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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Medieval town, Wells
Civil Parish: Wells
PRN 11341Excavation (1992-1997), Wells Museum
PRN 11630Evaluation (2000), 52-54 High St, Wells
PRN 11633Evaluation (2001), 2 Priest Row, Wells
PRN 11648Watching Brief (2001), Saddler Street, Wells
PRN 15084Watching brief (2001), New Street, Wells
PRN 15086Evaluation (2001), Market Place Hotel, Wells
PRN 15091Evaluation (2001), 54-58 St Thomas Street, Wells
PRN 15543Excavation (1988), Clares Carlton, Wells
PRN 15544Watching brief (1988), Cathedral Green, Wells
PRN 15620Watching brief (2002), High Street, Wells
PRN 15753Watching brief (1993), Market Place, Wells
PRN 16091Evaluation (2002) 54-58 Thomas Street, Wells
PRN 16206'Pumping machine' and waterwheel, The Bishops Palace Garden, Wells
PRN 16265Evaluation (2003), 66 High Street, Wells
PRN 16323Evaluation (2003), 22 Chamberlain Street, Wells
PRN 16420Wells Liberty, Wells
PRN 16421Evaluation (1995), the Old Archdeaconry, Wells
PRN 16663Watching brief (2003), 12 Sadler Street, Wells
PRN 16667Evaluation (2003), 54 and 56 Southover, Wells
PRN 16955Evaluation (2004), 48 North Road, Wells
PRN 17702Watching Brief (2005), City Arms, High Street, Wells
PRN 17784Evaluation (2005), Clares Factory Site, Southover, Wells
PRN 18784Watching Brief (1994), St Joseph and St Teresa School, Lover's Walk, Wells
PRN 25613Evaluation (1987), Clares Carlton, Wells
PRN 25624Evaluation (1992), new science building, Cathedral School, Wells
PRN 26697The New Works, Market Place, Wells
PRN 27004Manners Lane tenements and mansion, Chamberlain Street, Wells
PRN 28116Evaluation (2008), Old Laundry Garden, College Road, Wells
PRN 28148Watching brief (2008), former GPO sorting office, Priory Mills, Wells
PRN 28240Watching brief (2009), Wells Cathedral, Wells
PRN 28241Watching brief (2008), 5 High Street, Wells
PRN 28280Watching brief (2007), 66 High Street, Wells
PRN 28293Watching brief (2004), Clares Factory site, Wells
PRN 28558Watching brief (1997), 71-73 St Thomas Street, Wells
PRN 30277Watching brief (2011), 4 Vicars' Close, Wells
PRN 30284Evaluation (2010), land behind 9 and 11 St John's Street, Wells
PRN 31601Evaluation (2012), Whiting Way, Wells
PRN 31699Watching brief (2011), former Wells Cadet Centre, Webbs Close, Wells
PRN 32047Watching brief (2005), boreholes, Mary Mitchell Garden and Masons' Yard, Wells Cathedral
PRN 32340Watching brief (2013), 60 St Thomas Street, Wells
PRN 57062Watching brief (1995), Mermaid Inn, Tucker Street, Wells
PRN 57123Watching brief (1998), 54 High Street, Wells
PRN 57200Watching brief (1999), 35 High Street, Wells
Grid Ref: ST 54 45 (ST 54 NW) ST 55 45 (ST 54 NE)
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As far as we are aware this site is no longer visible. Please assume that this site is private property and do not visit without permission. [Information last updated on 03 January 2003]


The HER is currently being transferred to a new system. Please ask about this changed entry. {0}

Domesday Book makes no reference to a town or market at Wells and the absence of one in early Norman times probably explains the transference of the see to Bath. A reference in 1136 mentions a market which was confirmed in a grant in 1160 of three markets. The establishment of the town therefore coincided with the church regaining cathedral status. Additional charters of Bishop Reginald (1169-91) extended the town's rights. Another charter of 1201 confirmed these rights and outlined the boundaries of the town. The town prospered from the C13 and was the largest town in the County in the C14. In 1298 two burgesses represented the town at Parliament. The 1327 Lay Subsidy listed 64 of the taxable inhabitants. A document of 1437 listed the inhabitants as including masons, hostlers, carpenters, weavers, tailors, goldsmiths etc. The town's prosperity came from the cloth industry and the cathedral. The relationship between the two was often uneasy as for example when Bishop Ralph obtained permission to wall off the precinct in 1340 and in 1493 when the town opened new mills without the bishop's permission Total independence for the borough came after the Reformation with a charter granted by Elizabeth I in 1589. In the C16-C17 the cloth industry moved elsewhere, but the town retained its important market focus. In the C19 its cheese market was the largest in the west of England Savaric's charter (1192-1205) details the bounds of the borough which are described in Aston and Leech. It excludes the Liberty (PRN 16420) and the suburb E of the cathedral and it is probable that some of the places listed on the S boundary are in the wrong order The central part of the town was probably planned with regular burgage plots along Sadler Street, High Street as far as Mill Street, Union Street, St Cuthbert's Street (N side) as far as the church, Priest Row (E side) and Chamberlain Street as far as St Cuthbert's. Back lanes were provided for those in Chamberlain Street and High Street, the lane behind the latter following St Andrew's stream. St Cuthbert's church was at the W end of this planned area. The alignments of the streets are roughly the same as that of the possible earlier church excavated in 1894. Tucker Street and St Thomas' Street, formerly Byestewalle, may have developed later as suburbs. A number of streets close to the cathedral were possibly altered from 1340 onwards as a result of Bishop Ralph's licence to divert streets. Before 1340 Milton Lane may have continued S across the present Cathedral Green, through Beckington's "new works" and along the W side of the moat. It is also possible that the present alignments of Tor Street, East Liberty, North Liberty and St Andrews Street may date from 1340 In 1341 the burgesses received the right to "enclose and fortify" the town but after prolonged litigation it was withdrawn. The town has a complex system of water supply. A key development is an agreement in 1451 to build conduits and channels along the main streets which details the routes to be followed and how the channels were to be constructed. An entry of 1459 provides further details of how the water supply was to pass from the churchyard of the cathedral into the market place By the C15 the main market area of the town was the High Street and the present Market Place. Documents, including the conveyance of land for building the "new works" in 1451, provide a detailed picture of the area. {1}

Wells had a minster church C700, cathedral status in 909 and the first town charter in c1160. The modern town plan was established by the later Middle Ages and comprised three elemnts, the Liberty of St Andrew around the cathedral, the borough to the west and north and to the east a subhurb known as Byestwalles. {5}


0 Compiler comment - Webster, CJ (Chris). Somerset Historic Environment Record (12/02/2016). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained.
1 Description - Aston, M and Leech, R. Historic Towns in Somerset.  (1977), 147-154.
2 Aerial photographs - DAP RK11-15. (1990) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
3 Description - Scrase, AJ. Wells: A Small City.  (2006)
4 Aerial photographs - DAP SU 07-08. (1990) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
5 Detailed records - Scrase, A. Development and change in burgage plots: The example of Wells. Journal of Historical Geography  15:4 (1989), 349-65
6 Aerial photographs - CUCAP MI 21. (5/7/1953) Location: HER files under PRN 25370.
7 Description - Gathercole, C. An Archaeological Assessment of Wells.  (2003) Somerset County Council extensive urban survey (EUS) report for English Heritage. Copy held in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.

Record created in October 1987

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