1793 Universal Directory

Below is the (slightly edited) description of Frome given in a directory of British cities, towns and villages published about 1793. The personal names it lists are indexed in the Property pages on this site.


"Otherwise called Frome Selwood, is a large populous market-town, situated in the ancient forest of Selwood, distant 106 miles from the metropolis; an surrounded by the following cities and towns, viz. the city of Bath, thirteen miles north; that of Wells, fifteen west; the town of Shepton Mallet, twelve miles south-west by west; Brewton, twelve miles south-south-west; Wincanton, sixteen south by west; Warminster, seven est; Trowbridge, nine north-east; and Bradford, ten north-east by north.


The situation of this town is pleasant; the surrounding country being agreeably diversified with hills, valleys, large enclosures, and fine woods; and having the seats of many of the nobility and gentry. The streets are narrow and irregular; the houses built of small rough stones, and covered with stone tile, dug on the spot.


Here is a large handsome church, 150 feet long and 54 broad; comprising a nave, chancel, north and south aisles, four chapels, and a vestry-room; it is well pewed, has a very good organ, and handsome altar-piece; also a square embattled tower, and octagonal spire 120 feet high.


In the town are sundry meeting-houses, belonging to sundry sects of dissenters, two of which are large handsome edifices. Here were formerly three chantries.


The river Frome passes through the lower part of the town, under a stone bridge of five arches; near which stands a free-school, for clothing and educating twenty boys, and an alms-house for widows; a large handsome building, erected by subscription about the year 1720.


A market is held here on Wednesdays for cattle, pigs, corn, flesh, butter, and vegetables. Fairs, St Matthias's and St Catherine's days, for cattle, pigs, cheese, toys, &c.


Frome is a place of considerable antiquity - Aldhelm, a monk of Malmsbury, and bishop of Sherborne, built here a monastery in honour of St John the Baptist, about the beginning of the 8th century... About the time of Henry IV, it passed, by marriage, to the family of Leversedge. In this family it continued entire until James I, when Edmund Leversedge sold a part of his possessions here to Sir Thomas Vavasour, knt, who soon after sold it to Sir Thomas Thynne, knt, from who it has descended to the marquis of Bath, the present possessor. The other part remained with the Leversedges until the beginning of the [18th] century, when Roger Leversedge, the last of the male line of that family, devised it to Lionel Seaman, Esq. who had married Frances, his daughter; Mr Seaman devised the same to a relation, the Rev. Lionel Seaman, who, in the year 1751, sold it to John earl of Cork and Orrery; from who it descended to Edmund earl of Cork and Orrery... The patronage and free disposition of the vicarage, together a manor here, were anciently a part of the possessions of the abbey of Cirencester; and after the dissolution of that house, was granted, by James I to Sir Thomas Thynne...


In the latter end of the [17th] century, in those called Frome-woodlands, there was a considerable gang of money-coiners or clippers, of whom many were taken and executed, and their cover laid open.


The civil police of the town is maintained by the neighbouring magistrates, and by constables annually chosen at the courts leet of the marquis of Bath and the earl of Cork and Orrery, lords of the several manors here. It was governed formerly by a bailiff. The inhabitants of this town, who had shewn their zeal for the glorious revolution [of 1688], endeavoured in the reign of king William [III] to obtain a charter of incorporation, but in vain.


The number of inhabitants within this town is between six and seven thousand; within the whole parish, 8,100. The chief manufacture is broad-cloth and kerseymere: the annual quantity made is about 300,000 yards. The cloth manufactury of this town employed so many hands about the beginning of [the 18th] century, that seven waggons used to be sent hence weekly with cloth for Blackwell Hall, London. Indeed all of it was not made here; for the clothieres of Whatley, Mells, and other neighbouring villages, brought their goods hither for carriage to London, and each of these waggons used to carry 140 pieces, which, being valued at 14L a cloth, one with another, made the value of the whole amount to above 700,000L a-year. A manufacture of wool-cards is also carried on here in an extensive way; and, fifty years ago, more wire cards, for cardign the wool for spinners, were made here, than in all England besides, which was for the most part supplied with them from hence; for here were no less than twenty master card-makers, one of whom employed 400 men, women and children, in that manufactory, at one time; so that even children of seven or eight years of age could earn half-a-crown a week. The cloths made here, for the most part, are medleys of seven or eight shillings a yard.


The river here, which abounds with trout, eels, &c. rises in the woodlands, and runs under its stone bridge, before spoken of, towards bath, on the east side of which it falls into the Avon.


This town has been for a long time noted for its fine beer, which they keep to a great age, and is generally preferred by the gentry to the wines of France and Portugal.


Within a few years three banks, of indubitable credit, have been established here; the wealth of which having been liberally diffused, trade has received many unusual advantages, and has been enabled to rear its head to amore elevated point in the commercial scale than it had been accustomed to. The firms of these houses, together with their town [ie London] connections, are as follows, viz. Mess. Westcott, Darch, Clement and Bowden, who draw on Messrs Down, Thornton and Free, bankers, London; Messrs Meares, White and Meares, who draw on Messrs Robarts, Curtis, Were, Hornyold, Berwick and Co. and Messrs Sheppard, Barton and Middleton, who draw on Messrs Langston, Towgood and Amory.


Mails are dispatched from the post-office here, every day (Saturday excepted), at three o'clock in the afternoon, for London an d the intermediate towns; every day at seven in the morning, for Bath, Bristol, and the north-west parts of England; and every day at seven in the evening, for Salisbury, Portsmouth &c. Mails come in from London, &c. every day at noon (Mondays excepted); from Portsmouth, Salisbury, &c. every morning at seven; and from Bristol, Bath, &c. every evening at seven.


A coach sets out from the George inn on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, for the Bell Savage, Ludgate-hill, London; fare 1L 7s. Returns from thence on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, at ten in the forenoon. Another coach from the same inn to the White Hart inn, Bath, on Tuesday and Friday, at seven in the morning; fare 3s. Returns the same days, at nine in the evening.


A waggon, by Middleton and Co. sets out on Sunday nights for the King's Arms, Holborn, London; returns, Saturday afternoon. Another, by the same proprietors, sets out for the same place on Monday mornings, and returns on Wednesday in the following week: they call at the White Bear and White Horse cellar going in and coming out of London. Another of their waggons sets out every Monday and Thursday, for the Three Queens, St Thomas's-street, Bristol; returns Tuesday and Thursday evenings. A waggon, by Webb and Co. sets out for the Castle inn, Wood-street, Cheapside, London, every Sunday night, and returns the next Saturday. They have also a waggon which sets out every Monday and Thursday morning for the Crab's Well, Temple-street, Bristol, and returns Tuesday and Friday mornings. W. Boulter's waggon sets off Monday, Thursday and Saturday, mornings, to the Angel, Bath, and returns the same days.


W. Hunt's caravan, from Weymouth and Wincanton, passes through in its way to Bath, every Friday about noon, and returns the next day.


The principal inns are the George; Crown; Blue Boar, which is the excise-office; Angel; Swan; White Swan; and Wheatsheaf."


[The directory goes on to list the "principal inhabitants" under the headings 'Gentry &c.', 'Clergy', 'Physic.', 'Law' and 'Traders &c.' - see separate list. After this it deals with the area around Frome.]


The following gentlemen's seats are in the neighbourhood of Frome, viz. At Longleat or Longflet, Wilts, four miles south-east from Frome and three miles east of Warminster, the marquis of Bath has a very pleasant seat, containing a well-chosen collection of paintings. Longleat is an ancient but most magnificent structure and for the size and number of apartments is equal perhaps to any house in England. The park is very extensive and well planted; the water properly managed, and the whole forms a most beautiful scene.


Marston, the seat of the earl of Cork and Orrery, two miles south. Mells Park, the seat of Thomas Horner Esq. four miles west. Ammerdown, the seat of Thomas Samuel Joliffe Esq. six miles north-west. Orchardley, belonging to Sir Thomas Champneys bart. two miles north-east. Berkley, the seat of the Rev. John Methuen Rogers, three miles north-east. Maiden Bradley, the seat of his grace the duke of Somerset, six miles south. And Stourhead, the pleasant seat of Sir Henry Colt Hoare knt nine miles south.


This part of the country is interspersed with a very great number of villages, hamlets and scattered houses; in which, generally speaking, the spinning work of all the manufacture is performed by the poor people; the master-clothiers sending out the wool weekly to their houses, by their servants and horses; and, at the same time, bringing back the yarn that thay have spun and finished, which then is fitted for the loom..."


[The directory lists as the principal nearby villages: Pensford, six miles south-east of Bristol; Berkley; Horningsham, five miles south-east of Frome; Marston; Buckland Denham, three miles north-east of Frome; Norton St Philip, six miles north of Frome; Nunney; Chapmanslade, three and a half miles north-east by east of Frome; Mells; Beckington, two and a half miles north by east of Frome; Chewton Mendip, five miles from Wells; and Cheddar. 'Principal inhabitants' of Berkley, Horningsham, Marston, Buckland Denham, Nunney, Chapmanslade, Mells and Beckington are listed in the name indexes. The directory does not name farmers.]