It is unevenly built on high ground above the river Frome, which is here crossed by a stone bridge of five arches. It was formerly called Frome or Froome Selwood, after the neighbouring forest of Selwood; and the country round is still richly wooded and picturesque. The parish church of St John the Baptist, with its fine tower and spire, was built about the close of the 14th century, and, though largely restored, has a beautiful chancel, Lady chapel and baptistery. Fragments of Norman work are left; the interior is elaborately adorned with sculptures and stained glass. The market-hall, museum, school of art, and a free grammar school, founded under Edward VI, may be noted among buildings and institutions. The chief industries are brewing and art metal-working, also printing, metal-founding, and the manufacture of cloth, silk, tools and cards for wooldressing. Dairy farming is largely practised in the neighbourhood. Selwood forest was long a favourite haunt of brigands, and even in the 18th century gave shelter to a gang of coiners and highwaymen.
The Saxon occupation of Frome (From) is the earliest of which there is evidence, the settlement being due to the foundation of a monastery by Aldhelm in 705. A witenagemot was held there in 934, so that Frome must already have been a place of some size. At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor was owned by King William. Local tradition asserts that Frome was a medieval borough, and the reeve of Frome is occasionally mentioned in documents after the reign of Edward I, but there is no direct evidence that Frome was a borough and no trace of any charter granted to it. It was not represented in parliament until given one member by the Reform Act of 1832. Separate representation ceased in 1885. Frome was never incorporated. A charter of Henry VII to Edmund Leversedge, then lord of the manor, granted the right to have fairs on July 22 and September 21. In the 18th century two other fairs on February 24 and November 25 were held. Cattle fairs are now held on the last Wednesday in February and November, and a cheese fair on the last Wednesday in September. The Wednesday market is held under the charter of Henry VII. There is also a Saturday cattle market. The manufacture of woollen cloth has been established since the 15th century, Frome being the only Somerset town in which this staple industry has flourished continuously.