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A POTTED HISTORY OF FROME Image
Frome (pronounced Froom) is the fourth largest town in Somerset, built on steep slopes at the Eastern edge of the Mendip Hills.
Named after the river that runs through it, the town can be dated back to at least 685AD when St Aldhelm built a monastery here. There is also evidence of Roman settlement in the shape of a Roman villa and in 2010 the Frome Hoard of over 52,500 Roman coins was discovered by a metal detectorist.

During the 15th century the cloth industry played an important part in its growth but when this declined, 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.
The J W Singer brass foundry and bronze-casting works, was a major employer and produced many bronze statues. John Webb Singer was a native of Frome and established his art metal work foundry in 1851. Many of these bronze castings can be seen all over the world. Locally there is Queen Victoria in Weymouth, the Digby Memorial in Sherborne and in London, Queen Boadicea by the Houses of Parliament and "Justice" at the Old Bailey to name just a few.

Frome was also involved in the Monmouth Rebellion. On the 27 June 1685, the forces of the Duke of Monmouth camped in Frome, following their defeat in a skirmish with the Kings forces at Norton St Philip. Large numbers of his army deserted during the few days he stayed in the town before his eventual defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Following the putting down of the Monmouth Rebellion, 12 men were hanged in the town.

Frome is riddled with underground passages. 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.

With more listed buildings than any other Somerset town, its history is evident in the weavers' cottages that contrast with Georgian terraces and the Trinity area of the town has been preserved as an example of 17th Century industrial housing. 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. Unfortunately before its historical importance was realised, about half the area was demolished in the 1960s under a Slum Clearance Order, but the remainder was saved and was restored between 1980 and 1984.

Many other important architectural buildings have been preserved like the former Dye-House for woollen cloth which has been transformed into an interesting exhibition area. Also used for exhibitions and as a community hall and Arts Centre is Rook Lane Chapel, a non-comformist chapel built between 1705 and 1707 by James Pope. The former (Butler & Tanner) Selwood Printing Works has been converted into flats preserving the highly elaborate exterior and keeping the integrity of the area.

The Blue House, a grade I listed building, is located adjacent to the town bridge, 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 elderly residents.

These buildings have all become useful in their own right and the architecture is preserved giving Frome its quaint, picturesque feeling.

Today the Frome Group is very fortunate to have a wealth of historical information available in the town. The Frome library has a large collection of books about Frome plus copies of local newspapers on micro-film. The Frome Museum has an enormous collection of artefacts, photographs, directories and a host of written material and the Frome Society for Local Study, the Frome and District Civic Society, St John's Church and the Dissenter's Cemetery are all willing to help with individual research into family history records.




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