Library & Archives
The Cathedral Library was built in the mid-fifteenth century over the East Cloister.
It houses the book collection of the Chapter in two areas: the Chained Library and the Reading Room. The earliest records of the Cathedral are housed in the Muniment Room at the southern end of the Library.
The Library can be viewed by the public at appointed times in the summer season, when there is a small exhibition of books and documents, and we welcome full tours by groups that make prior arrangements. Scholars are also welcome but must make their requirements known and book an appointment in advance with the Librarian, Mr Kevin Spears, by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 01749 674483.
A catalogue is available in the Reading Room, which is open to subscribers January–November, Mondays to Thursdays, 11.00am – 1.00pm and 2.00pm – 4.00pm. To become a subscriber at an annual cost of £10 [£7.50 if payment is by standing order] please apply to the Librarian at the address below.
The postal address for the Library is: Cathedral Offices, Chain Gate, Cathedral Green, Wells, BA5 2UE.
The Archives comprise the records of the Dean and Chapter from the eleventh century to the present day. These illustrate the day-to-day running of the cathedral, with an emphasis on the management of cathedral property in Wells and manors and estates in Somerset, 1060s – 1860s, but include no personal or family papers of the canons or other people employed by the Cathedral.
Administrative and legal records survive from the 11th century, the oldest being a rare Papal letter of 1060.
Accounts and financial records survive from the late fourteenth century and are by no means as complete as the administrative ones. The most extensive part of the collection consists of the leases of Chapter property, running chiefly from the 17th century.
The Cathedral registers of baptisms, marriages and burials date from 1660 and there is also an extensive collection of plans and photographs.
The Archives also comprise the records of the College of Vicars Choral, 1348-1933, beginning with its foundation charter of 1348, and the records of Wells Old Almshouses, founded in the early 15th century, but with title deeds to its property from the thirteenth century.
The oldest Chapter records are housed in the Library Muniment Room, more modern ones in the West Cloister Archives, where the Archive Reading Room is situated. The collection is fully catalogued, although not yet in electronic form. An out-of-date but still useful handlist of the archives can be obtained via the Archon Directory on the National Archives website: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon
The records are open to the public, but an appointment should be made in advance with the Archivist, Dr. Julia Wood, who is on duty on Wednesdays and Thursdays; please contact by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 01749 674483.
The postal address for the Archives is: Cathedral Offices, Chain Gate, Cathedral Green, Wells, BA5 2UE