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A Venerable Dozen -12 of the oldest pubs in Frome!

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

We’re lucky in Frome that we still have such a wonderfully individual collection of local pubs to choose from. In these tough times when so many businesses on the high street are struggling or even disappearing, spare a thought for these little gems that are still here after so many years, and maybe go and enjoy a little tipple at your local over this festive period. (Please drink responsibly!!) Some of the pubs in Frome are more than 500 years old and some of the patrons only slightly less!! We thought we’d put a spotlight on some of these most venerable pubs, so we sent our intrepid reporter and fabulous photographer, Garfield Austin to investigate. It was a tough assignment but one he accepted with thirsty glee!

The Archangel

If The Archangel (formerly the Angel) is not the oldest pub in Frome it is certainly one of the oldest three. First listed in the 1311 Domesday Book as a medieval coaching house, there is evidence supporting this. It has the right kind of location, off the Market Place, and form (an entrance gateway with through yard for carriages now being clearly in evidence). The listed building now boasts a free-floating glass restaurant where you can dine on sumptuous and seasonal dishes before retreating to one of their 10 quirky rooms full of old-world charm.

The George Hotel

The George, is named after the Saint not a king, but can be seen as the Crown George on the 1774 map of Frome. It's position on Market Place would back up its claim to be, if not the oldest, certainly among the oldest three pubs in town. It's the first formally recorded inn (1650) An open pillared porch once formed the entrance but it was demolished by an out-of-control lorry during the First World War.

The Three Swans

The Three Swans may not be the oldest pub in Frome, but purely in architectural terms could well be the oldest actual structure. The door frame, if not the door itself, is probably late-1600s. More important than heritage, however, is the fact that this is a proper pub as proven by the fact it is in CAMRA's 2023 Good Beer Guide! Enjoy a drink in this dog-friendly pub which also has a small courtyard.

The Lamb and Fountain

The Lamb and Fountain on Castle Street, AKA “Mother’s”, on account of its famous, venerable landlady is certainly pre-1700 and the front door is original. The layout inside this lovely community pub is more like a traditional cider or ale house (rather than a town pub) where the bar was the parlour of the house and the casks were stored behind, not below. It also boasts a garden with the best view in Frome.

The Blue Boar

The Blue Boar is one of the forty three inns marked on the 1774 map of Frome but, with its central position, it is certainly one of the oldest dozen. Trinity and Keyford were outside Frome in 1650. It was built in 1691 by Theophilus Lacey and its front wall clearly shows the signs of movement that are typical of stone houses of the period. With a central location this classic pub offers a friendly atmosphere, B&B, Karaoke, good food (try the ham, eggs and chips!) and is open from 10am every day!

The Crown

The Crown at Keyford dates from the mid-1600s and is one of three very old surviving pubs that do not feature on the 1774 map of Frome because Keyford and ‘old’ Frome did not connect until at least 150 years after this pub was built! It has been recently refurbished with a function room, overnight accommodation, beer garden, and dining area. With a a well-stocked bar it serves a wealth of great Uruguayan/Argentinian food.

The Griffin

The Griffin is one of the 43 pubs shown on the 1774 map of Frome and is a local legend with a clientele as enthusiastic as the Lamb and Fountain! Formerly the site of the Milk Street Brewery and just a short stroll from St. Catherine’s Hill, it is now an independent pub serving craft beers and dirty burgers!

The Artisan

The Artisan - formerly The Olive Tree, and The Ship before that is one of the venerable dozen, a surviving pub from the late 18th Century when there were forty three pubs within what was then considered the town perimeter! When The Ship (as it was) was built (probably in the mid 1600s) it was at the extreme western edge of the town. Now an independently run gastro pub serving high quality food daily, with carefully crafted seasonal menus that use as many local ingredients as possible.

The Sun Inn

The Sun Inn is another of Frome's venerable pubs though this was not its original home. The growth in church congregations led to the original Sun being demolished to make way for a large church, so the Sun re-established itself in this building; just up the slope from its original location (rear-left of where the classical portico stands down on the left). The Sun is a lively locals pub and boasts one of Frome's largest courtyard gardens. It is well known for its real ales, cold filter beers, traditional 'rough' Somerset ciders and large selection of spirits.

The Old Bath Arms

The Old Bath Arms was once run by the Baily family who owned the Swan Brewery at Badcox. They also ran the Bell Inn, Trinity Street and the Lamb Inn and Lamb Brewery at Gorehedge. The Lamb Brewery was a major operation and took supplies from four malthouses including one the Baileys owned in Gentle Street. Dating from the early 1800s, this stone pub with rooms fronts a small lane in the lively village centre. It offers extensive accommodation plus a pair of vibrant bars and a traditional dining room that serves wood-fired pizzas, tapas and pub classics.

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak is not shown on the 1774 map of Frome (which lists 43 inns) but that's because it is beyond what was then considered the town perimeter. The Crown at Keyford is outside the 1774 town boundary too, as are the Vine Tree and the Lamb and Fountain. The Royal Oak, as all such-named pubs, takes its name from Royalist sympathies during the English Civil War and is clearly a pre-1700 structure. The Royal Oak is a free house with a large range of draft lagers, ciders and well kept real ale. They do not serve food, but are one of the very few quintessential old fashioned drinking pubs left in Frome. With BT and Sky sports, including the horse racing channels!

Having visited every one of these pubs (we know - tough assignment!!), what was clear and consistent was the warmth of the welcome, the friendly people we met and how important these pubs are to so many people. Through good times and bad, through plagues, wars and famine, these pubs have survived and continue to provide such an important role in our community. So why not get on down to one of these venerable institutions, and support your local!!

Finally, check out our Fabulous Frome 12 Oldest Pubs Wall Calendar for 2023 - it makes the perfect Christmas gift and can be picked up or delivered to you if you live in Frome:

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