I visited the pretty UK town built on a steep hill which is jam-packed with artists | UK | News

Residents told me “people have time to talk because they’re happy” (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Sat in a scorching hot flat in central London during the September heatwave, I made a last-minute decision to spend a couple of days away from the packed Tubes and sweaty crowds of the congested capital.

Once my mind had been firmly set on escaping the city, I decided upon visiting Frome in Somerset, which is only a two-hour direct train journey from Waterloo Station.

Friends and family had suggested Bath, Bristol and Cheltenham Spa as potential recommendations, but the arty, community-spirited, and quirky label attached to Frome had me hooked, and I was excited to go on an adventure outside of London.

The Somerset town is renowned for its thriving, independent markets but I quickly discovered Frome is also full of specialist workshops where creatives work and display their craft.

Walking into the old Round Tower in the centre of Frome, I discovered it was originally built in the mid-18th century to dry wool.

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Catherine Hill

Catherine Hill, Frome, Somerset (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

The town itself was within trading distance of sheep rearing areas of the Mendips, the Cotswolds and Salisbury Plain and it became the market town for the area and an important centre for the processing of wool and cloth making.

Today, the Round Tower is part of the Black Swan Arts Centre which houses exhibitions, artist workshops, and is home to talented creatives.

Up a winding staircase, I meet local artist, Lizbeth Spurgeon, 73, who is displaying her work alongside another artist Suzanne Woodward. As well as working in a supermarket three days a week, Ms Spurgeon spends her time painting and loves the “vibrant” community of Frome.

The artist, based nearby in Dilton Marsh, said: “I didn’t start painting until I was 60. It’s nice to start a passion later in life. I paint landscapes from inspiration in my head mixed with actual places I’ve been to. I love painting skies and hills. I sometimes try and paint without including them, but they always seem to appear!”


Round Tower which was originally built to dry wool in the mid 18th century (Image: Hanisha Sethi)


Lizbeth Spurgeon, 73, gazing at her work of art (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

I then bump into Italian Ceramicist, Fabio Bernardi, who moved to Frome from London with his wife just over two years ago.

Creating hand-built ceramics without the use of a wheel, each table-wear design of Bernardi’s is beautifully and individually crafted. Plates, vases and pots are all in rich, earthy green, red and dark blue colours and the ceramicist is currently working on his third collection.

He describes Frome as extremely “supportive”. Mr Bernardi said: “When I first came to Frome I was immediately welcomed by the community and as an artist the support was brilliant – it’s a very artistic town.”

Another new resident of five months is painter and etcher, Tim Slatter, who has shown his work in over 80 professional shows around the world including The Taj Bengal in Kolkata, India. 

As I am shown the local machinery he uses to produce his work which was made in Middlesborough, I notice the intricate detailing of his steel designs displayed on his workshop walls.

To create his work, the painter takes a sheet of steel, treats it with beeswax, and then throws it into metal-eating acid which runs through the holes in the wax and chews on the steel. Oil paints are then rubbed into the lines. Because of this process, each piece is unique, and priceless.

Mr Slatter said: “I’m a landscapist. My work includes images of northern fields and the lake district to Norwegian landscapes.”

He added: “For me, community is everything. It’s one of the reasons I moved here, Frome really has an artistic community and people have time to talk because they’re happy.”

Fabio Bernardi

Fabio Bernardi creating hand-built ceramics in earthy colours (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Tim Slatter

Tim Slatter is a landscapist who moved to Frome because of the “artistic community” (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

As it approaches lunchtime, one local resident suggests popping into Rye Bakery. I casually stroll over a bridge and through the winding, shopping streets of Frome. I walk towards Catherine Hill, wandering up a twisted and cobbled street lined with antique shops and independent businesses. 

As I walk into Rye Bakery, I instantly understand why it was recommended. Housed in a former 19th-century church, the stunning organ forms the centrepiece of the bakery.

A sign on the wall proudly states the cafe uses ingredients from “local farmers and producers”. The cafe supports farms that use “ecological and biodiverse” farming methods and mentions all pastries are made with “house-churned butter from the happiest cows”.

The food tastes as good as it sounds.


The winding cobbled streets of Frome, Somserset (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Hanisha Sethi

Wandering through the streets of the charming town (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

It is apparent that Frome is proud of its independent businesses along with a kind-hearted community at the centre of the thriving town.

Whilst on a stroll, I also bump into local celebrity, Daniel Musselwhite, who made his TV debut on the BBC2 television series ‘All That Glitters’ which was presented by comedian Katherine Ryan.

The jewellery designer moved to Frome five years ago, and says he “hasn’t looked back”.

Mr Musselwhite said: “I remember working in Winchester in an industrial estate in a bleak building, and a friend said ‘you’ve got to get out of here, it’s so uninspiring!'”


Jeweller Daniel Musselwhite made his V debut on ‘All that Glitters’ on BBC2 (Image: Hanisha Sethi)


Liz huband (left) and James Saunders (right) are creatives who say they live in a “cool community” (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Locals Liz Huband and James Saunders are also extremely passionate about where they live and work.

Ms Huband, originally from Essex and owner of Badger House Leather said: “When I first moved here, I noticed a sense of working collaboratively that I have never experienced anywhere else.”

Artist, James Saunders, who moved to Frome with his wife, said: “You feel the passion everyone puts into their businesses here. It’s not just like shopping around a mall. People are really grateful for the money you are giving to their business and product. It’s a very cool community.”

As I headed back to the train station and began my journey to London, I knew this would not be my last visit to Frome. The warmth I had received from the locals, workers and new residents, combined with the character and charm of the town, was genuinely heart-warming.  



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