Built between 1175 and 1490 Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”. Situated within an easy drive from Bristol, Bath and Cardiff, and set in the medieval heart of England’s smallest city, Wells is the earliest English Cathedral to be built in the Gothic style and has an international reputation.
The current building is a significant landmark in Somerset and the South West. As well as its iconic West Front, Wells Cathedral has unique features that separate it from other English cathedrals including the beautiful ‘scissor arches’ supporting the central tower; a structure which was added in 1338 after the weight of a new spire on the top of the tower threatened to collapse the whole thing. The Cathedral houses one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country. Experts agree that the Jesse Window at Wells Cathedral is one of the most splendid examples of 14th century stained glass in Europe, narrowly escaping destruction during the English Civil War. The Cathedral also boasts the famous Wells Clock (which is considered to be the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain), the fascinating octagonal Chapter House and one of only four chained libraries in the UK
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.
We welcome visitors every day of the year to experience this wonderful and holy place. We do not charge an entrance fee however we do ask visitors to make a donation if they are able to do so. We receive no regular direct state aid and need over £4,500 per day for the ongoing sustainability of this historic building, our worship, music and all our work here. Free scheduled daily tours of the Cathedral are available all year except Sundays. A warm welcome awaits you at our Cathedral shop which stocks a wide range of unique mementoes and gifts. Our café is also open daily for coffee, delicious home-made lunches and afternoon teas.
Visit highlights include:
- The magnificent West Front which contains one of the largest galleries of medieval sculpture in the world
- Our stunning scissor arches; a medieval solution to sinking tower foundations
- The second-oldest surviving clock face in the world
- Vicar’s Close
- Our impressive Chapter House
- One of the most substantial collections of medieval stained glass in England including the Jesse window which narrowly escaped destruction during the English Civil War
- TripAdvisor ranked number one attraction in Wells
When term breaks up the Cathedral offers sessions for children accompanied by their parents or guardians. Our holiday creative workshops always prove popular and details are posted on the Cathedral website. We also provide free family trail leaflets in the form of our Primary Guides and Secondary guides which are available free of charge on arrival and which help children to learn about the main highlights and history of the Cathedral through a fun trail.
Pre-bookable Group Tour Packages
We strongly advise that all visiting groups pre-book their time at Wells Cathedral to ensure we can accommodate your visit and provide you with the most suitable tour for your guests. Parts of the Cathedral can also sometimes be restricted for the primary purpose of worship which we can advise you on. We encourage groups to visit us between 10am and 4pm Monday-Saturday and between 12.30pm and 2pm on Sundays, to avoid our daily services. We can also tailor packages, offering special interest tours and adding catering options. Please book all group tours by contacting email@example.com or telephone 01749 674483
There is a quirky 1 minute film at the bottom of the page featuring Louis the cathedral cat - enjoy!
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