18 July 2018VISIT TO WELLS JULY 2018

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Wednesday 18 July 2018

It was market day in Wells.  The city centre was busy with shoppers and colourful stalls, but it was Wells Cathedral and The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens that our group from The Arts Society Dorset County, had come to visit.  A cooler, cloudy morning and with relief from the heatwave, we left our coach and walked across the parched grass of the Close for our first view of this magnificent Gothic Cathedral.

After a refreshing cup of coffee, we met our guides and divided into three groups for our tour of the Cathedral.   Our group began in the main nave from where we could fully appreciate the tall limestone pillars, the perpendicular windows and the unique architectural feature of the Scissor Arches.  It was not just the inspiring architecture of this building that made it so attractive but also the detail, added over the centuries, from royal edicts to the modest and often humorous additions of the stonemasons of the day.  The cool stonework is complemented by the colourful stained glass windows, elaborate wood carving and delicate embroideries, and in more recent times the addition of elegant and beautifully crafted altar cloths, a series of which is now used for main festivals and throughout the Church’s year.                                                                                       

At two minutes to midday, our party arrived at the Wells Clock, in time to join the gathering crowd and see the clock strike twelve.  Installed circa 1390, it is one of the oldest clock faces in the world.  The jousting knights performed once again and we all watched in delight.  As the chimes faded, one of the voluntary chaplains welcomed everyone and read a prayer written by Bishop Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath & Wells 1685-1691.  All this under the watchful eye of the Cathedral Cat.

We completed the tour with a visit to the octagonal Chapter House and our guide recommended a visit to the nearby Vicars’ Close, completed in 1363, a medieval street with its famous historic houses, designed as lodgings for the men of the Choir.  Modernised and with the addition of front gardens, the houses are still lived in today by those associated with the Cathedral. 

After lunch, we visited The Bishop’s Palace.  Crossing the croquet lawn, we met our guide close by the ruins of The Great Hall.  We toured the panelled rooms of the Palace, the robing room of the Bishop and the Bishop’s private chapel. Our guide talked us through the many portraits of Bishops over the centuries and a great sense of history and tradition pervaded this fine historic building.  Coming out into the hot afternoon sun, the beautiful landscaped gardens offered some welcome shade.  We were free to wander in the formal gardens, carefully tended and full of flowers and vibrant colour.   Then with our guide we crossed over the moat to The Well Pool.  Here, water flowing from the Mendips rises up in five springs.  Long ago, three channels had been made to supply water to the Cathedral, to The Bishop’s Palace and the third to the city centre:  key to the origins and survival of Wells.

A welcome Afternoon Cream Tea was served in the Undercroft.  There was just time for some last minute shopping before returning to our coach.  The Cathedral bell rang for Evensong but with our mementoes and thoughts of a very enjoyable and interesting day, it was time for us to depart and head for home.

Stella Scott