In many ways Wells Market is the beating heart of the City of Wells, in Somerset. It provides an invaluable service to the town, bringing the city centre to life with a vibrancy long since lost among many a failing market town across England.
In this article I will explore the reasons why Wells, in Somerset, is bucking the trend, and remains home to a market that’s not only in rude health, but seems to grow better each passing year.
City Of Wells
Wells is the smallest Cathedral City in England, and if it weren’t for St. David’s on the South West Coast of Wales, it would be the smallest City in the UK.
Flanked on one side by the Mendip Hills which comprise a vast Area Of Natural Beauty, (AONB), and by the Somerset Levels on the other, there can be no denying that Wells is a very desirable holiday destination, with some great hotels to meet the demand.
Only 7 miles from Glastonbury, with it’s internationally renowned Glastonbury Abbey, and in easy reach of the City of Bath and City of Bristol, it is, in many ways, the ideal location for a sightseeing or hiking holiday.
City Of Wells History
There has been a settlement in Wells since Roman times, partly owing to the lead deposits found around Priddy, a picturesque village in the Mendip AONB, about 3 miles out of Wells. The Roman settlement was clustered around the three main wells of the City of Wells, which were what made the settlement a viable one.
It’s quite wonderful to think that when we walk on the age-old cobbles of Wells Market Square, we walk where Romans once trod.
Wells grew in stature over the centuries because of it’s connections to the church. But, Wells didn’t earn city status until the 13th century, when the Cathedral was built.
As it’s name suggests, there are a number of important springs, or wells, in the City of Wells. But, it’s the three wells, dedicated to Saint Andrew, in the centre that remain the most important to this day.
One well is situated in the Market Place, with another two within the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace and Cathedral, which boarder Wells Market at the Eastern end of the Market Square. It is these three wells that are responsible for the naming of the City of Wells.
Wells Market History
The first Wells Markets were accessed on foot, or, if you were exceptionally lucky, on horseback, or on the back of a cart!
Wells was granted charters to hold markets in the twelfth century by Bishop Robert, (1136–66).
When you visit Wells Market Square you are very much transported back in time. At the far end we witness the Cathedral towering over the cobbled square. To the right of the imposing Cathedral towers, a large gateway leads to the moated Bishop’s Palace, with it’s swans in residence…
Wells Market Square on a Market Day is still very redolent of Medieval times…
There’s a town crier, live music, oodles of local produce as well as hoards of artisans, and a real buzz about the place…
Wells As A Shopping Destination
The shopping area of the City of Wells is smaller than the retail area of an average town. And, whilst Wells boasts some really good quality women’s clothing shops like Mistral, which is an important regional chain in the South West, as well as a fantastic hardware store, Whitings, along with the obligatory profusion of cafes, as you would imagine… there’s, nevertheless, not enough diversity on offer via the shops alone.
For example, aside from a valiant attempt by Good Earth, the local health food shop, to supply the most diverse range of organic fruit and veg possible, there really isn’t a local green grocers to speak of. And, there’s no delicatessen.
By contrast, Wells Market really has got it all! It really is quite the compliment to the shops.
Wells Market Is Like A Local Outdoor Supermarket
There’s plenty of fresh local vegetables on Wells Market, alongside an impressive Olive & Deli stand, which is surrounded, on all sides, by artisan cheese makers and cured meat makers. There’s also plenty of fresh local meat, including organ meats and eggs. And, there’s assurances all round that all livestock is reared humanely with a minimum of intervention.
Considering conventionally reared chickens and eggs that we buy in the supermarkets contain Arsenic, and the toxicity of mass produced and heavily sprayed produce, is placing an intolerable toxic burden on our bodies and making us all overweight, it’s good to know we have a healthy alternatives on Wells Market!
There’s a variety of hot food stands, and more than a few cakes to go round…
A particular favourite is Secret Recipe, serving hot food during the cold months, it’s not hard to figure out why!
And, no Somerset Market would be replete without it’s Somerset cider stand. And Wells Market is no exception. There’s an exceptional cider on offer, courtesy of Uncle Dick!
But Wells Market Has So Much More!
Wells Market Is More Like A Department Store!
Artisan farmers are joined by artisan craftsmen and women, making bespoke household items from The Vintage Salvager with their amazing tables and mirrors to soft furnishings, and handmade soy candles from Echo Candles. And there’s stained glass, blown glass, wood turned bowls and cooking implements… not to mention garden furniture and trugs… and lots and lots of books.
There’s handmade jewellery and clothes.. leatherwear… wollen-wear and cotton clothing… handmade handbags… hats… boots… and Tweed… Where would we country folk be without our Tweed?
The garden is also well covered… Everything from miniature gardens in beautiful containers, (he delivers, and loves a late sale 😉 ), to the best assortment of herbs and spices to be found anywhere, as well as shrubs, plug plants and fruiting trees. All in season, of course! There’s even a beautiful, and eminently affordable cut flower stand!
Wells Market is also a shopping destination for our pets! There’s something for our cats, and our dogs, and even the wild birds…
What Completes The Picture?
Why! The people , of course! The wonderful visitors… some local… some from further afield… and during the summer months, from all around the world.
Wells Market is well loved. And, Wells Market loves everybody right back!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Wells Market Trading Times
Wells Market, situated in The Market Place in the centre of the City of Wells, takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9.00am until 4.00pm.
The only exceptions to this are if extreme weather, (snow and high winds, for example), lead Mendip District Council to cancel the market for health and safety considerations, and the annual fair, that takes place in the Market Square on the first Saturday in May each year, thus deposing the market for one day each year.