River Frome, Somerset

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River Frome
Tellisford bridge.jpg
Bridge at Tellisford over the River Frome
Frome (Somerset).png
Path of the River Frome [1]
Physical characteristics
 • locationWitham Friary, Mendip, Somerset, England
 • coordinates51°10′05″N 2°22′01″W / 51.16806°N 2.36694°W / 51.16806; -2.36694
MouthRiver Avon
 • location
Freshford, Bath and North East Somerset, Somerset, England
 • coordinates
51°20′17″N 2°17′50″W / 51.33806°N 2.29722°W / 51.33806; -2.29722Coordinates: 51°20′17″N 2°17′50″W / 51.33806°N 2.29722°W / 51.33806; -2.29722
Length43 kilometres (27 mi)
Basin features
 • leftMells River, Henhambridge Brook
 • rightMaiden Bradley Brook, Rodden Brook

The River Frome is a river in Somerset, England. It rises near Bungalow Farm on Cannwood Lane,[1] south-west of Witham Friary, flows north through Blatchbridge to the town of Frome, and continues in a generally northerly direction passing between the eastern edge of the Mendip Hills and Trowbridge before joining the Bristol Avon at Freshford, below Bradford on Avon.

The river is approximately 43 kilometres (27 mi) in length, comprising 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from its source to the confluence with Maiden Bradley Brook,[2] 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) through Frome to the confluence with the Mells River,[3] and 18 kilometres (11 mi) to the Avon.[4] Below Frome the river passes close to Beckington, Rode, Tellisford, Farleigh Hungerford and Iford Manor.

The name Frome comes from the Old British word ffraw meaning fair, fine or brisk and describing the flow of the river.[5] The name was first recorded in 701 when Pope Sergius gave permission to Bishop Aldhelm to found a monastery "close to the river which is called From" (Latin: "juxta fluvium qui vocatur From").[6]

Weirs and bridges[edit]

There are many weirs on the river. Several stretches, particularly below Farleigh Hungerford, are used for coarse fishing and some trout fishing.[7]

There are many bridges on the river. In the centre of Frome, the first bridge perhaps appeared in the 14th century. A later 16th-century bridge was widened in the 18th century and buildings were built across it.[8] It remains one of only three bridges in England that have buildings across them; the others are the Pulteney Bridge in Bath and the High Bridge in Lincoln. Other significant bridges include that at Wallbridge in Frome, dated 1634, upstream of the Frome bridge.[9] Downstream are Rode bridge, a turnpike bridge from around 1777;[10] Tellisford bridge, a packhorse bridge probably from the 17th century;[11] Iford bridge, circa 1400;[12] and Freshford bridge, 16th century.[13]

Ruins of a drying house, Willow Vale, frome
Ruins of a drying house, Willow Vale, Frome


Over the centuries, the river provided power to mills, at first for the grinding of flour. Later, as local industries developed, there were mills for fulling, dyewood grinding (with associated dyehouses) and grist for animal feed or brewing. In the 18th and early 19th century, there were more than 30 mills along the Frome and its tributaries, the Mells and Rodden Brook, from Freshford to four miles south of Frome. Some of the structures can still be seen today: Tellisford, Rode, the upstream mill at Wallbridge, Frome[14] and Blatchbridge.[15][16] Others have vanished. In Frome a large complex of factory buildings for the woollen industry, with associated workers' cottages in Innox Hill, was established at Spring Gardens by the Sheppard family; these have now disappeared.[17] The Town Mill stood just upstream of Frome bridge; all that is left are linked buildings: a semi-ruinous drying house[18] and buildings for warehousing, dyehouses and storage, most converted to residences. The last textile mill, Tuckers, further downstream at Wallbridge, closed in 1956.[19]


On 2 May 1932, five boys, one of them on his 10th birthday, were watching floodwater from part of an old mill just upstream from the main bridge in Frome. The old masonry collapsed; the youngest boy, aged 9, was pulled out by friends. A police constable dived in to save the others; the waters took him through the arches of the main bridge but then his cape was caught up by branches and he was pulled out. The next day four bodies were retrieved at Welshmill. The police officer was awarded the King's Police Medal for Bravery for his attempt to save their lives.[20]

In January 2013, a policeman rescued a man from the river near the Cheese & Grain in the centre of Frome; he pulled the unconscious man from the freezing water and up the steep banks to save his life. The constable was awarded a Royal Humane Society Bravery Award.[21]

In May 2016, the director of Cross Keys Farm Ltd, Frome, pleaded guilty to causing an unpermitted water discharge into the River Frome.[22] The farm released slurry which killed at least 1,700 fish in the river, and caused considerable damage to its ecosystem.[23] The stretch of river immediately downstream from the farm was a popular swimming, fishing, and canoeing site; these activities were ceased under health concerns. In order to protect the ecosystem, hydrogen peroxide was sprayed into the river to restore oxygen levels for fish, animal, and plant life. The director of the farm was fined more than £22,000.[22]


  1. ^ "River Frome, Somerset". www.somersetrivers.co.uk. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Frome - source to conf Maiden Bradley Bk". Environment Agency - Catchment Data Explorer. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Frome - (Maiden Bradley to Mells)". Environment Agency - Catchment Data Explorer. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Somerset Frome conf with Mells to conf B. Avon". Environment Agency - Catchment Data Explorer. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  5. ^ Belham, Peter (1985). The Making of Frome (2 ed.). Frome society for local study.
  6. ^ Annette Burkitt, Flesh and Bones of Frome Selwood and Wessex, 2017, The Hobnob Press, p341 ISBN 978 1 906978 50 1
  7. ^ "River Frome (Somerset)". British Canoe Union South West. Archived from the original on 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  8. ^ Gathercole, Clare (2003). "An archaeological assessment of Frome" (PDF). Somerset Urban Archaeological Surveys (EUS). Somerset County Council. p. 10. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  9. ^ Historic England. "Wall Bridge (1057739)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Rode Bridge (1175476)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Bridge over River Frome, Tellisford (1176205)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Iford Bridge (1115316)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  13. ^ Historic England. "Freshford Bridge (1158368)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  14. ^ Gathercole, Clare. "op.cit" (PDF). pp. 30–31.
  15. ^ "Blatchbridge Mill :: Somerset Rivers :: The Rivers of the County of Somerset in England". www.somersetrivers.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  16. ^ "AYRES John". www.gomezsmart.myzen.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  17. ^ Belham, Peter (1985). op.cit. p. 148.
  18. ^ Historic England. "Dye House (1174827)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  19. ^ Griffiths, Carolyn (2018). 'Woad to This' & The Cloth Trade of Frome. Frome: Frome Society for Local Study. pp. 112–115. ISBN 978-0-9930605-5-7.
  20. ^ "Dark Somerset". SomersetLive.co.uk. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Frome police hero bravery award". Frome Times. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  22. ^ a b Wood, James (27 June 2017). "Frome farmer faces heavy fine after killing nearly 2,000 fish". Somerset Live. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Hundreds of fish killed by farm slurry in Somerset river". BBC News: Somerset. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2019.

External links[edit]