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Wells is the smallest city in England: a city purely because of the presence of its famous cathedral.

In reality, this quiet Somerset backwater, with only about 10,000 residents, has much more of the atmosphere of a small rural town. The name of the city came from the wells, which have been known since prehistoric times. These natural springs are now in the garden of the Bishop’s Palace.

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Accommodation:

Beryl Hawkers Lane, Wells Tel: 01749 678738
Glengarth B & B 7, Glastonbury Rd, Wells Tel: 01749 674792
Willow Bridge Guest House Willow Bridge Farm Tel: 01458 833081

Stone Age flints and fragments of Roman pottery have been found near the wells and archaeological excavations also revealed the remains of an intact late Roman mausoleum, probably Christian. Unfortunately, the burial vault had been robbed of its original contents. This stone-lined chamber has postholes and slots in the walls, indicating that it was originally housed within a larger building.

Recently, archaeological research has shed new light on both the springs and the mediaeval water works. The water from the springs was harnessed to drive mills, flush drains and provide a piped supply of drinking water. From the end of the 12th century, the holy well of St Andrew provided a channelled supply for the needs of the cathedral. Water still flows beneath the cloister where the remains of the mediaeval dipping place can still be seen.

What eventually became the centre of the site for today’s religious complex was also the site of a Middle Saxon mortuary chapel. The altar position could clearly be seen and there was evidence of seven burials. A mid 8th century Frisian silver coin was also discovered here, the furthest west such a coin has been found.

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