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Learn more about Wells

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Population: 10,000
Ordnance Survey
OS grid reference:ST545455
District: Mendip
Shire county: Somerset
Region: South West England
Constituent country:England
Sovereign state:United Kingdom
Ceremonial county: Somerset
Historic county: Somerset
Police force: Avon and Somerset Police
Fire and rescue: Somerset
Ambulance:South Western
Post office and telephone
Post town: WELLS
Postal district: BA5
Dialling code: 01749
UK Parliament: Wells
European Parliament: South West England
Image:Flag of England.svg

Wells is a small cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, nestling in the Mendip Hills. The name Wells derives from the three wells dedicated to St. Andrew, one in the market place and two within the grounds of the Bishop's Palace and cathedral.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> During the Middle Ages these Wells were thought to have curative powers <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


[edit] Cathedral

Main article: Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral is the cathedral of the Church of England Diocese of Bath and Wells. Parts date back to the 10th century. It is known for its fine fan vaulted ceilings, Lady Chapel and windows, and the scissor arch of the west facade. Together with the Bishop's Palace (still used by the Bishop of Bath and Wells) Wells has been an ecclesiastical City of importance for hundreds of years. The cathedral is a grade I listed building.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The cathedral is notable for:

  • the West front - said to be the finest collection of statuary in Europe, containing 356 individual figures carved from the cathedral's warm, yellow Doulting stone.
  • the east end of the nave - an unusual scissored arch design of striking beauty, which saved the cathedral's central tower from collapse. In 1338, the original construction was found to be weakening underneath the tower. About 1340, the Master Mason, William Joy, implemented his ingenious solution of the inverted arch to redistribute the weight on the foundations.
  • the Chapter House- at the top of a flight of stone stairs, leading out from the north transept. It is an octagonal building with a fan-vaulted ceiling.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> It is here that the business of running the cathedral is still conducted by the members of the Chapter, the cathedral's ruling body.
  • the Medieval Clock - facing the Canon's houses to the north, is a still-working medieval clock, originally to mark out the many services conducted during the day at the cathedral
The west front of Wells Cathedral

[edit] History

The City was a Roman settlement but only became an important centre under the Saxons when King Ine of Wessex founded a minster church in 704. Two hundred years later, this became the seat of the local Bishop; but by 1091, this had been removed to Bath. Causing severe arguments between the canons of Wells and the monks of Bath until finally the joint title of 'Bishop of Bath & Wells' to be elected by both houses was decided. Wells became a borough some time before 1160 when Bishop Robert granted its first charter. Fairs were granted to the City before 1160.

[edit] English Civil War

During the English Civil War, Parliamentarian troops used the Cathedral to stable their horses and damaged much of the ornate sculpture by using it for firing practice. William Penn is said to have passed through Wells shortly before leaving for America, spending a night at The Crown Inn.

[edit] PoW Camp

During World War II, Stoberry Park in Wells was the location of a Prisoner of War camp, housing Italian prisoners from the Western Desert Campaign, and later German prisoners post the Battle of Normandy

[edit] Railways

Wells has had three railway stations. The first station, Priory Street, opened in 1859 and was on the Somerset Central Railway (later the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway) as the terminus of a short branch from Glastonbury. A second railway, the East Somerset, opened a branch line from Witham in 1862 and built a station to the east of Priory Street. In 1870, a third railway, the Bristol and Exeter Railway's Cheddar Valley line from Yatton, reached Wells and built yet another station, later called Tucker Street. Matters were somewhat simplified when the Great Western Railway acquired both the Cheddar Valley and the East Somerset lines and built a link between the two that ran through the S&DJR's Priory Street station. In 1878, when through trains began running between Yatton and Witham, the East Somerset station closed, but through trains did not stop at Priory Street until 1934.

Priory Street closed to passenger traffic in 1951 when the S&DJR branch line from Glastonbury was shut, though it remained the city's main goods depot. Tucker Street closed in 1963 under the Beeching Axe, which closed the Yatton to Witham line to passengers. Goods traffic to Wells ceased in 1964.

[edit] Today

Following construction of the A39/A371 bypass, Wells has returned to being a pleasant market city situated at the foot of the Mendip Hills. It has all the modern conveniences plus charm, interesting shops, hotels and restaurants.

[edit] Tourism and Architecture

Image:Wells Cathedral 2.jpg
The Cathedral rising behind the market place

Wells is a popular tourist destination, due to its historical sites, its proximity to Bath and Stonehenge and its closeness to the Somerset coast. Also nearby is the Wookey Hole cave system and the Somerset Levels. Wells is part of the West Country Carnival circuit. Somerset cheese is made locally.

A walled precinct encloses the twelfth century Wells Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace, Vicar's Close and the residences of the clergy who serve the cathedral:

  • the Bishops Palace - the medieval Palace has been the home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years. The hall and chapel are particularly noteworthy, dating from the 14th century.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> There are 14 acres of gardens including the springs from which the city takes its name. Visitors can also see the Bishop's private Chapel, ruined Great Hall and the Gatehouse with portcullis and drawbridge beside which the famous mute swans ring a bell for food
  • the Church of St. Cuthbert - often mistaken for the cathedral, the church has a fine Somerset stone tower and a superb carved roof. Originally an Early English building (13th century), it was much altered in the Perpendicular period (15th century). The coloured roof was repainted in 1963<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] In literature

Elizabeth Goudge used Wells as a basis for the fictional Cathedral city of Torminster, in her book City of Bells

[edit] Politics

Wells is part of the UK Parliament constituency of Wells, the current Member of Parliament is David Heathcoat-Amory of the Conservative Party. The area is part of the South West England European Parliament constituency.

[edit] References

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[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Somerset Railway Stations, by Mike Oakley, (Dovecote Press, 2002)

[edit] Gallery

[edit] External links

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