The River Frome, from which Frampton Cotterell derives part of its name, flows from the Cotswold edge to the heart of Bristol where it formed part of the city's medieval defences and later helped in the development of the city as a major shipping port. Local place names such as Mill Lane and Cogmill evidence the role the river used to play in the life of the local community. Today the river is primarily a recreational facility thanks to the Frome Valley Walkway which provides access to the river along much of its length.
According to some sources, the name "Frome" derives from the British Celtic, meaning 'fair, fine, brisk’. Although the river has been tamed and channelled in many places, some stretches of the river retain their original character.