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  • Writer's pictureChris Winter

High Street (9)

Updated: Apr 30

The High Street dates from the 12th Century, with King John granting the right to hold a weekly market and five annual fairs.



The High Street in Wells starts at the Market Place and continues down to St Cuthbert Street. Photo by Phil Broek
The High Street in Wells starts at the Market Place and continues down to St Cuthbert Street. Photo by Phil Broek

The High Street dates from the 12th Century, the wider middle section of the street becoming the main market area. In 1201, King John granted the right to hold a weekly market and five fairs annually also took place here.


Looking from the bottom of the High Street towards the Cathedral
Wells High Street today. Photo by Phil Broek

A Middle Row was built in the centre of the widest part of the street in 1571 to accommodate the butchers’ and fishmongers’ shambles. The following year a Town Hall was erected at the upper end of the row opposite modern numbers 27 and 29 High Street over the fish shambles. In 1591 the fish shambles were replaced by the first city prison. The prison was moved in 1606 to what is now the City Arms where it remained until the 19th Century.


In an earlier building close to where you are standing, a linen hall was established in 1571 for the twice-yearly linen fairs. The Corporation established the city exchequer and the Town Clerk’s office here in 1599, following the grant of the City’s royal charter in 1589.


Most of the main city traders lived and worked in the High Street, and here most of the important inns were situated. In 1700 there were 13 inns in the upper part of the street of which only the King’s Head now remains as an inn.


With the demolition of the Middle Row in 1767, to ease traffic flow, the market finally moved to today’s Market Place.




The High Street is at location 9 on the trail map
The High Street is at location 9 on the trail map

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