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53 and 53a-d St Thomas Street

A Grade II Listed Building in Wells, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2127 / 51°12'45"N

Longitude: -2.639 / 2°38'20"W

OS Eastings: 355460

OS Northings: 146139

OS Grid: ST554461

Mapcode National: GBR MN.3Z33

Mapcode Global: VH89S.6SQ6

Plus Code: 9C3V6976+39

Entry Name: 53 and 53a-d St Thomas Street

Listing Date: 12 November 1953

Last Amended: 6 June 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1383140

English Heritage Legacy ID: 483558

Location: Wells, Mendip, Somerset, BA5

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

Town: Mendip

Civil Parish: Wells

Built-Up Area: Wells

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Tagged with: Building

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House in a row, now three dwellings, probably late C15, altered and extended in the C17 and C18; further alterations during the C20. To the rear are two attached cottages of early-C19 date and modernised in the late C20.


House in a row, now three dwellings, probably late C15, altered and extended in the C17 and C18; further alterations during the C20. To the rear are two attached cottages of early-C19 date and modernised in the late C20.

MATERIALS: local random stone rubble with Doulting stone dressings under clay pantiled roof with a plain gable to the west end and a coped gable to the east, and brick end chimney stacks. The rear wing and attached cottages are also built of stone rubble with a pantiled roof to the former wing and double Roman tiles to the cottages. There are gable-end stacks of stone and brick. The late-C20 addition to 53d which incorporates a possible earlier outhouse is built of stone rubble and part rendered, and has a roof covered in double Roman tiles.

PLAN: the buildings have an L-shaped plan comprising a two-unit through-passage house which was remodelled in the C17; an early/mid-C18 rear wing of three bays; and a pair of attached early-C19 cottages (53c and d) built against the north gable end of the wing. The through-passage house has been subdivided into two dwellings (53 and 53a St Thomas Street) which share the passage, and the first bay of the rear wing forms part of the left-hand house (53). The remaining two bays of the wing are a separate dwelling (53b).

EXTERIOR: the principal house (53 and 53a) has two storeys and attics and its three-bay front faces south onto the road. It has a heavy stone plinth with a chamfered top which continues along part of the east elevation. The slightly off-centre entrance has a chamfered, four-centred stone surround with a C20 half-glazed door. It is accessed by two stone steps. The outer ground-floor bays have sixteen-pane sash windows under timber lintels. To the first floor, are three ovolo-moulded stone mullioned windows with labels. The window to bay one has four lights, and those to the centre and right-hand end have three lights. Straight joints from earlier openings are visible to the either side of the ground-floor windows, to the left of upper bay two, and to the right of upper bay three. The east gable end, which has previously been rendered, has an inserted C20 doorway and a small blocked window with a timber frame under the original eaves lines. To the rear are several additions of various dates including a former outshut to the left which has been raised to two stories, a narrow addition under a catslide, and a lean-to extension, at one time a wood store. The rear entrance to the through passage has a C17 scratch-moulded plank door in an ovolo-moulded timber frame, although both may have been re-sited. At the west end of the rear elevation is the former rear wing. Its left-hand bay (part of 53), which is partly obscured by the additions to the rear elevation of the house, has a modern door to the ground floor and a uPVC window above. The east elevation of the other two bays (53b) has a central entrance with late-C20 door to the left-hand bay and a timber three-light window to either side, all under timber lintels. There are two matching windows at first floor. The two cottages to the north of the wing each originally had a central entrance which was flanked by a window, although the principal entrance to No.53d is now through the late-C20 extension. To the first floor of 53c are two single-light windows, those to No.53d are of one and two lights; all have uPVC frames under timber or cement lintels.

INTERIOR: the through passage has half-panelled walls and a flagged floor which rises via three steps to the rear door. Three doorways lead off the passage, including an early-C18 door. 53 and 53a St Thomas Street (not inspected) are described in a survey by the Somerset Vernacular Architecture Group in 1980. No.53, to the left (west) of the passage, is understood to have a C17 fireplace with a depressed, four-centred arched surround with incised spandrels to its principal room. This fireplace has a rectangular brick fireback arranged in a herringbone pattern with a surround of plain bricks and decorative scrolls to the upper corners. There is a similar, but smaller surround to the fireplace in the room above. The stairs rise in the recess between the fireplace and the north wall. A doorway in the north wall leads through to the southernmost bay of the rear wing (part of 53) which has two ovolo-moulded axial ceiling beams, possibly later insertions, which each carry the markings for a cross beam that is no longer extant. To the right of the passage, the principal ground-floor room in 53a has a large fireplace with a chamfered lintel and an unchamfered transverse beam. In the north wall is an inserted stair with C17 balusters that are pierced and diagonally moulded. On the first floor there are two ovolo-moulded doorframes, one with scratch-moulded door. The roof to the original building (53 and 53a) is considered to be C17 and has straight principals with slightly-cambered tenoned collars, chamfered purlins and a tenoned ridge piece, while the roof of the C18 rear wing has straight principals with substantial lapped collars and two rows of purlins. No.53b, formerly part of the wing was not inspected internally (February 2014) but is understood to retain an open fireplace and two ceiling beams to the ground floor and a fireplace with cast-iron grate upstairs. The left-hand cottage (53c) also has an open fireplace with segmental-arched brick lintel in the sitting room and a similar, but smaller fireplace to one of the bedrooms. In its rear (west) wall is a re-sited lancet window with pointed head and stone chamfered surround. The adjacent cottage (53d) has a fireplace with brick lintel to its principal ground-floor room, and its roof comprises straight principal rafters and a single row of staggered purlins. The roof timbers of 53c are not exposed, but are considered to be of the same construction as those in 53d.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the rear of 53 and 53a St Thomas Street is a one-and-a-half storey outbuilding of stone rubble with a pantiled roof. It has a lean-to addition on its west elevation and a further lean-to has been built against this. Not inspected internally (February 2014).


St Thomas Street is situated within what was formerly a medieval suburb of Wells known as Byestwalles which was located to the east of the Cathedral precinct. There are C13 documentary references to properties in this street and some towards the western end were in the Bishop’s hands. In the post-medieval period, however, the area seems to have declined somewhat in prestige, if not in extent.

53 St Thomas Street (now 53 and 53a), a two-room through passage house is considered to date from at least the late C15. The building was updated in the C17 when the roof was replaced, stone surrounds were added to a number of the fireplaces, and a staircase was inserted in the eastern room. The outshut to the rear was also probably added at this time. In the C18, although possibly earlier, the house was extended with a rear wing of three bays. A row of two cottages and what was probably an attached outhouse (53c-d) were added to the north of the wing in the early C19. The Ordnance Survey town plan of 1886 describes these cottages as Hulbert’s Place. During the second half of the C20 the house and its rear wing were sub-divided into three dwellings. The northernmost cottage (53d) was extended with a late-C20 addition, incorporating the possible outhouse, in the late C20.

Reasons for Listing

Nos.53 and 53a-d St Thomas Street in Wells is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: despite its subdivision, the house is a very good example of a C15 cross-passage dwelling with historical alterations and additions whose plan form and evolution remain clearly legible;
* Fittings: a high proportion of historic fixtures and fittings of various dates remain throughout, notably some fireplaces, architrave and panelled doors and a C17 staircase;
* Historic interest: the survival of the wing and the attached cottages to the rear of the house provide evidence for the historical development of the site.

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