street. This is very steep - its original name was Hangar or Hunger Lane because it 'hung' above the town. You and your horses would be glad to stop at the Waggon and Horses for a good rest. Horses were often changed here so the ones who had struggled up the hill could get a break before taking another waggon back down.
Market PlaceCNV00001.JPG CNV00003.JPG Catherine HillCNV00009.JPG Rook Lane CottagesCNV00002.JPG
Gentle StreetCNV00017.JPG Waggon and HorsesCNV00016.JPG
Another route from Market Place went up Angel Lane (now King Street), along Church Street and up Vicarage Street to Portway. The Old Vicarage was built in 1744 on the site of an earlier Vicarage. It was enlarged by Vicar Bennett in the 1850s to its present size. Next door was the Old School - St John's Infant School in the mid 1800s with the playground underneath! It is now St John's Hall.
Church Street:CNV00020.JPG Vicarage Street:CNV00030.JPG CNV00025.JPG The Old Vicarage:CNV00028.JPG
St John's Hall:


From the top of Angel Lane, pedestrians could pass the Drinking Fountain (called St Aldhelm's Well) whose water passes under the graveyard, climb Church Steps (there were once houses on both sides) and continue past the West Front of St John's into Gentle Street
Fountain:CNV00013.JPG Church Steps:CNV00024.JPG St John's West Front:CNV00001%283%29.JPG
The area in between these different routes was filled with a maze of lanes and alleys - Paul Street, Apple Alley, Eagle Lane, Blindhouse Lane, Plummers Barton, Portway Steps and Cheap Street, with its shops and stream, are about all that remain of these:
Paul Street:CNV00005.JPG Apple Alley: CNV00016%281%29.JPG Eagle Lane:CNV00015%281%29.JPG Blindhouse Lane:CNV00008.JPG Plummers Barton:CNV00018%281%29.JPG Portway Steps:CNV00020%281%29.JPG Cheap Street:CNV00009%281%29.JPG.

Because it was so difficult to get into and out of Market Place (especially if you didn't want to go through Frome anyway) a 'by-pass' was opened, cutting across the tops of Badcox, Rook Lane, Gentle Street and into Portway. This was known as Behind Town because it marked the southern edge of Frome for many centuries. It is now Christchurch Street West and East. However, as this was a 'Toll Road', waggon and carriage drivers often still drove through the town centre to avoid paying the toll!

Getting out of Frome northwards was a bit easier. At first, it meant going through the ford; later a bridge was built, probably of wood. There was a stone bridge by the 1500s, probably a 'packhorse bridge' just wide enough for a horse or donkey, with its load hanging down either side. A larger stone bridge was built in 1662 - the original date-stone plaque is in one of the estate agents on the present bridge. This bridge was partly rebuilt in 1724 but the major rebuilding came in 1821 with a unique feature - shops built to the height of two storeys (Poultney Bridge in Bath has only single-storey shops). These later bridges had to pass over two water-courses - the original river and the mill-stream which had been cut through to bring water to the woollen mills and dyers of Willow Vale. This mill-stream now forms the course of the main river. A slope from beside the bridge ran down into the mill-stream. This was removed, along with the stone wall of the bridge, when the pavement was widened in the 1960s. Once over the Town Bridge, your route lay along Bridge Street and on into Welshmill or towards Fromefield or along Berkey Road. The opening of North Parade in 1797 made this northern exit even easier.
Town Bridge:1662 Date-Stone:CNV00008%281%29.JPG Bridge:CNV00014%285%29.JPG Back of Bridge:CNV00024%281%29.JPG CNV00025%282%29.JPG
Bridge Street:CNV00013%284%29.JPG North Parade:CNV00004%282%29.JPG

Towns and villages were responsible for keeping their own roads in good repair. Roads in the countryside, however, were often full of deep potholes, in which it was possible to drown if you fell in. In 1757 a new law created toll-roads. Toll, or Turnpike, authorities were allowed to take tolls from road users and use the money to keep these roads in good order. It made travel faster and safer. However, not everyone liked paying tolls and tried different ways to pay less. In Frome, it was quite expensive to take a waggon to market, with both tolls and market charges, so other smaller markets sprang up on the edge of town - notably in New Town (Trinity). I was told once that in Buckland Dinham, horses were taken out of the shafts of the coal waggons and colliers' wives pulled the waggons through the village - hand-pulled waggons paid much less toll than horse-drawn ones!
Toll Boundary marker in Bridge Street: CNV00036.JPG

The Town Grows

Despite a growing population, people continued to live squeezed into the old town. The only big change came in the 1540s when St Katherine's Chapel at the top of Catherine Hill was closed down and its lands sold off (the Thynne family at Longleat bought a great deal of this land). Woad plants, which were used to make the blue dye for the cloth, were grown on Oadland and the dyed cloth was hung out to dry on racks in Rack Close. However, in the 1600s the owners of these open spaces began to think of growing new homes on them instead! At first, larger houses were built to encourage the wealthier residents of Frome to move to the edges of the town. Examples of these are the merchants houses in Vallis Way and, maybe, The Keep in Castle Street.

Vallis Way: CNV00016%282%29.JPG CNV00015%282%29.JPG The Keep: CNV00011%282%29.JPG
Many of these larger houses were improved and updated in the Eighteenth Century:
Rook Lane House:CNV00019%282%29.JPG Melrose House:CNV00012%282%29.JPG Iron Gates (with Court House added later):CNV00010%282%29.JPG CNV00018%282%29.JPG Westbrook House:CNV00031%281%29.JPG

On Oadland, large numbers of small cottages were built on streets shaped in a regular pattern. The whole area became known as New Town. The cottages were built especially for workers in the woollen industry, who could continue spinning and weaving in their own homes. (This way of working is called 'Cottage Industry'). People of other trades also used their homes as workshops. In Book Four of The Doors of Time, Annie Farley takes Jessica to look over some of these new homes.

The landowners who built the cottages kept control of their properties through a new method called 'Leasehold'. They 'leased' a plot of land to a builder who built a cottage for himself, a family member or to rent out. The lease was for 99 years or the life-time of three family-members - whichever was the shorter. As people often died young, the owner of the lease might get the land back from the builder well before the 99 years were up! The downside of this was that when the lease was near the end, the occupiers of the cottage let it fall into disrepair. If a new lease was arranged, repairs and extensions were made.

The cottages were built in terraces but could be of different sizes. Most of them had a main room downstairs with a hearth for cooking and heat. A second room was built on the side or back but without any form of heating - perhaps this was where the work was done? Or maybe animals kept? A curving staircase beside the hearth led up to the room or rooms above. Other cottages were built in Keyford (New Buildings) and Rook Lane (now Bath Street). Older cottages were often single-storey. Smoke from the fire could escape through the roof. Adding an extra floor in the cottage made this difficult!

In the 1680s there came an important change in the main room downstairs. Proper fireplaces and brick-lined chimneys began to replace the old hearth and clay-and-dung-lined chimneys. The reason? The increasing use of coal from the mines around Radstock and Mells. Wood-smoke is unpleasant but coal-smoke can kill you and has to be taken safely out of the home. Some of the old cottages and houses have dates carved into the fireplace or chimney-piece. This often means the date the fireplace was added - the main building might be much older.

Hard times in Frome and the collapse of the woollen industry in the nineteenth century meant that many of the buildings in New Town (by now called Trinity) became empty and derelict or very run down. In the mid twentieth century it was believed that the Trinity cottages were poorly-built nineteenth century homes (like many of those in the North of England). It was decided to demolish them and built new houses. (See Book One)

Finding dates from the 1680s on old fireplaces was one of the things which showed that the cottages were much older and an important part of Frome's heritage. Many of the cottages were destroyed but others were saved - especially in Castle Street, Selwood Road and Trinity Street. After being restored and renovated, these have shown themselves to be much better built than the new houses which replaced them! It is important to remember, though, that the restored cottages have been altered over the three centuries since they were built and look very different from how they did originally.
Castle Street and Selwood Road:CNV00013%281%29.JPG CNV00014%283%29.JPG Trinity Street:CNV00019.JPG CNV00017%281%29.JPG

After 1700, Frome became a wealthy townand buildings sprang up all over. Across the river, large houses were built in Bridge Street and at the far end of Willow Vale (and the first cottages at its entrance). Willow Vale House was occupied by the owner of the Dye Works and Drying Tower next door - it must have been a smelly place to live!
Bridge Street: CNV00013%283%29.JPG CNV00030%282%29.JPG Willow Vale Cottages and Houses: CNV00005%281%29.JPG CNV00015%283%29.JPG
Willow Vale House and The Willows (nearest the camera but added later): CNV00017%283%29.JPG
Behind Town (Christchurch Street West and East) was opened up to allow waggons and carriages to by-pass the difficult town-centre lanes. However, as it was a toll-road people often still went through the town in order to avoid paying that toll!

Later in the 18th century Catherine Street (then called Badcox Lane), High Street (so called because it was then the highest street in Frome), Wine Street and Sheppards Barton were developed. In the last of these, workers' cottages were on one side of the barton with their workshops opposite.
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The larger houses included Catherine Hill House, and Argyll House in Gentle Street. The poor people of the town were not forgotten. There had been a home for poor women in the town since1470, beside the Town Bridge. It was rebult in 1720. Poor women lived at either end but in the middle a school for poor boys was set up. This became known as the Blue House after the boys were given blue uniforms to wear. A guardhouse to replace the blindhouse was built next door. This was closed in 1857 but was not pulled down until 1960. (It is said that Frome rarely pulls down old buildings, it just lets them decay and fall down!)
Catherine Hill House: CNV00032%281%29.JPG Argyll House:CNV00011%283%29.JPG The Blue House:CNV00012%281%29.JPG

After the middle of the 1700s building work slowed down. There was more 'in-filling' between existing buildings. At the same time, Frome began to creep outwards, along Behind Town, into The Butts and Keyford, and out into Welshmill and Fromefield. Inside Frome, Sun Street, Whittox Lane and South Parade were developed, along with Monmouth House and the Bailiff's House in Bridge Street (the Bailiff collected tolls from goods and animals brought to the Market). North Hill House was built - it lost some of its large grounds when North Parade was built in 1797. Some of these houses were built in the popular 'Classical' style - copying buildings from ancient Greece and Rome. One of the last built in this style was Garston House - now a vet. Next door is Garston Lodge, built in the popular 19th Century 'Gothic' fashion. This included battlements along the roof line, turrets and ornate windows - trying to copy the old medieval style of building.
Sun Street and Whittox Lane:CNV00022.JPG CNV00010%281%29.JPG CNV00010%284%29.JPG South Parade:CNV00012%283%29.JPG CNV00011%284%29.JPG
Monmouth House:CNV00010%283%29.JPG Bailiff's House:CNV00034%282%29.JPG Garston House:CNV00022%281%29.JPG Garston Lodge:CNV00023.JPG

Thomas Bunn was a wealthy townsman who, with his supporters, wanted to change the heart of Frome so that it could rival Bath as the place wealthy families wanted to visit and stay in. He planned a grand crescent of fine houses on Christchurch Street West where the old police station and the council offices now stand. The crescent was never built. All that remains are the two pillars marking either end. Bunn also hoped to drive a main road in a straight line from South Parade, down through a rebuilt Market Place and up North Parade. The South Parade end would have been extremely steep for carriages! North Parade was built. Some changes were made to Market Place - the Assembly Rooms and Market Hall were built and a building which cut Market Place in two was pulled down. Thomas Bunn also managed to persuade Lord Bath, who still owned much of Frome, to allow the building of Bath Street. The old cottages in Bath Street were originally Rook Lane, without any front gardens. The Cedar of Lebanon is one of two planted when Bath Street was opened. The Bath Coat of Arms are on the building beside the entrance to St John's. This entrance was cleared of old buildings and the archway erected. In Book Three, Thomas Bunn takes Josh Farley on a tour of his plans for Frome; the boy is certain many of these plans did not happen!
Bunn's pillars: CNV00020%282%29.JPG CNV00021.JPG Market Hall and Assembly Rooms: CNV00004.JPG North Parade: Bath Street:CNV00002.JPG
Lord Bath's Coat of Arms:CNV00009%282%29.JPG

Another plan of Thomas Bunn and his friends was to build a canal joining Bristol to Poole, with a link canal to bring coal from mines around Mells and Radstock. This would have made coal a lot cheaper. The link was built but the money ran out before the rest could be constructed. All that remains are bits of bridges at Coleford, Vobster and Murtry and a huge 'balance lock' for coal barges at Mells.
Murtry Aqueduct:CNV00004%281%29.JPG Canal remains:CNV00001%284%29.JPG Mells Balance Lock:CNV00021%281%29.JPG Longitudinal%20section%20%5B1%5D%20%282%29.jpg Trans%20sect%202%5B1%5D.jpg

In the 19th Century Frome continued to expand, especially across Behind Town, joining onto Keyford, and up from Badcox. Keyford Asylum - for old men, with a school which trained 40 orphan girls for domestic service in large houses - was built. It was closed and demolished in 1957. All that remains is the road where it stood, named after its founder - Stevens Lane. The old men were transfered to The Blue House, where the rooms were converted into flatlets.

Those people who fell on hard times - mainly the elderly, orphans and families without work - faced the terrible fate of being sent to the Workhouse. Originall there had been one in Welshmill Lane. A new one was built in Clements Lane (Weymouth Road) in 1837. Its three blocks were shaped into a Y - one each for men, women, and children. It meant families were split up. Conditions were harsh - to try to make sure only the desperate went there. Jessica went there in Book Two - the conditions she faced were nothing like as bad as they were in real life! Later, it became Selwood Hospital for the mentally disabled. It closed in the 1980's and has now been transformed into flats and apartments.
Model of Keyford Asylum:CNV00034%281%29.JPG The Old Workhouse:CNV00012%284%29.JPG CNV00009%283%29.JPG CNV00011%285%29.JPG(Tramps' overnight quarters - with stone beds!)

There was no hospital in Frome before 1875, when The Keep in Castle Street became a 'cottage hospital'. Then, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (1897), it was decided to build Victoia Hospital in Park Road. It opened in 1901. It was replaced by the new Frome Community hospital in 2010. In 1897 St Aldhelm's Home was opened, to give orphaned boys training for a trade. Many of these went to work in the growing printing industry at Selwood Printing Works. The home became a hospital for the very elderly in 1950. Many local people paid for it to be refurbished in the early 1990s but it was then closed, causing a lot of ill-feeling in the town. Other memorials to Queen Victoria were Victoria Park in Somerset Road and the Victoria Swimming Baths in Rook Lane - one of the first public baths outside of London. They were closed and demolished in 1975 - replaced by the Sports Centre.

The Covered Market and Assembly Rooms in Market Place were replaced by a new Market Hall in the market yard in 1875. It even had its own railway siding. Apart from being used to make shell-cases in the First World War, it was used for The Frome Cheese Show and oter meetings and performances until Frome Market moved out of town in the 1980s. It fell into disuse before being restored as The Cheese and Grain. There is still some uncertainty about its future. Meanwhile, the Covered Market was taken over by a bank, which later took over the Assembly Rooms as well!

In 1857 a new Police Station - with police house, cells and Law Courts - was built where Thomas Bunn's crescent was meant to be. It was replaced after 95 years by the new station in Oakfield Road. Now the Court has been closed and there is talk of the police being moved to somewhere in the town centre! In the late 19th Century, Frome was run by a Board of Guardians and the Poor Law Union. They erected new offices for themselves - also where Bunn's crescent was to be - but in 1902 they were replaced in these offices by the Frome Urban District Council and Frome Rural District Council (two separate Councils for one area was not the best arrangement!). These were later replaced by Mendip and Somerset County Council. Now it houses Somerset Social Services (but not Frome Town Council).
Old Court and Police-Station:CNV00018%283%29.JPG Old Council Offices:CNV00016%283%29.JPG

Frome Churches

St John's Church


+++++The original St John's Church was founded by St Aldhelm in 685 as part of his new monastery. There are no remains of this church but we do have one he made at the same time - St Laurence Church in Bradford-on-Avon: Wiltshire016.JPG The only Saxon remains in St John's are these stones: CNV00002%282%29.JPG
A major restorationtook place in 1160-70 but perhaps all that is left of that is the Norman Arch into the Lady Chapel:


The foundations of this old church may lie under the present building. Work began on a new church in 1280 - mainly the front half of the present St John's. The Lady Chapel was added in 1350: and by 1500 the church was largely in its present shape. After that, very little was done and the buildng steadily deteriorated. In the Eighteenth Century it was suggested that a new church should be built to replace this old one! However, nothing was done, except to parrly block up the East Window. The Lady Chapel was the private chapel of the Lords of the Manor (Lord Cork and Orrery) who were supposed to keep it in good order, but often didn't. See Jessica and Josh's visit in Book Three.

In the Nineteenth Century galleries were added on either side, which weakened the walls and pillars. The West Front was refurbished and the archway into Bath Street added. Bishop Ken's Tomb was improved and roofed in 1844.
Archway:CNV00001%281%29.JPG Bishop Ken's Tomb:CNV00001%282%29.JPG The money left over was used to restore the Chancel.

Suddenly, things changed. The Reverend William Bennett was appointed Vicar in 1852. He was shocked at the bad state of the church and set out to raise money for a complete restoration. He removed the galleries, box pews and large pulpit and levelled the churchyard. Between 1860 and 1866 he rebuilt the nave and aisle walls and restored the Lady Chapel and the Ken Chapel. The tower and spire were repaired, the nave roof recovered and the West Front rebuilt: CNV00001%283%29.JPG. Although all this rebuilding was mainly on the site of the previous church, probably only the foundations and some lower stonework remain. It was a thorough job!

The Other Church of England Churches

The population of Frome doubled to 11,000 in the first twenty years of the 19th century. New churches were needed for a growing congregation. The first of these was Christ Church, built on the pack-horse field in 1818. It was poorly built and had to be rebuilt and enlarged in 1849 and again in 1868, 1899 and 1929.

Holy Trinity was designed by someone who did not even bother to visit the sight! It was built in…, the wrong way round for a church and very plain.
The rebuilding of St John's in the 1860s meant the congregation needed somewhere else to worship. St Mary's was built on Innox Hill in 1864 and combines a church, hall and priest's house.

The Other Churches and Chapels of Frome

+++++After the Civil War of 1640 -1648 the Church of England was abolished by Oliver Cromwell. However, in 1660, Charles II was restored as king and the Church of England was also restored. In 1662 a new Act of Uniformity ordered that everyone had to use only the Book of Common Prayer for worship. Some people were opposed to this. In Frome, the Vicar of St John's and some of his congregation left to form their own 'non-conformist' church, meeting in Rook Lane House. Later, they built their own Rook Lane Chapel. After that, a number of other non-conformist were formed - often helped by the Thynne family at Longleat and other wealthy families in Frome. The Sheppards, who lived on the site of the old St Katherine's Chapel, gave land for the building of the Quaker Meeting House and the Baptist Chapel in Sheppards Barton (later South Parade). A different Baptist Chapel met in Badcox Lane (later Catherine Street). Later, some members of Rook Lane Chapel broke away and formed Zion Chapel in Whittox Lane. The visit of Josn and Charles Wesley to Frome led to the forming of a Methodist Chapel in Behind Town before it moved to its present site on Wesley Slope. A different kind of Methodist Church was later built on Portway.

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