In 1348, Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury founded a college so that the Vicars Choral, the singing men of the choir, could live together communally.
He provided a hall for meals and each of the 42 vicars with his own small house. These were built on two sides of a quadrangle, with the hall at one end and later, a chapel enclosing the other end.
In the 15th century, the houses were given front gardens and the Chain Gate was built to provide a passage from the hall into the cathedral. Vicars’ Close, as the street came to be known, is the only completely medieval street in England.
Vicars’ Close Heritage Programme
A recent inspection revealed the pressing need for an extensive programme of conservation works involving every single property in Vicars’ Close. 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.
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. More information about this ambitious programme can be found here.