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Wells - Cathedral

The English Gothic style, known as "Early English", began with the construction of Wells Cathedral in 1180. Wells is the earliest Gothic church to be fully equipped with pointed arches. Alongside Salisbury Cathedral, it is the main work of early English Gothic architecture, but also contains parts from the High and Late Gothic periods.

An abbey church was built in Wells in 705 by Aldhelm, first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Sherborne during the reign of King Ine of Wessex. It stood at the site of the cathedral's cloisters. In 766 Cynewulf, King of Wessex, signed a charter endowing the church with eleven hides of land. In 909 the seat of the diocese was moved from Sherborne to Wells.

The building programme, begun by Reginald Fitz Jocelin, Bishop in the 12th century. Adam Locke was master mason from about 1192 until 1230. It was designed in the new style with pointed arches, later known as Gothic. The main parts of the church were complete by the time of the dedication in 1239.

By the time the cathedral, including the chapter house, was finished in 1306, it was already too small and unable to accommodate increasingly grand processions of clergy. John Droxford initiated another phase of building under master mason Thomas of Whitney, during which the central tower was heightened and an eight-sided Lady chapel was added at the east end by 1326.


Money was raised for the completion of the west front by William Wynford, who was appointed as master mason in 1365. One of the foremost master masons of his time, Wynford worked for the king at Windsor, Winchester Cathedral and New College, Oxford. At Wells, he designed the western towers of which north-west was not built until the following century. In the 14th century, the central piers of the crossing were found to be sinking under the weight of the crossing tower which had been damaged by an earthquake in the previous century. Strainer arches, sometimes described as scissor arches, were inserted by master mason William Joy to brace and stabilise the piers as a unit.

The octagonal "Chaper House" has been completed around 1310. It is a two-storeyed structure with the main chamber raised on an undercroft. With its ribbed vault supported on a central column. The column is surrounded by shafts of marble, rising to a single continuous rippling foliate capital of stylised oak leaves and acorns, quite different in character from the Early English stiff-leaf foliage. Above the moulding spring 32 ribs of strong profile, giving an effect generally likened to "a great palm tree". Beneath the windows are 51 stalls.

The was once the stall of John Bernard. He did probably not craved the initals into the stone. Maybe Oliver Cromwell┬┤s soldiers did.
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1 comment

Don Sutherland said:

Outstanding photo.
8 weeks ago