Vicars’ Close – A Medieval Street Singing Through the Centuries

Vicars’ Close adjoins Wells Cathedral and is believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England.  This significant landmark was designed to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sang daily worship within the Cathedral.  This centuries-old tradition continues today and is a unique and much valued part of life at Wells Cathedral.

A recent inspection revealed the pressing need for an extensive programme of conservation works involving every single property.  As a result, the Chapter of Wells Cathedral have agreed to embark upon a major programme which presents an unprecedented opportunity to secure the integrity of and access to a unique heritage asset for future generations.

 Vicars' Close House Flowering doorway on Vicars' Close Vicars close arch

It is anticipated that this programme may take up to a decade to complete and cost in the region of £9million.  As well as the extensive conservation works to the fabric of the buildings the programme will also involve a wide range of activities that will focus on three main themes:

Buildings

Beyond the physical conservation of the fabric of the buildings, this programme also offers a wide variety of opportunities for visitors to explore how and why this extraordinary close was built.  It will give people the opportunity to find out about the crafts involved in building and maintaining the Close.  Activities will be offered both during the capital work phase and after the completion of the conservation works.  Visitors will discover how this working street has been changed and adapted over the years to make it suitable for changing times and new generations.  Activities may include tours, talks, demonstrations and other interactive opportunities.

People

The Programme will tell stories of the people who have lived in the Close, their connections to the Cathedral and life in Wells in medieval times through contemporary records from the extensive Wells Cathedral archives.  These stories will be brought to life and will demonstrate the continuity of life on the Close for over 800 years and its current place in Cathedral life as a living community.

Music

At the heart of this programme, opportunities will be offered to explore the choral traditions associated with the Close and Wells Cathedral.  Stories and traditions of the Vicars’ Choral will be revealed and its significance to Wells both in the past and today.  Choral tradition and its significance will be made accessible both to those with an existing interest in music but also to those with no experience or prior knowledge.

The Vicars’ Close Heritage Programme offers Wells Cathedral the opportunity to secure the future of the buildings in Vicars’ Close, ensuring that it is a sustainable part of the Cathedral estate for future generations.  The planned activities will allow us to open up the close to the public and offer a variety of interpretation opportunities.  Both will help to ensure that the Close continues to house the choral tradition that is very much at the heart of life at Wells Cathedral.

This programme is still in the planning phase but this page will be updated as the details develop.  If you would like to know more about the programme or are interested in discussing how you might be able to support it please contact Kelly Hall on 01749 674483 or email at [email protected]