The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Wells Cathedral-Watch the 2nd oldest working clock known.

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I miss England.  I really do.

A big post to write, this one was fun to research. Enjoy!

Wells, England is home to a magnificent cathedral. Next to it is the home of the Bishop of Bath and Wells since the 12th century. We arrived too late to take in that home’s tour but enjoyed a walk around the perimeter and its moat which, along with drawbridges, fortified them from angry taxpayers.  My first moat!  The cobbled streets and medieval buildings that line the town center it were wonderful to stroll.

Again, the theme here is aged sights, so new to me.

This west face is famed for the many niches filled with life-sized (or larger) sculptures, including standing and seated figures, half-length angels and narratives in high relief. Once painted in bright colors, flakes of paint that defiantly cling give clues to the original color scheme. Imagine the sight of color added.  Many lower level statues have been destroyed.


How can one not stand under such structures and gape? It is in the Gothic Style, unusual as Norman churches from that time were usually built in the Romanesque style. Some think this was the first of the Gothic style built in Europe.


Between Glastonbury and Bath, we stopped here for a leg stretcher on the way to the Cotswolds. The countryside was green and lovely.


This Anglican church was constructed beginning in 1175 and  continued through 1490. It  replaced an earlier church built on the same site in 708.  The town was situated here for its natural springs which were thought to be medicinal. Remains of a Roman Mausoleum were unearthed on this site in 1980.



The nave.  See the odd-shaped arches below the crucifix?  The were installed in 1338 after it was noted two supportive piers sunk 4″ and a tower cracked.  This unusual solution used massive arches to brace the piers. Some call them Scissors Arches.  It’s since been stable.


Compared to the more delicate structure they do stand out.


Note that at one time the Nave’s walls were once brightly painted. Whitewashing happened  during the Reformation to cover up brightly painted walls considered inappropriate. Imagine the sight of those walls glowing as the sun streamed in through upper windows.  The “Great Scrape” happened in 1845, removing lime. Traces of red lead can still be seen.

This font in the cathedral’s south transept is from the original 705 church and is the oldest part left. Destruction from the Reformation knocked off carvings of angels.


Memorial plates, set in the stone floor, often had the bronze harvested from them to pay for maintenance and upgrades in tough times, as these demonstrate below.


These beautiful Miseriecords were wooden carved ledges that clergy could rest against after hours and hours of singing and recitation.  The brackets are ornate and lovely.  They date from 1330-40.  Of the original 90, 65 survive with most installed in the Quire. The Wikipedia page on this site has much better photos of these seats than I.


The Quire is one of the oldest areas of the church and is where services happen now.  Daily services are still conducted and entrance is by donation only.  It takes 4500 pounds per day(!!!!) to maintain this treasure.   Local ladies,using plant-dyed wools, embroidered beautiful hangings of the various bishops’ coats of arms.  I enjoyed examining them. There was also a cat that dashed across our groups’ path. Apparently, the stray  adopted herself to the church some years ago and hasn’t left, and enjoys naps on the cushions.


This cathedral is known for its outstanding collection of stained glass, some of it Medieval. The oldest surviving glass dates from the late 13th century. This window is (I think, but I’m not positive) the Jesse Window that survived destruction during the English Civil War due to its height. This was put up in 1340 and is one of 3 in the UK of its kind. It is in an area called the Lady Chapel on the east end.


Some windows were smashed to bits. You can see in this up-close shot that this Medieval one was put back together willy-nilly, its original image lost but preserved in the upper part as they did not have ladders.


Here is the ceiling of the Lady Chapel which was painted in Victorian times.


Some capitals sport stories shared in carvings such as this moment in a collection of many clustered around a giant column. It tells the tale of an old and a young man who get caught stealing grapes. The young is able to run off and the old man is caught.


Some capitals have delightfully creative, humorous carvings such as this person pulling a thorn from his foot.


These capitals show a form of carving called the “stiff leave” style foliage. Our docent mentioned the masons were all local and the carving happened quite spontaneously, as builders would request the carving when needed.

A set of very worn stairs lead up to the Chapter House, started in the late 13th century and completed in about 1310.


I could not take a photo of its entirety. Here’s one I’ve snagged from Wikipedia. Photo Credit:  User Diliff on WikiCommons. I can’t get the dang exact link text to copy and paste.

Isn’t it gorgeous!  There are 51 niches for clergy members to conduct the business of the church.


It’s octagonal structure has a stunning ribbed vault supported on a single, central column of stone and marble.


Blurry. But note the foliage was carved in a different style than on the capitals in the main building? The leaves are not “stiff.”


More carvings top the capitals. I can’t help but wonder if the artists weren’t having a jest at the people who entered this chamber? The faces were quite silly.



Now for a real treat.  The Wells clock from 1390 is considered the second oldest original working clock in the world and the oldest with its original dials.  And we heard it.

Another I-can’t-believe-I’m-seeing-such-a-thing-moment happened for me.

There’s an hour, minute and month hand. Jousting knights gallop around the turret on each quarter-hour.  The figure above and to the right strikes bells on each quarter-hour with his heels and with a hammer on the hour, steadfastly for over 600 years.

My recording is not so great. There are better on YouTube you could look that up if you like.


Such a beautiful piece of art!


If you’re visiting this area, I can’t recommend it enough. We joined a free tour that was outstanding.  I’d take it again. And again.

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