Vicars' Close, Wells
Adjoining the Cathedral is Vicars’ Close, believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England. This significant landmark was designed to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sang daily worship within the Cathedral. This centuries-old tradition continues today and is a unique and much valued part of life at Wells Cathedral.
The houses of the close were built in the 14th century under direction from Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury and the iconic chimneys were added in the 15th century. Originally 42 houses were built (one per vicar), but some were combined following the Reformation when vicars were allowed to marry. Today, the Close comprises 27 residences, a chapel, library, treasury and muniment room. There is also a dining hall connected to the Cathedral by a covered walkway, the Chain Gate Bridge.
Reflecting the Close’s significance, all its buildings are Grade I listed. The current occupants still include all twelve men of the Vicars Choral, plus the organists and virgers. Vicars Choral have remained at the heart of life at Wells Cathedral since the 1100s and are now recognised as a world-class choir.