“Four miles from Glastonbury lies the little city of Wells, where is one of the neatest, and, in some respects, the most beautiful, cathedrals in England, particularly the west front of it, is one complete draught of imagery, very fine, and yet very ancient. This is a neat, clean city, and the clergy, in particular, live very handsomely. Here are no less than seven-and-twenty prebends, and nineteen canons, belonging to this church, beside a dean, a chancellor, a precentor, and three arch deacons; a number which very few cathedrals in England have, beside this. The city lies just at the foot of the mountains called Mendip Hills, and is itself built on a stony foundation. Its manufacture is chiefly of stockings, as is mentioned already; ’tis well built, and populous, and has several good families in it; so that there is no want of good company there.”
Daniel Defoe – A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724 – 6)
Around 700 AD, the West Somerset Saxon King, Ine, on the advice of Bishop Sherbourne, built the first church at Wells in honour of St. Andrew. The Wells area was rich in resources and so would certainly have been inhabited for some time.
Wells and Somerset got their first Bishop, Athelm two centuries later and Wells was raised to the status of Cathedral Church.
It was on the arrival of the Norman Bishop, John De Vilula, that the seat was moved to Bath. He assumed the title Bishop of Bath and Wells fell into decay.
Robert of Lewes, his successor, repaired damaged buildings of Wells, gave the clergy an efficient administration and granted a charter which marked the start of the city’s independence.
Wells was later granted three further Charters. It now had the right to hold weekly markets and four fairs a year.
Bishop Reginald de Bolun pulled down the old Cathedral and began building the current one around 1180. He was only responsible for the transepts, parts of the choir and nave and the north porch. His successors completed the project which took 250 years.