CHRISTMAS OFFER 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, 11:00

A bracing winter walk is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs, and where better to embrace the crisp, chilly air than through the varied, and beautiful, landscape that Somerset has to offer

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

From playtime and past times to ephemeral and esoteric, Simone Stanbrook-Byrne looks at 30 reasons why we will forever love Exmoor

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

In this edition of her special series taking a look at village life in Somerset, Andrea Cowan visits Milverton

Read more
Thursday, November 22, 2018

Magnificent architecture, rich in history and truly stunning, stately homes and gardens provide a delightful day out for visitors. Somerset boasts plenty, and we bring you 8 of the most special locations to visit this Christmas

Read more

A favourite spot for locals, Emma Dredge explains why people love Chard Reservoir, its scenery and its wildlife

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

Military historian Richard Pursehouse reveals the significant connection between a Somerset centenarian and a famous Westminster grave

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne takes a look at The Macmillan Way, a long-distance path that was specifically set up to raise money for charity

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

What is it that makes Taunton unique? Here’s 10 of our favourite highlights

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

With landmarks steeped in history, coaching inns housing tragic tales and plenty of scary stories from around the region, its little wonder Somerset is full of haunted locations waiting to be explored. We’ve found 15 of the spookiest spots to visit if you dare!

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne explores two villages on the Mendip Hills and the tranquil paths that link them

Read more
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Somerset’s county town has more than its fair share of good pubs, and a myriad of wonderful walking routes between them, as Laurence McJannet discovers

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can give a new lease of life to our village hall.”

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This month Andrea visits Ashcott

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Whatever the season, we love exploring Portishead!

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

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

Property Search