FEBRUARY 2020 Image


Martin Horler was the speaker for the February meeting of the Frome Family History Group. His talk was entitled "The role of the Royal Mail Guard".

Martin began by playing on the post horn the notes that meant "clear the road". This was an important task as the Post Office would not be held responsible for anyone injured by a Royal Mail coach.
We moved on to the early history of the formation of the Royal Mail after Henry VIII made Sir Brian Tuke the first Master of Posts in 1516. Tuke had the influence and authority to establish key post towns across the country and build a formal postal network.

The next important figure in the history of the Post office was Ralph Allen. Born in 1693, Ralph Allen was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who is renowned for his reforms to the British postal system. Aged just 19, Allen became the Postmaster of Bath, and went on to work with the General Post Office to reform the postal service with great success. Allen produced a signed-for system to address the issue of profit being lost from undeclared mail, and improved efficiency by stopping mail from going into London and out again. It is estimated that over a 40-year period, Allen saved the Post Office £1,500,000! As well as transforming the postal system, Ralph Allen was heavily involved in the development of much of Georgian Bath, including the commission of Prior Park.

Another innovator, John Palmer, was born in Bath, Somerset and after his education joined his father in the theatre business. He used post-chaise to move actors and scenery quickly between theatres and it was this concept that he thought could benefit the postal service. It was agreed by William Pitt that a test run could be enacted on the 2nd of August 1784, at Palmer's expense. It ran between Bristol and London and was completed in 13 hours rather than the 36 it had previously taken. Due to the success of the trial more routes were opened up across the country. By 1787 there were 47 mail coaches, however the Bristol coach took precedence over all the others.

All Royal Mail coaches left the Swan With Two Necks public house in Lad Lane London at 7.30pm promptly before picking up their guards and the post from the headquaters at Victoria Embankment and leaving for their destinations at 8pm. Crowds watched them leaving, the guards resplendent in their scarlett coats and bear skin hats each carrying a pair of pistols and their post horns. Martin finished by demonstrating the various calls on the post horn.

Martin was thanked for an excellent talk with so much information and beautifully illustrated.

Chris Featherstone

JANUARY 2020 Image


Our annual business meeting took place in the library on 28th January. The chair welcomed the members and thanked the committee for all their hard work throughout the year. Several members were also thanked for their contribution to our group.
Sue Simpson, our programme secretary ran through all the talks and events we enjoyed throughout the year including the publication of our book "Frome Survivors"

The next report should have been from our treasurer, Gerald Burdall but unfortunately he was not able to be with us owing to illness. He will present his report at the February meeting.
No one wished to be nominated to join the committee and as the present committee were all prepared to stand for re-election, this was proposed and seconded. They are Chris Featherstone Chair, Sue Latham Secretary, Sue Simpson Programme Secretary, Gerald Burdall Treasurer and Sue Leather other duties.

We welcomed two ladies from Home in Frome who informed us of their new project following on from the publication of their book "Home in Frome". We then handed over to Sue Latham for her presentation.

Using a recording made by Home In Frome in 2011, Sue produced a set of six audio visuals of Frome owner/managers telling their stories of business life in the past.

The first was Ernest Clothier of Moore & Son in Christchurch Street. Ernest told us how the business had changed from being extremely bustling, selling lots of seed to farmers and smallholders in the 1970's, to the rather more quieter trading of today.

Ken Miller related how he joined his father's shop, WD Miller & Son (now Millers Homestores) after the war. He described the varied businesses trading in Bath Street before he relocated to the Westway Precinct.

Margaret Vaughan surprised us with her memories of, literally, building up the Settle restaurant and bakery in Cheap Street. She told of her many problems encountered on the way before becoming Egon Ronay recommended and winning the French Les Routiers award.

Cooper & Tanner's Quintyn Howard-Evans, described how he struggled to sell houses and premises in the 1970's, due to the dreadful derelict state of Frome. This was contrasted with the improvements today, especially the many boutiques, shops and substantial new housing making the town a desirable place to live and work.

Frome cattle market moved to Standerwick in 1990 and Dennis Barnard told us what the market used to be like and why it was necessary to relocate. He related some humorous stories of the characters to be found and ended with a discussion on jibboules!

The last in group was Diane Rouse who had a dress boutique on Catherine Hill. She remembers what her life was like when she was evacuated to Frome during the war and describes other traders on the hill and the changes in Frome during the 1970's, 80's and 90's.

It was fascinating to see and hear the stories told by the actual people involved, giving us a personal insight into their business lives.

Chris Featherstone

NOVEMBER 2019 Image


The November meeting of Frome Family History Group took place in the library, however, instead of a speaker, several members of the group brought along a family heirlooms to describe to the audience.

The items may have had no monetary value but were important to their owners because of the family members they represented.

Among the items brought along were a rag doll owned by a deaf great grandmother, photos of criminal gang members who just happened to be related to Mike, I won't give his surname in case his credit rating suddenly goes down, and a bundle or romantic letters written by a lady's parents. We also had a magnificent gold chain belonging to a gentleman of very modest means. How he came to acquire such an expensive item is a question that his descendants will probably never know the answer.

Other items included hair clips for a lady who was in service, a photo of a tiny button badge, a wedding ring, a very large pocket watch and a certificate for a man working on First World War mines. Members were able to decipher a location on a World War Two drawing of someone's father.

The evening was organised by Sue Simpson who showed us how to photograph and record special items in our possession so that our descendents will know their history and what they mean to the family.

Chris Featherstone