Frome – A Good Cheap

Frome (pronounced Froom), gets its name from the meandering river on which it sits –  the River Frome – and it get its name from the evolution of the Welsh word, ffraw which meant fair or brisk.  But the River Frome has only  had a brisk flow during heavy rain, so ffraw probably just referred to running water.

Pedestrianised Cheap Street is one of Europe’s best preserved medieval shopping streets.  As with Cheap Street in all market towns in England, its name comes from the word ceap, which meant “to sell”.  The word evolved and “ceap”  became markets which were places for “good ceap” and eventually the word became to be used as we do today for ‘inexpensive’.

The layout of the street is still based on  a medieval street plan and is evidenced in land plots dating back to about 1500. Beautifully flagstoned, Cheap Street is surrounded by buildings almost unchanged from the 16th and 17th centuries.

We are also reminded of the medieval water system by the leet or runnel that still runs down the centre of Cheap Street, rising from the spring at St John’s Church…this makes Frome history almost tangible.

The street was also famously used as a television set by the BBC in the 1970s for episode six of the first series of the comedy “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin”.

Walking down Cheap Street, you can almost feel the centuries of history, the thousands who passed through the town from its first settlement as a mission station in about 685 to the modern, arty and yet untouched town centre Frome has today.

This Frome story was published in the Frome Times – www.frometimes.co.uk