What's in Wells City Archives?
In addition to hundreds of original documents and bound volumes, the archives contain maps, plans, and a number of prints, posters and photographs. These range in date from the medieval period to the present day, and include many documents dating from living memory.
The records are of considerable importance for civic, social and local history. They are also an excellent resource for researching your Wells family history and house history projects.
There are many types of record. The collection includes:
34 early City Charters - the oldest dating from c. 1174
Records created by Wells City Council and its predecessor the Wells Corporation (e.g. the fine collection of Corporation Act Books, dating from 1378 to 1835)
Title deeds and leases
Records relating to: markets and fairs, railways, health, schools, allotments, World Wars I and II, assizes, elections, royal visits, local clubs and societies (e.g. the Byre Theatre and Wells City Band), the water supply, the sewerage scheme, amongst others
An excellent collection of documents covering Victorian Wells, including plans for many of the Victorian houses
Historic Ordnance Survey maps and tithe maps
What's not in Wells City Archives?
Parish registers for Wells
Records of the Dean & Chapter of Wells Cathedral
Enquiries & Visitors
Everyone is welcome to use Wells City Archives. No charge is made for visiting, but donations to support our work are appreciated.
If you would like to visit the archives, please book an appointment by contacting Wells City Archivist.
Brief queries by letter or email are also welcome.
Caring for the Archives
Wells City Council is the custodian of the City Archives, but the bulk of the collections are stored at Wells & Mendip Museum on a long term loan.
The documents were moved in 2011 from the old jail cells at Wells Town Hall to modern, climate-controlled storage at the museum. Wells City Council continues to fund the care of the archives. Jonathan Chivers manages the archives, and is supported by a team of volunteers.
November 2015 saw the beginning of a new initiative entitled Archivist’s Choice, which showcases material from Wells City Archives. A display case in Wells Town Hall presents a changing display of documents from the City Archives, chosen by the City Archivist. Drop in to the Town Hall when you’re passing and have a look at a fascinating piece of Wells history! The case is on the lefthand side of the vestibule.
The first Archivist’s Choice was this lovely photograph of pupils from Wells Central School. Unfortunately there is no date on the photo, but the clothing suggests the late Victorian or Edwardian period. The original image is postcard-sized and so faded that it is hardly possible to make out the features of the children. Steve Tofts, a volunteer at Wells & Mendip Museum, has miraculously restored it, as you can see here.
A class from Wells Central School © Wells City Archives
The photo was donated to the archives by Jean Imray. Her family were local and she was a distinguished former City Archivist and a long-serving trustee of the museum.
Three free online Archives databases!
These are designed to make available material relating to family history, house history, local history and social history. They are an invaluable searchable resource, and are accessible for free. Twenty-five years’ worth of Wells Petty Sessions data (covering 1850 to 1874) have been made available, along with a City Property Register dating from 1860, and Sacrament Certificates relating to Wells (dating from 1689 to 1765). More databases will be added in the future.
The invaluable assistance of City Archives volunteers is warmly acknowledged. Without their help, the creation of these databases would not have been possible.
Please click HERE to access the new databases.
Another free online Archives database!
We are now working on the final stages of a ground-breaking digital resource called “ScraseBase”. It is an enormous database of Wells property histories, as researched and generously shared by historian Tony Scrase – hence the name of the database! It, too, will be released online for free consultation by members of the public. Many of the sources for this searchable database are contained in Wells City Archives.
Once again, the indispensable contribution made by City Archives volunteers is warmly acknowledged. Without their assistance, the creation of this database would have been impossible.