Wells Cathedral (Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marilynjane/528340934/in/photolist-NFTms-eVnFnH-eWcUUL-eWbVnh-bzZHEf-bzZLp1-bNUsXg-bNUnEM-bzZK1W-bNUriR-4SrYXS-wTpfU-4SrYVE-NFTmA-wTpok-4SnWDJ-4SrYYd-4SnWCN-4SrYW3-4SnWC3-4SnWE5-nUUFTV-xM2Tc-bNT47v-bNT4Ki-4VSFVJ-5GgnGY-8Mn2XV-wTpkj-wTpiv-9aFzMk-9bxavT-9bVmtg-9anLsr-9baFb8-9bMGX8-9c62hC-9bMHRa-9aL4yR-8vSu2L-9bWL48-9aHaFb-dBEZm8-o1fr3J-6zF8oM-8P4pHd-7acemE-nNxwU7-dHnPMt-6zFk9Z)

Wells Cathedral

Many of the historic buildings around Wells were built with funding from the church. The medieval Vicar's Close is the most famous street in Wells and is the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe. The houses that line the Close are still home to the cathedral's choir as was intended when they were originally built.

History of Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral is a beautiful Gothic vaulted building that started to be built around 1180. It has undergone many additions over the years including remodelling of the cloisters, the buildings of crenellated walls to keep the disgruntled townsfolk out (!) and, housing for the choir and cathedral staff. Some Bishops did try to improve conditions for the townsfolk rather than taxing them, such as the building of almshouses for the poor during Bishop Bekynton's time. The restoration that you will see today is by no means the first. In the 1800s the whole cathedral had to be scraped to remove the whitewash and medieval paint that had been painted on its facade during the sixteenth century.

The Cathedral has not been without its problems. Medieval brasses were sold off during the dissolution of the chantries in 1547, fighting during the Civil War damaged the Cathedral's stonework, windows and furniture. This was when Walter Raleigh was the dean - the nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh. During Cromwell's invasion the Cathedral was neglected and thieves stole a variety of its belongings and lead. Restoration is ongoing today to ensure Wells Cathedral's magnificence is preserved.

Cathedral Clock

Cathedral Clock

Wells Cathedral Architecture

Architectural highlights include the West Front, built between 1209 and 1250, with its intricate Gothic carvings featuring the saints. Three hundred of the original medieval statues have been retained to this day. At one time these were painted in rich colours and gold leaf. Inside your eye is drawn up to the fantastic sweep of the vaulted ceiling. At the top of the columns are carvings of foliage, birds, animals and medieval people going about their everyday business.

Some scenes are humorous including toothache sufferers and a fox making off with a goose. Under the central tower you can see the cathedral's only true late Gothic fan vaulting and the unusual scissor arches. These were put in a century after the Cathedral was consecrated to stabilise the building when a tower and spire were added which caused some of the supporting pillars to sink! Don't miss the various sized windows which date from different periods of the building of the Cathedral. The East Window shows the Jesse Tree and is regarded as the finest medieval stained glass of 1340.

The Wells Clock

The Wells Clock is a prized feature of the Cathedral. It is believed to have been put in place in around 1390 and still has its medieval face displaying the Copernican universe with the earth at the centre. When the clock strikes the quarter of an hour knights joust above the clock and the Quarter Jack bangs the time with his heels. Outside, opposite Vicar's Hall, you will see another clock that was actually connected to the mechanism of the original seventy years later. Here the knights strike the bells with a hammer on the quarter hour.

Wells Cathedral Guided Tours

Wells Cathedral is open every day of the year and you are welcome to wander in for a look around. Obviously services may be on so you do need to respect this. Free tours are available all year round, except on Sundays. Admission to the cathedral is free - donations welcome. Check opening times and services schedules on the Wells Cathedral website prior to your visit to avoid disappointment.

Vicars' Close Wells (Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikon_nic/8559372595/in/photolist-e3n2gz-5onQbX-6g3dBD-e8Vjzp-cUFjVN-6eg194-oEUb7V-a3NajE-nD8tGb-5hHarY-e8VjLt-gKd37D-ahG97W-9jJhxJ-a3KAnP-ahDn1M-nrqwPQ-g9uExn-hs3BN9-hs49KD-4PfzLL-g3zHRR-4PfYtJ-cmqPPS-cUAVkN-7MaLSB-5hHbFf-bMzCnB-bMzTai-9QHLb3-byF2mN-6m3Y6z-gsdNLm-oXoQi8-8VLdK4-cCj8aW-a3Nd8s-8pfnUp-ahGaEG-9jJtQ1-a3KgMM-8dpVN6-cv9QBC-nmFpiB-5e8tDx-cmqPmf-8FnTzG-fsEUDb-8WKQwF-i1js1G)

Vicars' Close Wells

Vicars' Close Wells

Vicar's Hall and Close were built in the 14th century and is the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe. It is just opposite the cathedral on its north side. The houses that line the original cobbled street were built to give the bachelor choir a secure place to live, away from the temptations of the town - so Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury believed! The tall chimneys were raised in the fifteenth century so that smoke from winter fires could be carried off into the sky rather than affect the choir's voices. It's incredible to see that little has changed externally in this street since medieval times and that cathedral staff and choir members are still housed here! One of the houses in Vicar's Close is let as holiday accommodation making an excellent historic base from which to explore Wells and the surrounding Somerset countryside and towns. More information is available from the Cathedral website.

Accommodation in Wells

  • Priddy   (3.3 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Prices from
    £25
    Per person B&B (2 sharing)
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 28 reviews
    Rating from 28 reviews
    Welcoming farmhouse B&B near Wells, excellent hospitality, good facilities and fantastic location. Perfect venue for marquee wedding receptions.
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 28 reviews
    Rating from 28 reviews
    Call
  • Near Wells   (4.7 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Prices from
    £35
    Per person per night B&B (based on 2 sharing) reductions for
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 64 reviews
    Rating from 64 reviews
    Award-winning farmhouse B&B in the Somerset Levels near Wells & Glastonbury. Rural & river views, luxury suites & wheelchair access. Free WiFi, tea room and scrumptious breakfasts.
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 64 reviews
    Rating from 64 reviews
    star
    star
    star
    star
    no star
    Farmhouse
    Call
  • Wells   (1.3 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Sleeps 2
    Prices from
    £40
    Per night (seasonal)
     
    Self- catering farm accommodation nestled at the foot of the Mendip Hills. Country views, WiFi, audio system and onsite parking. Less than 2 Miles from Wells. Short & long breaks.
     
    Call
  • Dulcote   (1.3 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Prices from
    £48
    £95 for two sharing, plus £30 PPPN extra
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 23 reviews
    Rating from 23 reviews
    Luxury B&B with a difference. Your own 2 bedroomed cottage. Relax in your own private, comfy and spacious home from home. Cook and eat in if you fancy it!
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 23 reviews
    Rating from 23 reviews
    Call
  • Wells   (1.6 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Prices from
    £40
    Family Breaks
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 898 reviews
    Rating from 898 reviews
    Magical short breaks and holidays at the fantastic Wookey Hole Hotel adjacent to the caves with luxurious family rooms, restaurant, bar and a host of discount themed packages.
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 898 reviews
    Rating from 898 reviews
    star
    star
    no star
    no star
    no star
    Hotel
    Call
  • Wells   (1.1 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Sleeps 4
    Prices from
    £55
    Per night (min 3 night stay) for two people
     
    Well appointed one bedroom chalet in Somerset set within the grounds of an 18th century farmhouse one mile from Wells. Plenty of parking, sofa bed. Prices quoted are for 2 guests.
     
    Call
  • Coxley   (1.2 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Sleeps 4
    Prices from
    £65
    Per night min 3 night stay - based on two people sharing
     
    Newly converted stable cottage set in the grounds of an 18th century farmstead. Double bedroom & bunk bedroom. Beautiful views of the Mendip Hills. Prices quoted are for 2 guests.
     
    Call
  • Westbury-sub-Mendip   (3.4 miles from the centre of Wells)
    Sleeps 3
    Prices from
    £237
    Per week (seasonal), sleeps 3
     
    This detached cottage is located in the village of Westbury-sub-Mendip in somerset and sleeps three people in one bedroom.
     
    star
    star
    star
    star
    no star
    Self Rated
    Call