River Frome, Bristol

River Frome, Bristol

name = Frome

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country = England

region_type = Counties
region = South Gloucestershire
region1 = Bristol
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city = Bristol
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source_name = Dodington Park
source_location = Dodington, South Gloucestershire
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mouth_name = Floating Harbour
mouth_location = Bristol, England
mouth_country = UK

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image_size = 320
image_caption = The river by Snuff Mills.
The River Frome is a river in South Gloucestershire. It is not to be confused with other rivers in the south west of England with the same name. The historic spelling, Froom, is still sometimes used and this is how the name of the river is pronounced (as in broom).

Twenty miles long, the River Frome rises in Dodington Park in the Cotswolds of Gloucestershire, then follows a roughly south-westerly route towards Bristol. The river ends at its confluence with the River Avon, where its last reach forms part of the Floating Harbour. It has two main tributaries (Bradley and Folly Brooks) and a number of smaller ones.

Between Frenchay and Stapleton the river drops nearly 50 ft, and as a result there were a number of corn and other mills. They were undershot mills with no mill ponds - today, all that is left is a wheel at Snuff Mills. From Damsons Bridge (Grid Reference Gbmappingsmall|ST657794) to Snuff Mills (Gbmappingsmall|ST623764) the river is navigable, but only by canoe (kayak) though some portaging may be required. It's also possible to start at Moorend Bridge (Gbmappingsmall|ST650794) or Frenchay Bridge (Gbmappingsmall|ST644777). Some of the Bradley Brook has also been kayaked. [http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/fromebristol.htm Bristol Frome on UK rivers guidebook]

Where it passes through Bristol the river was prone to flooding, but a storm water channel has since been constructed to control this, creating a subterranean river from St Pauls for a distance of 1 mile. It emerges from an underground culvert at what Bristolians call "The Centre" (formerly the 'Tramways Centre').

In the mid 20th century the River Frome was known in some parts of the city as the "Danny River". The derivation, and even the spelling, of this name is uncertain.

The Frome Valley Walkway is a 29 kilometre public path that runs almost the entire length of the river from Old Sodbury to Bristol. The River Frome has a regionally significant population of the endangered native white-clawed crayfish.


The Frome originally flowed east of its present-day course from Stone Bridge along the line of St Stephen's Street and Baldwin Street, joining the Avon near Bristol Bridge. The narrow strip of land between the two rivers was a naturally strategic crossing-point and the Saxon town of Brigstow, later the walled centre of the city, grew up here. When Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, rebuilt Bristol Castle, the Frome was diverted (at present-day Broad Weir) to form the castle moat, so that the city was entirely surrounded by water.

In the 1240s the harbour was so busy that it was decided to completely divert the Frome, and St Augustine's Trench, or the "Deep Ditch", was dug from Stone Bridge to join the Avon at Broad Quay. This has been the line of the river ever since.

The Floating Harbour was constructed in 1809, isolating the Avon and Frome from tides between Cumberland Basin and Totterdown Lock. The increasing use of the Frome as an open sewer combined with the cutting off of the souring action of the tides meant that it was now becoming a health hazard and in 1825 it was again diverted with locks at Stone House, channelling the main flow through Mylne's Culvert to the tidal Avon at New Cut. Up to 1858 the Frome was open along its length, crossed by some 13 bridges. During the latter half of the 19th century, a culvert was built from Wade Street in St Judes to Stone Bridge, covering this stretch completely: Rupert Street and Fairfax Street run over this culverted section. St Augustine's Trench from Stone Bridge to Draw Bridge (near the end of Baldwin Street) was covered over in 1893 and finally the rest of the Trench was covered over in 1938.


Shipbuilding began on the River Frome near its mouth in Bristol at least by the 17th century, with Francis Baylie building warships at Narrow Quay. Opposite Tombs' Dock was built at Dean's Marsh in 1760, whose builders included FW Green, and two additional docks were built by at Teast's Docks in 1790. The last shipbuilder closed in 1883. [Farr, Graeme (1971). "Bristol Shipbuilding in the 19th Century" Bristol Branch of the Historical Association.]

River Frome floods

October 1882: Flooding as far as Mina Road (St Werburghs) & Wellington Road, Bristol.

March 1889: Flooding over an estimated 200 acres.

1936 and 1937: Wide-scale damage across the city including; Eastville, East Bristol, Mina Road, Broadmead.

1947: Melting snow caused flooding of Eastville Park and surrounding area - city centre of Bristol only just avoids serious flooding.

1968: Last major flood of the Bristol Frome. 5 million gallons of water pumped out of Bristol Rovers old ground at Eastville.

See also

*Other River Fromes


* S. Watson, "Secret underground Bristol" (Bristol 1991) ISBN 0-907145-01-9

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