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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Wells Cathedral

This is my 400th post and I am sure you must remember them all. Photo blogging was something I started just by chance during lockdown. After deleting my Flickr Account where I used to publish my photos I was looking for a new home. A lot of photo websites don't really lend themselves to much text so I happened upon Photoblog. At Photoblog I found a like minded community of photographers who also wanted to say something with their photos, either telling a story with images or with words accompanying images. Increasingly I found I had more to say about the photo subjects and before I knew it I was blogging away.

That all very nearly came to a permanent halt after the demise of Photoblog. Believe it or not the owner of the site just let it die and it's corpse is still there with the work and creativity of hundreds of people seemingly lost for ever. The writing had been on the wall for some time so several of us had managed to back up all our efforts. Facebook offered a lifeboat of sorts for the community where many have kept in touch.

Ultimately, after getting my fingers burned by putting my work at the mercy of the goodwill of a stranger I decided to put together this site which I call my own. I salvaged over 300 of the original posts, those that were most dear to me, and you will find them here. I also started blogging again at the beginning of this year, once the mammoth task of salvage was complete. So here I now stand with post number 400.

It seems like ages ago now but I am tying up some loose ends and these photos were taken in April on a visit to Wells in Somerset. This first shot is a view of Wells Cathedral from the grounds of the Bishop's Palace. If any of you have seen the movie Hot Fuzz this is the location the police are called to when a swan is reported missing. The missing swan features throughout the film. Most of the external scenes are filmed around the city centre.

Wells is a cathedral city in the Mendip district of Somerset. Wells has had city status since medieval times, because of the presence of Wells Cathedral. Often described as England's smallest city, it is actually second smallest to the "City of London" in area and population, but unlike London it is not part of a larger urban agglomeration. The "City of London" also called "The Square Mile" is the original city of London now subsumed by the greater city it has become today.

Wells takes its name from three wells dedicated to Saint Andrew, one in the market place and two within the grounds of the Bishop's Palace and cathedral. A small Roman settlement surrounded them, which grew in importance and size under the Anglo-Saxons when King Ine of Wessex founded a minster church there in 704.

The Penniless Porch, below, is an entrance gateway into a walled precinct, the Liberty of St Andrew, which encloses the twelfth century Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace, Vicar's Close and the residences of the clergy who serve the cathedral. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building.

The Penniless Porch was built around 1450, by Bishop Thomas Beckington and bears his rebus or badge on the cathedral side. It forms one of a pair with The Bishop's Eye which formed the gateway into the Bishop's palace from the market place.

Wells Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England, dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle and seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, whose cathedra it holds as mother church of the Diocese of Bath and Wells. Built from around 1175 to replace an earlier church on the site since 705, it is moderately sized for an English cathedral. Its broad west front and large central tower are dominant features. It has been called "unquestionably one of the most beautiful" and "most poetic" of English cathedrals.

Its Gothic architecture is mostly in Early English style of the late 12th to early 13th centuries, lacking the Romanesque work that survives in many other cathedrals. Building began about 1175 at the east end with the choir. Historian John Harvey sees it as Europe's first truly Gothic structure, breaking the last constraints of Romanesque. The stonework of its pointed arcades and fluted piers bears pronounced mouldings and carved capitals in a foliate, "stiff-leaf" style. Its Early English front with 300 sculpted figures is seen as a "supreme triumph of the combined plastic arts in England". The east end retains much ancient stained glass. Unlike many cathedrals of monastic foundation, Wells has many surviving secular buildings linked to its chapter of secular canons, including the Bishop's Palace and the 15th-century residential Vicars' Close. It is a Grade I listed building.

The 13th-century west front was vandalised during the Monmouth Rebellion (1685), destroying many of the carved figures and leaving others, like those of the Coronation of the Virgin, headless. The rebellion to remove James II from the throne failed and he reigned until 1688 when he was finally deposed by William of Orange in the "Glorious Revolution".

Wells has clustered piers rather than columns and has a gallery of identical pointed arches rather than the typically Romanesque form of paired openings. The style, with its simple lancet arches without tracery and convoluted mouldings, is known as Early English Gothic.

In the 14th century, the central piers of the crossing were found to be sinking under the weight of the crossing tower which had been damaged by an earthquake in the previous century. Strainer arches, sometimes described as scissor arches, were inserted by master mason William Joy to brace and stabilise the piers as a unit.

These scissor arches are one of the most beautiful features of the interior.

To the south of the nave is a large cloister, unusual in that the northern range, that adjacent the cathedral, was never built. The cloisters were built in the late 13th century and largely rebuilt from 1430 to 1508 and have wide openings divided by mullions and transoms, and tracery in the Perpendicular Gothic style. The vault has lierne ribs that form octagons at the centre of each compartment, the joints of each rib having decorative bosses. The eastern range is of two storeys, of which the upper is the library built in the 15th century.

The quadripartite vault of the nave was decorated in the 19th century.

The baptismal font from the Saxon church of Aldhelm (c. 705) predates the cathedral by more than 400 years. It has stood on or near this spot for over1300 years. The font cover was made in 1635 and is decorated with the heads of putti.

The tomb of William Bytton II, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1266 - 1274. After his death, prayers made through William Bytton were thought to be particularly effective against toothache. Superstition led people to chip fragments from his tomb and remove them in the hope of pain relief.

Thomas Beckington c. 1390 – 14 January 1465 was the Bishop of Bath and Wells and King's Secretary in medieval England under Henry VI. In a letter from 1449, Beckington remarked of Bath mentioning that the healing waters of Bath has been turned into abuse by the shamelessness of the inhabitants of the city. Further mentioning: "by ... custom of the city, [the people] shamelessly strip them of their said garments and reveal to them to the gaze of bystanders."

The Cope Chest below, made of local oak in about 1120 and thus originally in the Saxon Cathedral in the last few decades of it's existence. It was made to hold the ecclesiastical garments known as "copes", a type of decorated cape. The chest still stores the copes to this day.

The organ, Harrison & Harrison (1909–10)

The first record of an organ at this church dates from 1310. A smaller organ, probably for the Lady Chapel, was installed in 1415. In 1620 an organ built by Thomas Dallam was installed at a cost of £398 1s 5d.

The 1620 organ was destroyed by parliamentary soldiers in 1643. An organ built in 1662 was enlarged in 1786 and again in 1855. In 1909–1910 an organ was built by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, with the best parts of the old organ retained. It has been serviced by the same company ever since.

In about 1310 work commenced on the Lady Chapel, to the design of Thomas Witney, who also built the central tower from 1315 to 1322 in the Decorated Gothic style. The stellar vault of the Lady Chapel has lierne ribs making a star within a star.

To the north-east is the large octagonal chapter house, entered from the north choir aisle by a passage and staircase.

The undercroft and chapter house were built by unknown architects between 1275 and 1310, the undercroft in the Early English and the chapter house in the Geometric style of Decorated Gothic architecture.

The Decorated interior is described by Alec Clifton-Taylor as "architecturally the most beautiful in England". It is octagonal, with its ribbed vault supported on a central column. The column is surrounded by shafts of Purbeck Marble, rising to a single continuous rippling foliate capital of stylised oak leaves and acorns, quite different in character from the Early English stiff-leaf foliage. Above the moulding spring 32 ribs of strong profile, giving an effect generally likened to "a great palm tree". The windows are large with Geometric Decorated tracery that is beginning to show an elongation of form, and ogees in the lesser lights that are characteristic of Flowing Decorated tracery. The tracery lights still contain ancient glass.

In the north transept is Wells Cathedral clock, an astronomical clock from about 1325 believed to be by Peter Lightfoot, a monk of Glastonbury. Its mechanism, dated between 1386 and 1392, was replaced in the 19th century and the original moved to the Science Museum in London, where it still operates. It is the second oldest surviving clock in England after the Salisbury Cathedral clock.

The clock has its original medieval face. Apart from the time on a 24-hour dial, it shows the motion of the Sun and Moon, the phases of the Moon, and the time since the last new Moon. The astronomical dial presents a geocentric or pre-Copernican view, with the Sun and Moon revolving round a central fixed Earth, like that of the clock at Ottery St Mary. The quarters are chimed by a quarter jack: a small automaton known as Jack Blandifers, who hits two bells with hammers and two with his heels. At the striking of the clock, jousting knights appear above the clock face.

The greater part of the stone carving of Wells Cathedral comprises foliate capitals in the stiff-leaf style. They are found ornamenting the piers of the nave, choir and transepts. Stiff-leaf foliage is highly abstract. Though possibly influenced by carvings of acanthus leaves or vine leaves, it cannot be easily identified with any particular plant. Here the carving of the foliage is varied and vigorous, the springing leaves and deep undercuts casting shadows that contrast with the surface of the piers. In the transepts and towards the crossing in the nave the capitals have many small figurative carvings among the leaves. These include a man with toothache.

Alfred the Great. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English, rather than Latin, and improving the legal system and military structure and his people's quality of life. He was given the epithet "the Great" in the 16th century.

All information from Wikipedia.

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4 commentaires

Peter Smith
Peter Smith
10 juil. 2022

Nice report. Inspires me to go back especially as my last visit, a few years back now, found the place cloaked in scaffold.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
11 juil. 2022
En réponse à

It has to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals.


Membre inconnu
09 juil. 2022

I love the angles you took to show the intricacy of this chapel. The outside photos are really eye catching as is the organ and ofcourse that staircase.

Can't believe this is post 400. Such dedication and most importantly, what impresses me, is the fact that you took the time to bring you Pb posts back to life.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
09 juil. 2022
En réponse à

Thanks Camellia.

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