Chain Gate, Wells

The Chain Gate in Wells, Somerset, England, is an entrance gateway adjacent to the north side of Wells Cathedral, controlling access from St Andrew Street to the Cathedral Green within the Liberty of St Andrew. It is a Grade I listed building.[1] It was built around 1460 to link the cathedral to Vicars' Close.

Chain Gate
Chain Gate, Wells.JPG
Chain Gate, Wells is located in Somerset
Chain Gate, Wells
Location within Somerset
General information
LocationWells, Somerset
Coordinates51°12′39″N 2°38′36″W / 51.210829°N 2.64333°W / 51.210829; -2.64333Coordinates: 51°12′39″N 2°38′36″W / 51.210829°N 2.64333°W / 51.210829; -2.64333


The Chain Gate was built around 1460 for Bishop Thomas Beckington,[1][2] to provide easy access to and from the cathedral and Vicars' Close which had been built for the Vicars Choral.[3] The Chain Gate enabled the vicars to enter the cathedral for services or meetings in the chapter house without entering the public realm or cope with inclement weather.[4]

An undated sketch by Henry Edridge (1768–1821) shows the Chain Gate in the late 18th or early 19th century, with a much taller wall than exists today alongside the road approaching the gate.[5]


The Chain Gate is a two-storey building of Doulting stone ashlar with a Welsh slate roof.[1] The lower level comprises a wagon gate flanked on both sides by pedestrian gates. The upper level provides a passageway between the Chapter House of the cathedral and Vicars' Close.[6] It is supported by three arches, one for carts (now cars) and two for pedestrians. There is a slight bend within the passageway as the entrance to the cathedral, via the approach staircase past the Chapter House, and that in Vicars Hall were not exactly opposite each other. It is topped by a battlemented parapet. In the walls are niches with statues of saints.[7] It also shows the arms of Bishop Beckington on a shield.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Historic England. "The Chain Gate, with approach staircase (1382904)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  2. ^ Tudsbery-Turner, Stephen (2011). Wells Through Time. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445632063.
  3. ^ Bush, Robin (1994). Somerset: The complete guide. Wimborne, Dorset: Dovecote Press. pp. 221–222. ISBN 978-1874336266.
  4. ^ Goodall, John (28 December 2017). "In the cathedral's shadow: The Cathedral Close, Wells". Country Life. Archived from the original on 29 January 2018. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  5. ^ Edridge, Henry. "Henry EdridgeWells. A Gothic Gateway and Old Houses, the Tower of the Cathedral Just Visible". Tate. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  6. ^ "The Chain Gate, with approach staircase". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  7. ^ Dearmer, Percy (2010). Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Wells. A Description of Its Fabric and a Brief History of the Episcopal See. Library of Alexandria. ISBN 9781465542700.
  8. ^ Walker, Thomas Larkins (1836). The History and Antiquities of the Vicars Close Wells, Sommersetshire. p. 18.