The earliest reference to The Black Swan pub is on a map from 1774. The site is listed as belonging to Robert Smith, clothier, in 1699. A clothier was an entrepreneur in the woollen cloth trade. The ‘Round Tower’ was built in the mid-18th century to dry wool.
The road structure around North Parade changed in 1784. It’s thought that The Black Swan was updated at this point and a fashionable new façade installed.
In the 1800s, The Black Swan bustled with business. It became the main refreshment house for the old Frome Market. The conversations held at that time must have been worlds away from the arty conversations that now take place here!
The building was first listed as being of historic interest in 1946. Despite being the closest pub to the market, The Black Swan was falling and closed its doors to punters in 1955.
The Black Swan Inn was de-licensed in 1960 following five years of closure. Acquired by Frome Urban District Council, it was extra space for the market. The buildings used as an office and the yard as a space to sell small animals.
A new role for The Black Swan Inn
The council applied for listed building consent to demolish the building in 1974. It was at this point derelict and dangerous.
In the early Eighties, a small group led by David Short, raised funds to repair The Black Swan. With the intention to open it as an Arts Centre.
They were not solely motivated by an opportunity to create an Arts Centre in the heart of this historic and creative market town. The eighties were an era of high unemployment. This was an opportunity to create employment for young people during restoration. Providing affordable studios where emerging artists could work and sell to the public.
Black Swan Arts opened to the public as an art centre in 1986. In 2016, we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Black Swan Arts.