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Latitude: 51.2104 / 51°12'37"N
Longitude: -2.6435 / 2°38'36"W
OS Eastings: 355148
OS Northings: 145885
OS Grid: ST551458
Mapcode National: GBR MN.4428
Mapcode Global: VH89S.4TCZ
Entry Name: Cathedral Church of St Andrew
Listing Date: 12 November 1953
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1382901
English Heritage Legacy ID: 483287
Location: Wells, Mendip, Somerset, BA5
Civil Parish: Wells
Built-Up Area: Wells
Traditional County: Somerset
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset
Cathedral Church of St Andrew
Cathedral Bishopric established in 909. Saxon cathedral built, nothing now visible (excavations 1978/79). See transferred to Bath in 1090. Church extended and altered in 1140, in Norman style, under Bishop Robert Lewes; part of this lies under south transept of the present church.
Present church begun, at east end, in 1176 and continued to consecration in 1239, but with substantial interruption from 1190-1206. Designer Adam Lock, west front probably by Thomas Norreys. Nave, west front (but not towers), north porch, transepts, and part of choir date from this phase. Bishopric becomes Bath and Wells in 1218. Central tower begun 1315, completed 1322. Designer Thomas Witney Lady Chapel begun 1323, completed c 1326. Probably by Thomas Witney. At this stage the Chapel a free-standing structure to the east of the original (1176) east end. Extension of choir and presbytery in 1330 to connect with the new Lady Chapel. Designer Thomas Witney, but presbytery vaults by William Joy.
Following signs of dangerous settlement and cracking under the new tower, the great arches and other work inserted to prevent collapse in 1337; designer William Joy. (The St Andrew's arches known as strainer arches). South-west tower begun in 1385 to design of William Wynford, completed c 1395. North-west tower built 1410. Tracery added to nave windows in 1410. Central tower damaged by fire in 1439; repair and substantial design modification (designer not known) completed c 1450. Stillington's chapel built 1477, (off east cloister) designer William Smyth, who also designed the fan vault to the main crossing. The chapel was demolished in 1552.
MATERIALS: Doulting ashlar with blue Lias dressings, partly replaced by Kilkenny marble, some Purbeck marble internal dressings, and pink rubble outer cloister walls.
PLAN: Cruciform plan with aisled nave and transepts, north porch, cruciform aisled chancel with transeptal chapels and Retroquire. East Lady Chapel, north-east Chapter House and south Cloister.
EXTERIOR: Early English Gothic style, Decorated Gothic style Chapter House, Retroquire and Lady Chapel, Perpendicular Gothic style west and crossing towers and cloister. Early English windows throughout, mainly filled with two-light tracery c 1415, with a parapet of cusped triangles added c 1320 to all but the Chapter House and west front. Five-sided Lady Chapel has angle buttresses, drip and a parapet of cusped triangles, with wide five-light windows with reticulated tracery of cusped spheroid triangles; a late C14 flying buttress with a square pinnacle to the south-east. North chancel aisles: the east bay has a shallow two-centre arched five-light window with Decorated tracery, steeper three-light windows to the west bays, the transept chapel window of four-lights with reticulated tracery. The early C14 east end of the chancel has flying buttresses to the gable and three east bays; the east end has a five-light window with Decorated tracery, including two mullions up to the soffit, and a raised surround beneath a shallow canted parapet, with the coped gable set back and lit by four lozenge windows divided by a wide Y-shaped mullion; the north clerestory windows of three-lights, the three to the east have ogee hoods, the three late C12 west and two north transept windows linked by a continuous hood mould.
North Transept and nave aisles have a plinth, sill band, corbel table and parapet, with wide buttresses separating aisle lancet windows with inserted early C15 two-light Perpendicular tracery, and a clerestory with similar moulding and fenestration. Transept gable in three stages, with clasping buttress turrets and sill bands: three lower-stage windows and one to the end of west aisle, middle stage has a blind arcade of six lancets, the middle four truncated beneath three tall stepped lancets to upper stage, with similar blind panels paired to the turrets, and medallions to the spandrels; a weathered band beneath an arcade of stepped blind lancets, and panelled turret pinnacles with octagonal caps, a third to the flanking aisle; the right-hand turret has a good c 1475 clock with paired soldiers above striking two bells, and a crenellated canopy. Nine-bay nave aisle, ten-bay clerestory, of which the two windows flanking the transept re-entrant cut off above a mid C14 relieving arch.
Fine north porch two bays deep with blue Lias shafts and C18 outer doors: entrance archway of five orders with alternate paired banded columns with stiff leaf capitals to the west, carved showing the martyrdom of King Edmund to the east, and a roll-moulded arch, including two orders of undercut chevron mouldings with filigree decoration over fine doors of c 1200; clasping buttresses with octagonal pinnacles as the transept, and a gable with six stepped lancets beneath three stepped parvise lancets with sunken panels in the spandrels. Inside of two bays, articulated by banded vault shafts with stiff leaf capitals to a sexpartite vault; side benches are backed by arcades of four bayed seats with stiff leaf spandrels, beneath a string bitten off at the ends by serpents; a deeply recessed upper arcade of three arches to a bay, with complex openwork roll mouldings intersecting above the capitals, on coupled shafts free standing in front of attached shafts, enriched spandrels, and openwork Y-tracery in the tympanum beneath the vault. The south end decorated after the front entrance, including a moulded arch with a chevron order, and containing a pair of arched doorways with a deeply-moulded trumeau and good panelled early C13 doors with C15 Perpendicular tracery panels.
South elevation is similar: the chancel wall of the 1340 extension is recessed for the three east bays with flying buttresses, the windows to the west have uncusped intersecting tracery. Crossing tower has a c 1200 blind arcade to a string level with the roof ridge; upper section 1313, remodelled c 1440, has ribbed clasping buttresses to gabled niches with figures and pinnacles with sub-pinnacles; each side of three bays separated by narrow buttresses with pinnacles, a recessed transom with openwork tracery beneath and louvred trefoil-headed windows above, gabled hoods and finials. Corbels within for a spire, destroyed 1439.
West front screen is a double square in width, divided into five bays by very deep buttresses, with the wider nave bay set forward. The towers stand outside the aisles, the design of the front continued round both ends and returned at the rear. Statues of c 1230-1250, to an uncertain iconographic scheme. Divided vertically into three bands, beneath a central nave gable and Perpendicular towers; arches with originally blue Lias shafts, now mostly Kilkenny marble, and stiff leaf capitals. A tall, weathered plinth, with a central nave entrance of four orders with paired doorways and quatrefoil in the tympanum containing the seated Virgin with flanking angels, and smaller aisle entrances of two orders. Above is an arcade of gabled hoods over arches, containing paired trefoil-headed statue niches with bases and fifteen surviving figures; two-light Perpendicular tracery windows between the buttresses outside the nave; sunken quatrefoils in the spandrels, which cut across the corners of the buttresses. The third and principal band contains three tall, slightly stepped nave lancets, paired blind lancets between the outer buttresses, with narrower arches flanking them and to the faces and sides of the buttresses, all with banded Lias shafts and roll-moulded heads; the three arches to the sides and angled faces on the south-west and north-west corners have intersecting mouldings as in the north porch. All except the window arches contain two tiers of gabled statue niches with figures, taller ones in the upper tier, and across the top is an arcade of trefoil-headed statue niches with seated figures and carved spandrels. The nave buttresses have gabled tops containing cinquefoil-arched niches, and tall pinnacles with arched faces and conical tops; above the nave is a three-tier stepped gable with a lower arcade of ten cinquefoil-arched niches containing seated figures, a taller arcade of twelve niches with c 1400 figures of the Apostles, and a central top section with outer trefoil arches, corner sunken quatrefoils; the central oval recess with cusped sides and top contains a 1985 figure of Christ in Judgement beneath a pinnacle, with crosses and finials on the weathered coping. The Perpendicular towers continue the buttresses up with canopied statue niches to their faces and blank panelling to the sides, before raking them back into deep angle buttresses; between are a pair of two-light west windows, louvred above a transom and blind below, with a blind arcade above the windows, and a low crenellated coping.
INTERIOR: Lady Chapel: An elongated octagon in plan, with triple vault shafts with spherical foliate capitals to a tierceron vault forming a pattern of concentric stars, with spherical bosses and a paint scheme of 1845; the three west arches with Purbeck marble shafts onto the Retroquire have blind arched panels above; beneath the windows is a sill mould with fleurons, and a bench round the walls. Stone reredos has six statue niches with crocketed canopies and smaller niches in between, with four C19 sedilia with ogee-arched and crocketed canopies and a C14 cusped ogee trefoil-arched south doorway; C19 encaustic tiles.
The Retroquire extends laterally into east chapels each side and transeptal chapels: all with ogee-arched piscinae with crockets and finials, with a complex asymmetrical lierne vault on Purbeck marble shafts and capitals. The three east bays of the choir added early C14, and the high lierne vault of squares extended back over the three late C12 west bays, on triple vault shafts, Purbeck marble with roll-moulded capitals for the C14 and limestone with stiff leaf capitals for the C12; above the two-centre aisle arches and below the clerestory walk is a richly-carved openwork grille of statue niches with canopies, containing eight early C20 figures across the east end; clerestory walk has ogee-arched doorways. Rich canopies over choir stalls on Purbeck marble shafts, and five sedilia with enriched canopies. Ogee-arched doorways with crockets and pinnacles each side of the choir give onto the aisles, which have lierne vaults forming hexagons.
Transepts: Three bays deep and three wide, with cluster columns and stiff leaf capitals, including some fine figure carving in the south-west aisle, paired triforium arches between the vault shafts; the chancel aisles entered by C14 ogee-arched doorways with cinquefoil cusps and openwork panels each side; the north transept has a doorway from the east aisle with a depressed arch and moulded sides with a panelled Perpendicular ridge door, and Perpendicular panelled stone screens across the arcade; the south transept has an early C14 reredos with cusped ogee arches. The openings to the crossing contain inserted cross ogee strainer arches with triple chamfered moulding, on the west one an early C20 raised crucifix and flanking figures on shafted bases, and the roof has late C15 fan vaulting with mouchettes to the springers.
Nave: Ten-bay nave has compound columns of eight shafts with stiff leaf capitals enriched with figures, a continuous hood mould, with carved stops until the four west bays, which also have more richly-carved stiff leaf; a continuous triforium arcade of roll-moulded lancets with moulded rere arches, three to each bay, with enriched tympana and paterae in the spandrels above, carved corbels and springers to vault shafts above to a quadripartite vault without ridges; vault painted to a scheme of 1844. A panelled c 1450 gallery in the south clerestory window six from the west; aisles vaulted as nave, with enriched stiff leaf corbels. The west end has a trefoil-headed blank arcade on blue Lias shafts and a central stilted depressed-arch doorway, beneath the three west windows; the aisles end with a lateral rib from the vault to the west arcade. Chapels beneath the towers have sexpartite vaults with an enriched hole for the bell ropes; the south-west chapel has a shallow arch to the cloister beneath three cusped arched panels. The parvise over the north chapel contains a rare drawing floor. Two chantry chapels set between the east nave piers have fine openwork Perpendicular tracery and cresting, the south chapel of St Edmund c 1490 has a fan-vaulted canopy over the altar and two statue niches with canopies, and an ogee-arched doorway, the North Holy Cross Chapel c 1420 has quatrefoil panelling to the east canopy, distressed statue niches, and four-centre arched doorways.
FITTINGS: Lady Chapel: Brass lectern 1661 has a moulded stand and foliate crest.
Retroquire, North-East Chapel: fine oak C13 Cope Chest with a two-leaf top doors; panelled C17/C18 chest; north transept chapel: C17 oak screen with columns, formerly part of cow stalls, with artisan Ionic capitals and cornice, set forward over chest tomb of John Godilee; C14 floor tiles; south-east chapel: Bound oak C14 chest for Chapter Seal.
North Transept: Very fine c 1390 clock, considered the second oldest in the world after Salisbury Cathedral (qv), the face with heavenly bodies represented and four knights riding round above, and a quarter jack in the corner striking bells with a hammer and his heels; pine chest with bowed top.
Choir: Very fine stalls with misericords, c 1335; Bishop's Throne, c 1340, restored by Salvin c 1850, wide with panelled, canted front and stone doorway, deep nodding cusped ogee canopy over, with three stepped statue niches and pinnacles; C19 pulpit opposite, octagonal on a coved base with panelled sides, and steps up from the North aisle; organ within the chancel arch rebuilt and new case 1974.
South Transept: Round font from the former Saxon cathedral, with an arcade of round-headed arches, on a round plinth, with a c 1635 cover with heads of putti round sides.
Nave: Pulpit and tomb of William Knight, mid C16, built out from the Sugar chantry, with panelled buttresses, curved sides and a cornice.
Library: Good shelves and desks with panelled ends, cornices and scroll crests, and benches with ogee ends with ball finials of 1686.
MONUMENTS: Quire Corpus Christi North Transept Chapel: marble chest tomb of Robert Creyghton d 1672, an alabaster effigy on a sarcophagus with bowed sides; chest tomb of John Middleton, d c 1350, effigy set beneath the window; chest tomb of John Middleton, d c 1350, effigy set beneath the window; chest tomb of John Godelee, d 1333, effigy on a chest with open ogee arcade.
North Quire aisle: chest tombs of Bishop Giso, d 1088, Ralph of Salisby, d 1463, alabaster, and two further c 1230 effigies of Saxon Bishops, on mid C20 plinths; panelled chest tomb with three heraldic panels and moulded top; South-East Chapel of St John the Baptist: chest tomb encloses north side, with arcaded sides, thin mullions to a good openwork top with cusped gables and a canopy to east end.
St Katherine's Transept Chapel: Chest tomb of John Drokensford, d 1329, a painted effigy on a chest with open ogee arcade, as that for John Godelee; chest tomb of John Gunthorpe, d 1498 with five heraldic panels and moulded top. South chancel aisle: effigy of John Bernard, d 1459 on a mid C20 plinth; fine chest tomb of Bishop Bekynton, d 1464 but made c 1450, a cadaver within the open lower section with enriched shafts and angel capitals, with a painted marble figure on top, surrounded by a fine C15 wrought-iron screen with buttress stanchions; raised, incised coffin slab of Bishop Bytton d 1274, blue Lias; large chest tomb of Bishop Harvey d 1894 with five trefoil panels and an effigy with putti to the head; three c 1230 effigies of Saxon Bishops on mid C20 plinths; chest tomb of Bishop Harewell d 1386, a marble effigy on a C20 plinth.
North Transept, east aisle: Enriched marble chest tomb of John Still d 1607 with black Corinthian columns to entablature, sarcophagus with alabaster effigy; chest tomb to Bishop Kidder, d 1703 marble with an enriched naturalistic reclining figure of his daughter in front of two urns of her parents.
South Transept: Chapel of St Calixtus, fine un-named chest tomb of c 1450, with carved alabaster panels and effigy; Chapel of St Martin, chest tomb of William Bykonyll c 1448 with an arcaded front, cusped shallow arch over the effigy, panelled ceiling and a rich crested top; C15 wrought-iron gates to both chapels; in the south wall, good monument to Bishop William de Marchia, d 1302, three cusped cinquefoil-headed arches on moulded shafts, ogee hoods and pinnacles to a crenellated top, with an effigy within, with a three-bay segmental vaulted canopy, and decorated with six carved heads beneath.
STAINED GLASS: Original early glass is mainly in the choir and Lady Chapel; the Parliamentarians caused extensive damage generally in August 1642 and May 1643. Earliest fragments are in two windows on the west side of the Chapter House staircase (c 1280-90), and in two windows in the south choir aisle (c 1310-20), but of principal interest is the Lady Chapel range, c 1325-30, the east window including extensive repairs by Willement, 1845, and the others with substantial complete canopy-work, otherwise much in fragments. The choir east window is a fine Jesse Tree, including much silver stain, flanked by two windows each side in the clerestory, with large figures of saints, all these of c 1340-45; a further window each side is late C19. The chapel of St Katherine has interesting panels of c 1520, attributed to Arnold of Nijmegen; these, in the south and east windows were acquired from the destroyed church of St John, Rouen, the last panel was bought in 1953. The large triple lancet to the nave west end was glazed at the expense of Dean Creyghton at a cost of £140 in c 1664: repaired in 1813, but the central light largely replaced to a design by A K Nicholson between 1925-31. The main north and south transept end windows are by Powell, 1903-05, and the nave south aisle has four paired lights of 1881-1904, with a similar window at the west end of each aisle.
This entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 19 February 2018.
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