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Wells cathedral and tourist information signs, photo by Phil Broek

Enjoy Wells

Wells is famously the smallest city in England, and is a great place to live or visit. It has been inhabited since at least Roman times and is listed in the Domesday Book as Welle when it had a population of just 132. The city is named after its three natural wells, which can still be seen in the grounds of the Bishop's Palace.


Today, tourists enjoy our largely unspoilt mediaeval centre - including Europe's oldest continuously inhabited street – Vicars Close. There are an impressive number of Grade I and over 300 Grade II listed buildings, as well as two Grade 2* Historic Parks and two Scheduled Ancient Monuments. There is much to be proud of and much to enjoy and protect.

The population recorded in the 2011 census was only 10,536 but has grown since then. The latest figures will be released during 2024. The city’s urban development presents new challenges to ensure urban planning provides adequate facilities while preserving the unique heritage and stunning natural environment for future generations to enjoy.

Wells Plaque Trail Map

The Blue Plaque Trail

Join our free Blue Plaque trail of Wells. Download the FREE trail leaflet by clicking the button below and see how many you can locate.

Wells Cathedral Front B&W. By Phil Broek

The Cathedral

There has been a church on this site since 705, and the current cathedral dates back to 1175.  Wells Cathedral is the seat of our President, the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Each year, about 150,000 people attend cathedral services and 300,000 visit as tourists.

The band stand at the Recreation Ground. Photo by Phil Broek

Parks & Green Spaces

Wells enjoys several parks and green spaces, including the Recreation Ground, Deer Park and Tor Woods, which offer locals and visitors plenty of opportunity to relax and enjoy nature. Our green spaces are precious, with research showing that good urban access to green space can help mitigate climate change, improve biodiversity and also has significant benefits for our health and wellbeing.

City of Wells Armshouses on Priest Row. Photo by Phil Broek

The Almshouses

The Almshouse was founded in 1436 by Bishop Nicholas Bubwith to provide housing for elderly residents and still provides accommodation for older people today. The original medieval building and chapel can be found next to St Cuthbert's churchyard.

St. Thomas Church, Wells. Photo by Phil Broek

St Thomas Church

A short stroll along St Thomas Street leads to the eighteenth century church of St Thomas. Look up to see the new spire, which was replaced after the original was toppled during Storm Eunice in 2022.

Wells Carnival. Photo by Phil Broek

What's On

Wells enjoys a vibrant programme of events, including the Wells Food Festival, the Carnival, the Comedy Festival, the Wells Moat Boat Race, the May Fair, the Mendip Tour of classic cars and more. 

The Bishops Palace Gatehouse photo by Phil Broek

The Bishops Palace

The Palace has been the official residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells since the early thirteenth century.  The grounds are open to visitors, and has an excellent café where you can watch the croquet in summer. The Palace moat is also home to Well’s famous swans, who have been trained to ring a bell at the Gatehouse for food.

Wells Market Place on market day. Photo by Phil Broek

The Market Place

In 1180, Wells was granted a royal charter, allowing the City to hold markets and fairs. To this day, the tradition continues, with bustling stalls filling the square on a Wednesday and Saturday morning. The Market Place wasn’t always so peaceful though. In September 1685 it was the location for the infamous Bloody Assizes, where Judge Jeffries sentenced 142 people to death on a single day for their part in the Monmouth Rebellion.

Vicars Close, Wells. Photo by Phil Broek

Vicars Close

Built over 650 years ago to house the Vicars Choral, Vicars Close is the oldest intact residential street in Europe. The Vicars still live in the Close today, along with boarders at Wells Cathedral School and private residents. As well as the houses, the street also includes a chapel, dining hall and a covered walkway to the Cathedral, known as the Chain Gate Bridge.

St Cuthberts Church, Image by Phil Broek

St Cuthberts Church

The church dates back to the thirteenth century and is well worth a visit for features such as its painted tie beam roof, medieval stonework Tree of Jesse and beautiful stained-glass windows. It is the largest parish church in Somerset and is often mistaken by tourists for the cathedral.

Wells Walking Tours Image.jpeg

Wells Walking Tours

Wells Walking Tours offers interesting walks in and around Wells. Their most popular tours are the weekly Heritage Walks and the Hot Fuzz tour. 

Visit their website to find out more and book on.

Wells & Mendip Museum

Wells & Mendip Museum

The museum is housed in the former Chancellor’s House, which dates back to the seventeenth century. Founded in 1893 by archaeologist, caver and geologist Herbert E. Balch to display his collection of local artefacts, it now contains a varied collection of items from Wells and the surrounding area.

The Conduit in Wells Market Place. Photo by Phil Broek

The Conduit

Wells is named after three natural springs, found in the Cathedral, Palace grounds and the Market Place. In 1451, Wells was granted a supply of spring water in perpetuity by Bishop Bekynton, and a large stone conduit was constructed over it in the Market Place. In return, the citizens of Wells were required to pray annually for Bekynton’s soul, and services are still held today. The Conduit we see today was constructed in 1797 for £150.


Vicars Close Chapel

The chapel at the end of Vicars Close dates back to 1424. Above the ground floor chapel was a library for the Vicars Choral. The building is now used by Wells Cathedral School and it is not usually open to the public.

The Bishops Barn, Wells

The Bishops Barn

The Bishop’s Barn is a fifteenth-century tithe barn and is a scheduled ancient monument. Given to the city in 1887 by Bishop Hervey for recreation and amusement, it is now being transferred from Mendip District Council control to Wells City Council, which plans to enable it to be used by the community again.

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