Heritage Open Days: September 7-10, 2017

September 7 to September 10

This year there are nine different sites opening their doors in Wells – plus a guided walk and a tour. And all free of charge.

Wells Heritage Open Days run from Thursday, September 7, to Sunday, September 10. This year’s sites include the Town Hall, Museum, Old Deanery and Gardens, Bishop’s Barn, Almshouses, St Cuthbert’s Church, Wells United Church, and Mendip Hospital Cemetery and Chapel. Many of these sites are offering tours and displays. The Bishop’s Palace is offering a Water Walk and Wells Walking Tours is laying on a heritage tour of South Wells.

Opening hours vary over the four days and booking is required for some events, so check the programme (available around the city and at the Visitor Information Service at Wells Museum) or visit the Wells Heritage Open Days website at www.hodswellssomerset.com.

Wells Town Hall

Wells Town Hall will be throwing its doors open to the general public again on September 9 as part of the national Heritage Open Days. Most rooms in the Town Hall will be open, including the Mayor’s Parlour (where the city’s historic maces and staves will be exhibited), the Parkes Room and the ballroom. The Town Hall, which is a Grade II listed building dating from 1779, will be open between 10am and 4pm.

Visitors will be able to see a new, specially-created display called Cage, Cowhouse and Clink: Prisons of Wells from Medieval Times to the Present Day. There have been nine prisons in Wells during this period. Many people know about the gaol in the City Arms, but what about the one in the Shambles, and those known as Little Ease, The Cage and The Cowhouse?

Wells Railway Fraternity will also be exhibiting on September 9; Richard Green will be presenting a display about the Wells Charter Fairs and the recent images that have come to light; and evocative images from local historic postcards will be on display. For the fourth year running, Wells Civic Society is loaning panoramic photos of the streets of Wells. For children, the city archivist has created a ‘Children’s Quiz and Trail round the Town Hall’.

St Cuthbert’s Church

In St Cuthbert’s Church there are two fascinating medieval altarpieces (or reredos), and around 420 broken pieces of the sculpture once contained in them. Dismantled and hidden in the walls of the church during the Reformation, they were rediscovered as recently as 1848. Because they were hidden for so long, much of their medieval paint has survived intact, offering a unique glimpse into the richly decorated medieval church interior.

A recent investigation into the altarpieces and the fragments, one of which is shown below, gave us much more information about these treasures and the findings of the project work will be presented in a series of special tours in the church.

During Heritage Open Days there will be an opportunity to find out more about this unique part of the history of Wells through displays and talks. There will also be fun and creative activities for families to explore the hidden histories of the church.

On Saturday there will be opportunities to visit the ringing chamber and find out more about the skill of bell-ringing. Tours up the tower can be booked – more details from stcuthbertschurchwardens@gmail.com

Refreshments will be available, with cream teas on offer on Sunday afternoon.

Opening times:

• Saturday, September 9: 10am-5pm. Talks about the reredoses at 10.30am, 11.30am, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

• Sunday, September 10: 12pm-5pm. Talks at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

The Old Deanery and Garden

The Old Deanery, at No 9, Cathedral Green, and garden will be open to the public on September 9 between 10am and 4pm.

The garden was associated with Dean William Turner in the 16th century and recently volunteers have been working to create a garden, in Tudor style, growing the sort of plants that he would have known. William Turner has been called the “Father of English Botany” and is known for his Herball, written in English describing plants and their medicinal uses.

Medical herbalist Barbara Lewis and former archivist Frances Neale will be guiding walks around the garden during which modern uses of medicinal herbs will be compared with 16th century uses as described by William Turner. Entry to the garden is free.

City of Wells Almshouses

The City of Wells Almshouses will be open on September 9 between 11am and 4pm on the Bubwith and Llewellyns sites. There will be refreshments with home-baked cakes at Bubwith and a plant sale at Llewellyns. A ukulele band will be playing between 2pm and 3pm in the Bubwith chapel.

Wells Walking Tours

Tour of South Wells at 10.30am on September 8, starting at the entrance to Tor Hill Woods (by the National Trust sign) and finishing at Priory Health Centre. Lasts 1.5 hours max. Advance booking required, tel: 01749 672438 or email guide@wellswalkingtours.co.uk.

The Bishop’s Palace

Water Walk at 2pm on September 8, meet outside the Palace shop and finish on the drawbridge. Lasts one hour. Advance booking required, tel: 01749 988111 x 202 or email siobhan.goodwin@bishopspalace.org.uk.

Wells & Mendip Museum

Curator’s tours at 11am on September 7, 8 and 9.

Mendip Hospital Cemetery and Chapel

Open from 10am-4pm on September 9 and 10, with tours at 11am and 3pm each day.

The Bishop’s Barn

Open from 12pm-2pm on September 8.

Wells United Church

Harvest Exhibition of Arts and Crafts, demonstrations, stalls, harvest display, September 9, 10am-4pm, Seager Hall and Church. Refreshments including light lunches.