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Tower House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Wells, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2113 / 51°12'40"N

Longitude: -2.6429 / 2°38'34"W

OS Eastings: 355188

OS Northings: 145983

OS Grid: ST551459

Mapcode National: GBR MN.3XYF

Mapcode Global: VH89S.4TN9

Plus Code: 9C3V6964+GR

Entry Name: Tower House

Listing Date: 12 November 1953

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1383103

English Heritage Legacy ID: 483521

Location: Wells, Mendip, Somerset, BA5

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

Civil Parish: Wells

Built-Up Area: Wells

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Tagged with: House

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662-1/7/243 (North side)
12/11/53 No.2
Tower House


Large detached house in grounds. Early C14 and C15, with C18,
C19 and C20 modifications. Local stone rubble, with Doulting
ashlar dressings; roof is slated to E but pantiled to rear
slopes, and formerly had stone tiles, brick chimney stacks on
stone bases.
PLAN: a long N/S first floor hall range, with an undercroft to
the S end, an added bay with tower at N end, and a short
projecting wing to the rear (W), opposite the later main
staircase. In the internal angle is an inserted lean-to
addition, with a circular stair turret at the N end.
EXTERIOR: 2 storeys with attic, E elevation (facing the
Liberty), 5 bays plus the north-east corner three-storey
tower. Bay 1 has a 15-pane sash window with thick glazing bars
at mezzanine level, with a 6-pane casement and a slim casement
to lower ground floor and 6-pane casement under eaves. Bay 2
has a partly glazed entrance door in moulded wood frame with
plain timber hood, above it a small 8-pane and a large 18-pane
sash window. Bays 3 and 4 have large 12-pane sash windows, and
bay 5 has a 12-pane sash to the ground floor, with a 2-light
mullioned window, having cambered arched lights and a square
label, to first floor; a similar mullioned window without
label under eaves.
The tower has small stair windows, with a south-east corner
turret corbelled out above first floor level, and a plain
parapet. Sundry alterations in stonework this face, infill
under a segmental relieving arch over the entrance door, a
relieving arch over the bay 4 ground-floor window and a long
jamb to the right, straight joint between bays 4 and 5.
North wall of turret has a 2-light mullioned window at second
floor level, with curl end square label, similar window
without label in main north gable to house.
The main gables are coped. South gable (facing St Andrew
Street), has two 18-pane sash windows to the ground floor, one
set in the moulded head and jambs of an earlier 2-light
window, the other has a semicircular arch and deadlight over,
slim window to left in moulded opening. Above in the gable a
blocked 2-light Decorated traceried pointed arched window with
transom, the outlines of the tracery marked on rendering.
The wing westwards, set back one bay from the S end of the
main range, has 2 bays with 18-pane sash windows, doubled to
ground floor bay 1.
INTERIOR: the main range has a dog-leg stair opposite the main
entry. To its left a 3-storey range on undercroft; at first
floor the square room has a cusped rere-arch to a former
stone-mullioned tracery window matching that above, and has
C16 panelling. The main ground floor is divided, with a
corridor to the W side, the main hall above has a fireplace at
the N end, and openings to the tower and to the former
The tower has a spiral staircase, and a further spiral stair
is contained in a turret to the W of the hall at the N end.
The main roof is in 4 bays, with heavy cambered collars to
arch braces, principals halved to a diagonal ridge-piece, 2
ranges of wind-bracing, and chamfered purlins to run-out
stops; between the purlins at mid-bay is a post in the plane
of the roof. The brattished plate has a frieze with pierced
quatrefoils. In the wing is a 2-bay roof-frame in identical
The ground floor of the wing, a kitchen, is entered through a
late medieval door with vertical plank on horizontal, and has
a stone-flagged floor, and a 4-compartment ceiling with
moulded beams. There is also, to the S, a wide 4-centred arch
with panelled soffit, containing a later door. The attached
lean-to to the N includes a bread-oven, but without stack.
HISTORICAL NOTE: the house is sometimes known as the House of
the Master of the Fabric, (see e.g Parker, op cit), but there
is no documentary evidence to support this; it was allocated
as the Precentor's House in 1338, but from 1734 became an
ordinary canonical house, and a 'Bishop's Rib (qv 'The Rib').
At the end of the C19 it was the house of the Vice-Principal
of the Theological College, one of whose daughters, Elizabeth
Goudge, the novelist, was born here.
The house is now in private ownership. It retains one of the
best early fabrics in the city.
(The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: North Somerset and
Bristol: London: 1958-: 326; Bailey S: Canonical Houses of
Wells: Gloucester: 1982-: 128; Parker JH: The Architectural
Antiquities of the City of Wells: London: 1866-: 26).

Listing NGR: ST5518845983

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