3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Somerset Life today click here

What to do in Wells, the smallest city in England

PUBLISHED: 12:16 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:03 28 March 2018

In all its gothic glory, Wells Cathedral, the most poetic of English cathedrals

In all its gothic glory, Wells Cathedral, the most poetic of English cathedrals

Heritage Films and Publications Ltd. Wells Cathedral assigned non-commercial use of this picture

Andrea Cowan takes a look at the heritage and cultural highlights that make the city of Wells so unique

Heritage hotspots

Wells Cathedral

Set in the medieval heart of the city, the earliest English Cathedral to be built in the Gothic style has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals.”

It boasts beautiful inverted arches, or ‘scissor arches’; one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country; the famous Wells Clock is considered to be the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain and one of only four chained libraries in the UK.

Welcoming thousands of visitors each year, the cathedral holds a great number of events ranging from simple daily acts of worship to large-scale glittering gala concerts, exhibitions, lectures, workshops for children and free daily tours.

Vicars’ Close

Adjoining the Cathedral is Vicars’ Close, believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England. The houses were built in the 14th century to provide accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sing the daily services, and this is still the case today.

 

Vicars Close next to Wells Cathedral, dating from the 15th centuryVicars Close next to Wells Cathedral, dating from the 15th century

The Bishop’s Palace

Home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years, the palace is surrounded by a moat, complete with resident swans trained to ring a bell for food. Entering via a gatehouse and drawbridge the palace grounds include 14 acres of landscaped gardens to explore, including the beautiful well pools from which the city takes its name.

The palace hosts family and community garden activity days, historic re-enactments, concerts, talks, workshops and demonstrations. There is also the popular Summer Outdoor Theatre Season and the Wells Moat Boat Race.

 

Wells Food Festival stretches from the Market Place, along the Bishops Palace Moat and into the recreation groundWells Food Festival stretches from the Market Place, along the Bishops Palace Moat and into the recreation ground

The Market Place

This has been a focal point of the city for nearly 900 years, when Wells was granted weekly markets in the city’s first charter. A market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; the Wednesday’s Farmers’ Market has previously won a Gold Taste of the West Award.

There are two medieval gateways in the Market Place: The Penniless Porch leads through to Wells Cathedral and the Cathedral Green, whilst the Bishops Eye is a gateway to the Bishop’s Palace.

Wells and Mendip Museum

This small museum on the Cathedral Green was founded in 1893 by Herbert Balch, a naturalist, caver and geologist. His collection of local artefacts and memorabilia form the core of the museum’s displays. The museum hosts exhibitions throughout the year, including the four year ‘rolling’ exhibition, ‘Wells Remembers’, focusing on WW1.

Cedars Hall

Wells Cathedral School has built a world class performing arts venue designed by leading architect, Eric Parry.

It provides the city with a 350-seat recital auditorium, rehearsal rooms, observation and teaching suites and a cutting-edge recording studio. It serves as a hub for a significant community outreach providing music education for the county’s local primary school children, elderly and disability groups, as well as free tickets for under 25s for some concerts.

Cedars Hall, a state-of-the-art performance, teaching and learning centreCedars Hall, a state-of-the-art performance, teaching and learning centre

 

Wells Hospital Cemetery

This cemetery was the burial ground for the Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum; nearly 3000 former patients and staff were laid to rest between 1874 and 1963. Previously rarely visited by the public, the cemetery and its chapel are now open every Sunday from April to October.

The cemetery is both a nature reserve, full of birds and wild flowers, and a living memorial. Most of those buried here had just a numbered metal marker; these have been grouped and are interspersed with sculptures by the artist, Peter Bolton.

Cultural highlights

In addition to its rich heritage, Wells also enjoys a vibrant cultural scene. Annual festivals include:

Wells Festival of Film (April 27 – 29)

A popular location for film and TV productions, perhaps it is only fitting that Wells should host a film festival. This year’s theme is musicals with viewings of The Rock Horror Picture Show, Mary Poppins and West Side Story at various venues in the city.

Wells Comedy Festival (May 25 – 27)

This brings some of the best comedians in the country to Wells in one jam-packed weekend. This year’s line-up includes: Desiree Burch, Sarah Pascoe, Mark Watson and Nish Kumar.

Wells Art Contemporary (October 8 – 22)

This international visual arts competition has drawn artists from across the globe, working across a wide range of media from painting and sculpture to printmaking and photography.

Wells Food Festival (date TBC)

Celebrating the best of Somerset’s produce, this festival is free and family friendly. Highlights include the Artisan Market and Street Food, whilst the Morrisons Children's Zone will keep younger visitors entertained.

New Music Wells (October 12 – 18)

This innovative and free festival is a retrospective of sacred choral and organ music of the previous forty years. Among the various world premiere performances will be a new work by this year’s distinguished Composer-in-Residence, Charlotte Bray.

The Festival of Literature (October 19 – 27)

Last year, the Wells Festival of Literature boasted a high profile line-up of speakers covering a broad range of topics, from Stephen Westaby, one of the world’s leading heart surgeons, whose life-and-death memoir has been attracting widespread five-star reviews, and Joanna Moorhead whose inspiring new book The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington was Radio 4’s Book of the Week in May. The 26th festival promises to include an equally diverse, challenging and inspiring programme in October.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Somerset Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Somerset Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 16:10

“Fifteen years ago the town was very much down at heel. However, creative enterprises and individuals have slowly established themselves here and Frome has become a vibrant community with a thriving social scene.” Laurence McJannet finds out

Read more
Friday, August 10, 2018

This month Andrea visits Baltonborough

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne takes a look at Coleridge’s long-distance path through Somerset’s poetically lovely landscape

Read more
Thursday, August 2, 2018

With historical pubs, quaint tearooms, iconic landmarks and thatched cottages, Somerset is home to some of the country’s most beautiful villages. We pick 9 of the prettiest to explore in the county

Read more
Monday, July 30, 2018

Set within the hollow of seven hills, with green views in every direction, there are plenty of ways to adventure in Bath this summer

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Stephen Roberts explores one of the best preserved medieval monastic sites in Britain

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

We scroll through the alphabet and reveal 26 reasons why Somerset is such a wonderful place to visit and for residents to call their home

Read more
Thursday, July 19, 2018

This month Andrea visits Wedmore

Read more
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Glastonbury, the heart of the mystical Isle of Avalon, is an enchanting place in more ways than you might know, discovers Laurence McJannet

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Boasting some of the prettiest coastline in the country, it’s always a pleasure to spend a day at the beach in Somerset. From the dramatic landscape of Porlock Weir to the peaceful sands of Sand bay, these pictures will have you running to the seaside!

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

Take an easy, idyllic and accessible walk at bird-rich Chard Reservoir with Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

This month Andrea visits Wrington, a village brimming with history

Read more
Monday, July 2, 2018

Learn more about Jane Austen and her books by retracing her steps and discovering her favourite Bath haunts

Read more
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Andrea Cowan visits two very different Somerset villages that just happen to have a similar name

Read more
 
A+ South & South West
 
Great British Holidays advert link
 
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

subscription ad


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search