Wells Cathedral

BookWells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

Excavations and structural studies, 1978-93

English Heritage


June 15th, 2001



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Archaeological excavation, architectural survey and historical research carried out between 1978 and 1993 have elucidated the origins and early development of Wells Cathedral. Study concentrated primarily on the cloister and its adjuncts, and excavation took place in the adjoining ‘Camery’ garden. Here lay an ancient cemetery and the foundations of a succession of demolished buildings, ranging in date from Roman to post-medieval. Collectively, these enshrined a continuous development of religious and sepulchral activity, probably from the fourth to the mid-sixteenth century; secular uses followed. Adjacent to the Camery are the springs from which Wells takes its name. The first mention of the ‘holy well’ and minster church of St Andrew is in A.D. 766.

Excavation yielded a complex stratigraphic sequence, demonstrating how an anonymous late Roman mausoleum burial probably provided the raison d’être for the development of a Middle Saxon cemetery and chapel, and hence for the origins of Wells Cathedral itself in 909. The establishment of this sequence is uniquely important in the history of English cathedral archaeology and sets Wells alongside developments in continental Europe.

Author Information

Warwick Rodwell is an author, archaeologist, architectural historian and academic. He is Visiting Professor in the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, and Consultant Archaeologist to Westminster Abbey,

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Volume 129
Half-Title Page2
Series Page3
Title Page4
Copyright Page440
Part 1: Historical and Structural Sequence29
1. Introduction29
Historical prologue29
The See of Somerset30
Cathedral church of St Andrew31
Liberty of St Andrew32
Town and Borough of Wells34
Antiquarian scholarship at Wells34
Early travellers' descriptions34
Observation, research and publication since 165535
Local museums and collections41
Excavations and discoveries, 1851–9443
Excavations and surveys, 1978–8048
Excavations in the Camery48
Finds and records53
Miscellaneouss observations, 1980–9353
Bishop's Palace lake53
The Camery wall53
Mary Mitchell Garden54
2. Topography and Early Settlement55
Physical environment and natural resources55
Stone types used for building at Wells55
Springs and streams of Wells58
Prehistoric settlement63
Early prehistoric63
Later prehistoric64
Settlement in the Roman period65
Romano-British sepulchral remains68
The mausoleum (Structure 1)68
Stone coffin76
Inscription on stone77
Wells in the Roman period: a discussion78
3. The Anglo-Saxon Minster of Saint Andrew83
The mausoleum in the Anglo-Saxon period83
The problem of the plan83
The Anglo-Saxon cemetery88
Outlying graves88
Cemetery west of the mausoleum88
Extent of survival90
Grave types93
Burial posture98
Bone preservation and post-depositional movement98
Buildings and structures associated with the cemetery100
Boundary bank and Structure 2100
Structure 4: chapel(?)101
Two potential cross-bases102
Structure 3: mortuary chapel102
Structure 7: apsidal-ended church102
From mausoleum to ossuary103
Infill layers104
Charnel material105
General conclusions and dating106
The mortuary chapel (Structure 3)107
Burials inside the chapel109
Dating and discussion110
Topography and the minster church111
Previous discussions of the problem111
Synthesis of the archaeological evidence112
Topographical considerations113
4. The Late Saxon Cathedral and Norman Collegiate Church, c. 909–1200115
St Mary's Chapel (Structure 6)115
The evolution of the plan115
Claustral and domestic structures127
Structure 8: the first cloister(?)127
Structure 9129
Other features131
The Saxo-Norman cemetery (Period 3)133
The graves133
Summary and dating138
Synthesis: the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and its setting138
Historical evidence138
Archaeological evidence142
Topographical relationships143
The end of the See of Wells151
5. Reginald De Bohun's Collegiate Church, c. 1175–1239155
The context of the great rebuilding155
Diocesan developments155
A new church on a new site155
The Borough Seal159
Demolition and construction: interleaved processes161
Site preparation161
Supply of stone for ashlars and mouldings162
Superstructure and building phases163
Summary of dating173
The translocations of furnshings174
Tombs and relies of the Anglo-Saxon bishops of Wells174
Wells Cathedral font with contributions by Jeffrey West177
6. The Lady Chapel-by-the-Cloister, c. 1196–1477189
The identity of the chapel189
Development of the chapel in the thirteenth century189
The final plan189
Description of the excavated remains191
The architecture of the chapel199
Surviving architectural detail200
Displaced architectural sculpture and mouldings200
Tile pavements205
Burials within the chapel209
Nave and aisles (Figs. 166–8)211
Chancel (Fig. 145)221
Burial types and chronology221
Synthesis and discussion222
Structural evolution222
7. Bishop Stillington's Lady Chapel and Chantry, 1477–1552227
Historical notices of the chapel227
The plan228
Primary construction works230
Diversion of the conduit and water-pipe231
The foundation circuit231
Secondary construction works242
The bridge to the cathedral245
The form and detailing of the superstructure246
The architectural significance of Stillington's Lady Chapel-by-the-Cloister258
Furnishing and the use of the chapel261
Burials within the chapel261
Summary of burial types266
Bishop Stillington's tomb and monument266
Internal furnishings267
Liturgical desiderata268
Destruction of the chapel269
Documentary evidence for the chapel's demise269
Archaeological evidence for demolition and robbing270
8. The Cloister Complex I: General Development, and the South and East Ranges273
The fifteenth-century reconstruction: a summary274
East cloister274
West cloister275
South cloister278
The process of reconstruction278
The early Gothic cloister286
The thirteenth-century plan286
The twelfth-century plan289
The enigma of the north cloister294
Thirteenth-century roof arrangements297
Thirteenth-century ceilings298
Union of the cloister and the west front299
The structure of the south cloister301
Outer wall302
South doorway and porch (Structure 22)305
Construction seaffolding308
Indications of roofs308
Late medieval alterations309
Structure and function in the east cloister310
Relict evidence relating to the primary east range310
A thirteenth-century upper storey312
Building adjoining the east cloister: office(?) (Structure 12)320
Bubwith's cloister and library323
Summary of the development of the east cloister336
9. The Cloister Complex II: Ancillary Structures, Garth, and West Range337
Ancillary structures and liturgical features mainly associated with the east cloister337
The Lady Chapel-by-the-Cloister (Structures 11 and 15)337
Chapel and image of the Holy Cross-by-the-Cloister (Structure 18)337
Setting for an image or pyx in bay 6340
Monogrammed panel in bay 6: site of the pyx of St Saviour-in-the-Cloister?341
Burials and tombs in the cloister walks343
The cloister garth, or Palm Churchyard344
Pentices adjoining bays 6 and 4 (Structures 19A and 19B)345
Chapel of All Saints-by-the-Cloister348
Building in the north-east angle of the garth (Structure 21)349
Structure in the north-west angle of the garth (Structures 26)350
Pentices adjoining the south nave aisle (Structure 27)350
The screen wall350
The dipping-well (Structure 20)351
Structure and function in the west cloister354
The early porch and audit chamber (Structure 23)358
Bekynton's west range: school and offices361
The late medieval porch (Structure 25)362
The choristers' house and garden (Structure 30)365
Wells cloisters: summary and discussion371
Origin and purpose of the secular cloister371
Claustral layout and function373
Development of the claustral ranges376
10. The Camery377
Origin of the Camery377
The Camery wall377
Description and analysis of the wall379
Excavation alongside the wall384
The buttress-arch384
Medieval burials in the Camery386
Cemetery east and south of the Lady Chapel-by-the-Cloister387
Burials north of the Lady Chapel-by-the-Cloister389
Workshops and other structures389
The masons' yard389
The excavated workshops (Structures 16 and 17)391
Miscellaneous structures396
Post-Reformation garden and churchyard396
Summary: the development of the Camery400
11. Medieval Water Supply and Distribution Systems403
The wells and their management403
Early references and representations403
St Andrew's Well404
The environs of the springs407
Study of the springs and watercourses407
The molendinary system408
Mills and their identity408
The millstream409
The cathedral conduit411
Early thirteenth-century conduit412
Fifteenth-century conduits414
The dipping-well (Structure 20)421
Summary: development of the conduit421
Bishop's Palace moat and lake422
The moat422
The lake and its antecedents422
Piped medieval water supply424
The bishop's well-house425
Conduit-head in the market place428
The piped supply to the Nova Opera430
Other artificial watercourses436
Drainage in the Liberty of St Andrew437
Street gutters437
Discussion of the cathedral waterworks438
Culverts and drains438
Piped water438
Volume 2441
Half-Title Page442
Title Page443
Copyright Page660
Part 2: Specialist Studies: Artefacts and Burials455
Introductory Note455
12. Structural Materials and Decoration457
Architectural fragments with contributions by Jerry Sampson and Jeffrey West457
Early Gothic architectural sculpture464
Late Gothic architectural sculpture480
Medieval tile pavements and floor tiles491
Tile pavements at Wells492
Discussion of the Wells tiles, their affinities and dating by Paul Drury497
Catalogue of the decorated tiles501
Plain glazed tiles521
Window glass523
Anglo-Saxon glass523
Medieval glass by Jill Kerr523
Water piping526
Miscellaneous materials526
Roman brick and tile526
Roman mortar and plaster526
Post-Roman mortars and plasters with Jerry Sampson527
13. Funerary Monuments and Devotional Sculpture530
Anglo-Saxon sculpture by Jeffrey West530
Medieval grave-covers and stone coffins533
Stone coffins539
Medieval architectural monuments by Jerry Sampson543
14. Loose Artefacts554
Flint and chert artefacts by Alan Saville554
Coins, jettons and tokens by Marion M. Archibald558
Objects of copper alloy562
Objects of lead and pewter564
Objects of iron572
Miscellaneous loose finds (Fig. 521)573
Vessel glass573
Roman glass573
Glass of the Anglo-Saxon period574
Medieval and later glass574
Romano-British pottery574
Medieval and post-medieval pottery Notes by Vince Russett575
Textiles by Elisabeth Crowfoot576
15. Burials579
Situation and conditions579
Approach to the study of burials579
Circumstances and chronology of sepulture579
Types of burial580
Corporeal decay584
The skeletal remains by Juliet Rogers588
The excavated skeletons588
Disarticulated bone600
The mausoleum600
Summary and discussion603
16. Appendices611
1. Chronological outline611
2. List of numbered structures612
3. Radiocarbon determinations613
4. Animal bone: a note614
Notes to Chapters615
Abbreviations and Bibliography631