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©  John Boothroyd ARPS

IoE Number: 483617
Location: 14-27 VICARS' CLOSE (west side)
Photographer: John Boothroyd ARPS
Date Photographed: 30 April 2001
Date listed: 12 November 1953
Date of last amendment: 31 May 2000
Grade I

The Images of England website consists of images of listed buildings based on the statutory list as it was in 2001 and does not incorporate subsequent amendments to the list. For the statutory list and information on the current listed status of individual buildings please go to The National Heritage List for England.

WELLS ST5445 VICARS' CLOSE 662-1/7/334 (West side) 12/11/53 Nos.14-27 (Consecutive) (Formerly Listed as: VICAR'S CLOSE Nos.1-13 AND 14-27 (Consecutive)) GV I Terrace of 14 houses, originally 23. From c1360, for Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury, the chimney shafts renewed in C15, probably for Bishop Bekynton, and various rear extensions of C16, C17 and C18; considerable refenestration in C18 and early C19. Major restoration 1976 to 1983, recorded on a plaque on boundary wall to E side (qv), near the S end. Rough squared local rubble, Doulting ashlar dressings and chimney shafts, slate to front roof slopes, pantile generally to rear, but Nos 27 and 28 have scalloped tiles on the front slopes. PLAN: each house had originally a ground floor hall approx 6x4m, with projecting winder stair to rear left leading to upper hall of the same size, both with fireplace in the front wall. Each property had a rear door through a squinch opening to a small enclosed yard, and possibly a latrine under the staircase. All subject to extension and alteration from mid C15, when some of the C14 units knocked together to make single dwellings. Few plans remain unchanged, and there have been various combinations and extensions; No.14 has a return wing facing S down the Close, and attached to the Vicars' Chapel (qv), and No.16 was almost entirely rebuilt in the C18. Some interiors and layouts are described below. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys, some attics, variously 2 to 6 bays, many 12-pane sashes, but No.18 has canted sash bays through 2 storeys, and Nos 22, 26, 27 and 28 have restored stone mullioned casements. Doors are generally 4 or 6-panel, mostly with transom-lights, but Nos 22 and 27 have plank doors on straps. There are various remains of flush surrounds to former door and window openings, and a moulded stone eaves course is interrupted by the external stacks, 21 in all, with square lower sections carrying octagonal shafts with an open fretted capping (but the 2 stacks to No.16 are without cappings). Each stack has 2 square stone panels with heraldic shields. INTERIORS: the following were inspected: No.14: includes a return range to the right, facing S down the Close. A reference in 1790 gives it as being the house of 'the Senior Priest Vicar'. It is in 1 bay with a C15 4-light stone-mullioned casement to each floor, separated by a panelled apron with heraldic shields; the lights include Art Nouveau leaded glazing to the cusped heads. In the gable above is a small blocked vent. The property has a more complex plan than the other houses, with a small yard enclosed on the N side by 2 wings, gabled to The Liberty, and joined by a wall. There are various windows in these wings including C15 or C16 stone casements. Entrance is to the far left, with a square well staircase between front and rear ranges, and the principal room to the right connects to the S-facing range. The passage has a wide blocked opening, right, to the yard; the upper floor is similar, with the main bedroom connected to the upper room in the return range. At the ground floor the passage wall is exposed rubble. The room to the right has a large but damaged fireplace, the upper pinnacle or ogee broken, above a very flat arch, and flanked by sashes in embrasures. The 6-compartment ceiling has moulded beams. The adjoining space has a square fireplace with moulded surround, but interrupted across the lintel, and a 4-compartment ceiling similar to that adjoining. The kitchen to the rear has a wide C17 plank door and 2 stopped-chamfer beams; the window to the courtyard has a 4-centred head, and eccentric timber fill. The passage by the staircase has a very wide 4-centred opening to a broad chamfer, and to the right are remains of a spiral stair, and a 2-light casement with chamfered mullion. Under the stair is a wide-plank C17 door. The bottom tread of the staircase, in stone, has an incised grid pattern, continued to the nosing. The staircase, probably C18, has turned balusters and solid rail. The first floor main room has 2 beams, and a cut-down C15 fireplace, painted, with triple colonnettes on high bases, but cut back at approx 1.5m to a plain mantel shelf; low left is a salt cupboard with 4-centred head to a stone surround, and door with butterfly hinges. From here the opening to the second room has a 4-centred moulded arch with a painted scroll ('Honi Soit..'?) with a green dragon to the left, and a headless angel to the right. The study has a lowered, flat ceiling, a large painted stone moulded eaves course in the W wall (the original outer wall ?), and a 4-light narrow casement with mortices for stanchions, the chamfered mullions replaced. In the N wall is a small stone fireplace with a very deep flat lintel, and a deep moulded wall beam. The main room to the rear through a wide plank C18 door, has a chamfered beam, cusped light to the E, and to the N a chamfered rere-arch over a blocked opening. Above the stair, near the W wall, is a chamfered beam, and there is a splat-balustered vent to a cupboard side. There are various 4 and 6-panel C18 doors. The roof only partly accessible, but one slope has 2 purlins and one range of chamfered wind-bracing. No.15: a 5-bay front, combining 2 original properties. Partly inspected. Left-hand ground-floor room is panelled, with tall panels in ovolo-mould above a dado rail, and with dentil cornice. The stair is approached through a round arch. Reputed to have an early cellar. There is a large C15 wing in rubble and roughcast, with hipped pantile roof. No.16: this is a wide 5-bay property, incorporating two original properties, but appears to have been almost completely rebuilt in the late C18. It is a symmetrical double-depth plan with central dog-leg staircase with stick balusters and open string. Doors are with fielded panels. Cellars remain. No.17: a 6-bay front, incorporating 2 original properties, and retaining 2-light casement with cusped ogee-headed lights, and an ogee-headed 'piscina', a wide fireplace to crude 4-centred head, and a 2-door 'screens' incorporating a plank door on straps with a blocked central opening. The central passage is stone flagged, leading to closed string stick baluster staircase. At first floor the room to the right has a fire surround to 4-centred arch, with mouldings stopped to high octagonal plinths, and the window embrasure has a rere-arch with hollow mould. This floor has some moulded beams. One section of roof is arch-braced, with 1 purlin, to a brattished plate, and another has arch-braces to a heavy collar, with 2 chamfered and stopped purlins, plus an upper range of wind-bracing. A rear wing, left, has a large rubble stack. This is one of the best of the retained interiors. No.21: a small single unit, much modified, but retains main roof structure with wind-bracing in the front slope in an attic. No.22: has restored original stone-mullioned window forms. The whole interior restored c1990, has a large single room at each level, with a passage to rear wing, a C20 staircase and remnants of an earlier stair. The ground-floor room with re-set stone paving has a very large chamfered lateral beam, and in the ceiling to the right 2 bays of C19 painted decoration. The fireplace in the front wall has a 4-centred arch, and the rear wall retains the 2-light stone casement. In the passage to the rear is a shouldered arch to the former newel staircase. The first floor hall has the original 3-bay roof structure with arch-bracing, 1 row of wind-bracing to 2 purlins, and a brattished plate, to both slopes. To the front is a small square fireplace with chamfered surround, and in the rear wall is a single casement with stone transom, to a shouldered rere-arch. In the passageway is a small light with early rectilinear leading. One roof truss is said to have a painted tympanum, not seen. The recent restoration presents the house in a near-original layout. No.24: a small unit with wing, all much modified, but with fragments of several periods. In the entrance lobby is a large rough lateral beam with deep chamfer, continued boxed into the main ground-floor room, which has a deep recess to segmental head, and a mid C20 tiled fire surround. The painted stair has a stick balustrade, turned newel and solid string. The main first-floor room is entered through a C17 two-panel door with mouldings, and there are various C17 and C18 doors. The rear wing has steel casements. The roof has been restructured, but has one arch-braced truss. No.25: a single unit, with side passage to a winder stair, and a rear wing. The ground floor front, with early C18 square panel door on H hinges has C17 painted panelling throughout, including in the wall to the passage side some horizontal 'frieze' panels with scroll decoration; in the N wall is the profile of a large chamfered beam. C19 fireplace. The rear wall has a splayed recess to the former doorway, and a deep-set 8-pane light with grisaille glazing incorporating some silver-stain work, and to the right is a niche cupboard. At the foot of the stair is a rough stone segmental arch, possible inserted in the C20. Under the staircase is a C17 plank door with mouldings, and another 3-plank door to the kitchen. The stair has stick balustrade and turned newels, and divides at the upper landing. First floor has 2 small front rooms; that to the N has a transverse C16 beam and a blocked fireplace, and to the S a similar beam, 6-panel C18 door with square middle panels, and C17 dado panelling. The partition at the rear of the bedrooms includes 2-panel doors under transom-lights. The roof only partly accessible includes considerable replacement rafters, and has at least one wind-brace. No.26: partly inspected. The ground floor left room has a 4-compartment ceiling, and right room has a fireplace with 4-centred arch; first floor left has C19 fire surround, and beam with run-out stops. HISTORICAL NOTE: this is the W half of a double row of houses (qv Nos 1 to 13) enclosing a street, nearly 140m long, which slopes down gently from the N, and is narrower at the upper than the lower end. Rodwell (in Colchester, op cit) has shown that the stacks are part of the original C14 layout, and that the roof structure, much of which still remains, was of one date; the continuous eaves-line, interrupted by the projecting stacks, follows the slope of the street, and there is a raised coping to each of the original party walls. The houses were provided for the Vicars Choral, and many still serve this purpose, although from 1840 until c1970 the Wells Theological College occupied the properties. This is an outstanding early planned street, closed at the N end by the Vicars' Chapel (qv) and the S by the Vicars' Hall (qv), in which the overall form of the buildings remains substantially unchanged. (Colchester LS: Wells Cathedral: a History: Shepton Mallet: 1982-: 212-226; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: North Somerset and Bristol: London: 1958-: 319; Pugin AWN: The History and Antiquities of The Vicars' Close, Wells: London: 1836-).

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