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Although officially a city since 1205 because of the presence of Wells Cathedral, by population it is a small-medium sized town. Wells is a highlight of your visit to Somerset, with several notable buildings, mostly of religious origin, to discover as well as being an active local centre with all shops and facilities.
Buildings and monuments in Wells, Somerset
Quite close together in the centre of Wells there is a group of buildings of great interest to the visitor:
Wells Cathedral: the highlight of a visit, and the reason why Wells is officially a city, Wells cathedral is a very fine 'Early English' style building dating from the 12th-14th century - the style is best appreciated in the ornate decoration and hundreds of inset statues of the western side of the cathedral.
Inside Wells cathedral highlights include the decorative 14th century mechanical clock (be sure to try and catch it strike the hour, when the figures of the knights leap into action) and the staircase leading to the Chapter House dating from 1306. An unusual feauture is the dominant 'inverted arches' across the centre of the cathedral - these wre added in the 14th century when it was discovered that additional strengthening and support was required.
Bishop's Palace: still the oficial residence for the Bishop of Wells (who is also the Bishop of Bath, after the positions were combined following a medieval power struggle between the two). This conflict is also the reason why the entrance is fortified - the impressive turreted entrance once controlled access to the palace and the drawbridge across a moat. The Palace itself is surrounded by gardens and contains fine stately rooms, and the views of the Palace across the moat are very lovely. You can also feed the swans on the moat!
Vicar's Close: said to be the oldest intact street in Britain, Vicar's Close (pictured top) is a 14th century jewel of architecture, a street of beautifully maintained stone houses just north of the cathedral
Market Place: the longstanding centre for markets in Wells (these are now held twice a week), Market Place has some interesting highlights such as penniless porch (the entrance towards the cathedral) and Bishops Eye (the entrance to the palace, where the drawbridge once stood). To the south are the Bishop's Palace and a Tithe Barn while Wells High Street is off the west of Market Place.
See also the Church of Saint Cuthbert and Wells Cathedral School.
The Museum of Wells, near the Cathedral, explains the history of both Wells and the Mendip Hills region and contains further statues from the cathedral.
Map of Wells and places to visit
Wells places to visit
See more places nearby in the Somerset guide