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CATHEDRAL STATUARY

&

HALLWAYS

Discover the story of the Wells Cathedral stonemasons and see original medieval masonry alongside Victorian copies for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Explore hidden gems of natural history and archaeology in the museum's hallways and corridors. 

Cathedral Statuary

The museum's historic building contains several hallways and landings which are full of fascinating artefacts. Downstairs you will find Roman lead 'pigs' from Charterhouse and Westbury-sub-Mendip.

 

At the rear of the museum you will discover the moving story of Harry Patch, the "Last Fighting Tommy". Be sure to visit the Harry Patch Memorial on the museum's front lawn. 

 

The Statuary Exhibition on the stairway and landing follows the story of the early stonemasons of Wells, and you will find displays downstairs which explore their tools and techniques. Wells Cathedral was constructed between 1175 and 1490, and the cathedral craftsmen were an integral part of the city of Wells. The magnificent West Front of the cathedral, unmissable as you walk across the Cathedral Green, is a wonder of the medieval world. The museum displays several of the original medieval statues, as well as copies that were created for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Learn about the surprisingly vibrant colours that would have adorned the West Front, and follow the tale of the medieval fruit thief, immortalised in stone as a warning to the masses.

The Statuary Exhibition was opened in June 1995 by HRH The Prince of Wales, pictured below with Jim Hanwell, then museum trustee and Chair of Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society.

Romanesque stone head etc.
Roman lead ingot from Westbury-sub-Mendip

Found near a Roman 'Villa Rustica' at Westbury

The museum is excited to exhibit a Roman lead ingot or ‘pig’ that was found in 2016.

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This ingot is special for several reasons. It is precisely datable, it is further evidence of Roman lead mining at Charterhouse-on-Mendip, and it indicates previously unrecognised significant Roman activity at Westbury.
 
It carries the inscription ‘IMP DVOR AVG ANTONINI ET VERI ARMENIACORVM’ which translates as the ‘property of the two August Emperors Antoninus and Verus, conquerors of Armenia’. We know that the Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius (Antoninus) and Lucius Verus ruled jointly between 164 and 169 AD.

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The ‘pig’ is made from lead mined at Charterhouse. As well as the mines there was a Roman town here, which included a small amphitheatre. The mines supplied lead and silver that was exported from Mendip to other parts of the empire. The lead was used to make water pipes and coffins, and as a component of pewter.

Also found nearby was a hoard of 89 Roman Radiate coins, some of which are also on display. The ingot and the coins point to a significant Roman presence in the area and work continues by the Westbury Society Archaeology Group to understand this better.
 
The ingot is on loan from the South West Heritage Trust. Its acquisition is dedicated to the memory of Barry Lane (1944-2017), former Curator of the museum who was passionate about uncovering the rich history of his home village, Westbury.

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