Fans of the Blackadder TV series will be familiar with the Bishop of Bath & Wells as a ruddy-faced sadistic pervert who eats babies! Whilst there appears to be no historical precedent for this in the roster of clergymen who have filled the role, they do seem to have been an unsettled bunch for the county of Somerset has seen its bishop moving between Wells, Glastonbury and Bath over the centuries, and though Bath is the most prominent of these three, it has no cathedral, since plans to refurbish the abbey were interrupted by Henry VIII. Consequently the City of Wells is now the Bishop’s home, and being even smaller than Ripon holds claim to be England’s smallest city by virtue of its cathedral which will feature soon in another post.
It also has three holes in the ground; one in the market square and two in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace dedicated to St Andrew. Why would you dedicate holes to a saint? Because these are the wells that give the city its name.
The place is a goldmine for film and TV location scouts as it features a number of historic buildings, including a whole street of medieval houses. The pub where I stayed, The Crown, saw William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) preach from its windows, yet the pictures displayed give this second billing to the stars of Hot Fuzz (which was filmed in Wells) and Nicholas Cage who owns a property nearby. Oddly enough, the cathedral, which was the draw for productions as diverse as Wolf Hall and Doctor Who, had to be digitally removed from the skyline in shooting Hot Fuzz as the city was supposed to be just a small market town!
That market still flourishes beneath the defensive gates that mark entry into the Bishop’s Palace and Cathedral compounds. The fashions have changed since medieval times, and much of the produce too (no food stalls offering dead baby) but you sense that these scenes have changed little since then. Commerce at its simplest and best.