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©  John Boothroyd ARPS

IoE Number: 483619
Location: THE VICARS' CHAPEL, VICARS' CLOSE (north side)
Photographer: John Boothroyd ARPS
Date Photographed: 23 April 2001
Date listed: 12 November 1953
Date of last amendment: 12 November 1953
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 ST5446 VICARS' CLOSE 662-1/6/336 (North side) 12/11/53 The Vicars' Chapel GV I Private chapel, now used as schoolroom. c1424-1430 for Bishop Bubwith or Bishop Stafford; bellcote probably c1450; some C13 carved detail incorporated on S front. Local stone rubble, with Chilcote stone ashlar facade and dressings, Welsh slate roof behind crenellated parapet, between coped gables, ashlar chimney stack. PLAN: chapel on the ground floor with entrance on S side to a W screens passage leading to spiral stair in NW corner, and lofty upper room originally a library. The chapel was built against the pre-existing Liberty wall on the N side. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys, two double bays. Plinth, sill string, cornice mould, battlemented parapets, buttresses with 2 offsets to ends and between bays terminating in pinnacles incorporating canopied niches for statues. Ground floor has pair of 2-light pointed-arched, Perpendicular-traceried windows with arched labels having headstops, with deeply- and under-carved spandrels. In left unit of bay 1 the entrance doorway, set under window tracery, not quite centrally, the doorway being 4-centre arched, with moulded surround having tablet flower decoration, the door mostly original, with moulded cover strips, and a traceried top with shields bearing the arms of Hungerford, the See, Stafford and Bubwith. First floor has paired cinquefoil-cusped, flat-headed two-light windows, having linked square labels with drops. Parapet has uncarved shields in merlons, and set under these are four roughly triangular carved panels of C13 work, possibly from the old cloisters. The west gable plain (with abutment from No.14, qv), the east gable has two 3-light windows, the lower flat headed with cinquefoil cusped lights, under a square label with headstops, the upper window may be partly C19, with Perpendicular tracery and semicircular arched head under label with floriated curl stops. All windows on east and south sides have external ferramenta. On the north side, which fronts on The Liberty, is a chimney stack, slightly projecting from first floor level on a moulded corbel, terminating with moulded offsets, octagonal tall stack and stone fret top. INTERIOR: the lower floor, or chapel, has a narrow cross-passage to the corner staircase, with a fine C15 screen to the right; this returns on the N side in a late C19 or early C20 extension against the wall, incorporating 9 figures of saints on a gold background. At the E end are 2 lofty niches with cusped aedicules, without figures, on short lengths of panelled plinth, flanking the altar. The ceiling is in heavy moulded timber beams in 4 compartments, each with sub-compartments, and various carved bosses and embellishments. The upper floor has 5 trusses, the central one on moulded brackets, in 4 bays of arch-braced principals with 3 purlins and brattished plates; wind-bracing is in 3 ranges. The entrance from the stair is through a high doorway with 4-centred head, and there is a C19 fire surround. HISTORICAL NOTE: the dating of the Chapel is still under discussion; Pevsner's BOE date of c1470-5 is evidently too late. Rodwell (in Colchester, op cit) summarises the current state of understanding. The building apparently did not have a W entrance, although the adjoining No.14 was the house of the 'Senior priest vicar' according to a 1790 reference. Despite the somewhat uncomfortable design of the doorway, the front facing down Vicars' Close forms a very appropriate termination to the upper end of the street. (Colchester LS: Wells Cathedral: A History: Shepton Mallet: 1982-: 223; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: North Somerset and Bristol: London: 1958-: 320).

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