Is this the mouth of the River Frome?

Is this the mouth of the River Frome?

Bristol’s hidden rivers.

By Andrew White.

The unconscious mind works like this, that sometimes we find ourselves doing things that we didn’t choose or decide to do. To my absolute surprise, in the last couple of months I’ve become fascinated by the history of Bristol’s harbour. It’s amazing 1800s engineering from the days when a community, a city, could create their own future with their own hands by their own vision and their own bold action.

Mouth of the Frome to scale

Mouth of Frome in scale with ladder

Mouth of the Frome - close up

Mouth of Frome location map
Is this the mouth of the part of the River Frome diverted through Mylne’s Culvert into the Avon New Cut? It’s so tiny even (today) at the lowest tide of the year. The cursor arrow marks what the camera is pointing at. This is looking across the New Cut from the Southville side towards the Bathurst Basin. In the top picture, the mud bottom right is the disused entrance lock of the Basin from the New Cut, and the grass top right is “God’s Garden“, the unexpected micro-park by that entrance.

I’ve walked all the way up and down the New Cut and the Feeder Canal and  the lockmaster at Netham Lock explained how the stopgates hold back a stopgate tide so I stood and watched them do that and marvelled at the entirely vast Cumberland Basin entrance lock filling and emptying. (See:

I was particularly impressed to realise that the water outside the Watershed (a well-known cafe/restaurant/media creativity centre close to my office) was  dug in the year 1250, yes 1250, to divert the River Frome and create more quay space for the “Brigstow” side of the river. (And to neatly undermine the rival merchants on the opposite “Red Cliff” side of the river, so that to this day, Redcliffe is a bit of a dump.)

Today, the Frome runs underground through the city centre. The mediaeval castle moat still exists under the city centre, and emerges at a very spooky inlet in Castle Park in the city centre. I was also impressed that the local lads have taken a boat down that inlet and into the mediaeval river system. They posted this account of their adventure, a detailed account of Bristol’s hidden rivers with some unique pictures.

Part of the River Frome flows past the Watershed. But part was culverted by Mylne’s Culvert under the Floating Harbour in 1826 to prevent sewage building up in the harbour. (Until then the Floating Harbour was a huge cesspit and in 1825, there had been a heat-wave … )  OK, at that point I got a trifle obsessive. Where does Mylne’s Culvert emerge? Where, in the end, is the mouth of the River Frome? I think it must be in these photos, but I’m not sure. It’s so tiny for a whole river. If anyone reading this knows, please tell me.


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5 thoughts on “Is this the mouth of the River Frome?

  1. Tom Stickland

    The image isn’t visible on this page but it comes up on google image search. I’m fascinated by the Bristol underground waterways.

  2. Dom Burger

    Yes I believe it is. I think there is also an outlet next to the tidal locks. As the floating harbour is above sea level up to the point of high tide, there will be natural seepage through the ground, so I expect the Frome acts to keep the floating harbour “topped up” between tides, hence we see very little of where the river eventually enters the Avon.


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