Conservation work begins to the West Front of Wells Cathedral

5th May 2021

We have began a pilot programme of conservation work to the much-admired West Front of Wells Cathedral, famed for its medieval carvings and architectural significance, to help safeguard its future.

With the scaffolding now in place, we are carrying out the first phase of works to clean and repair the stonework and sculptures to the central top tiers of Christ in Majesty, The Apostles and The Order of Angels. Each stage of the project will be carefully documented including details of cleaning and mortar trials to establish best practice and inform future conservation to the whole of the West Front.

Dating back to c.1220-1250 with sculptural decorations in-situ since c.1240, the West Front has undergone several notable interventions to protect and secure the statues and architectural elements. The most recent intervention during 1974-87 established the basis of the ‘lime method,’ a major milestone at the start of the Lime Revival in the seventies.

“It is a huge privilege to be up close to such architectural brilliance and to see one of the most talked about ‘building limes conservation projects’ in person. This is such a rare opportunity to carefully examine the fragile limestone sculptures and supporting architecture; every step of the project will be vital in securing the future of the magnificent West Front,” emphasizes Berenice Humphreys, Senior Project Manager for Cliveden Conservation.

Cathedral Architect Nick Cox and Clerk of the Works, Jez Fry, who are responsible for the regular monitoring and inspection of Wells Cathedral, initiated the programme of conservation work.

The Revd. Canon Dr. Rob James, Canon Chancellor and Keeper of the Fabric commented that “the West Front is one of the glories of English architecture. It tells important elements of the Christian story as well as being awe-inspiring. The repairs and investigative work carried out over the next few months are vital for conserving this jewel for future generations. The Chapter of Wells Cathedral is most grateful to the Wells Cathedral Preservation Trust for funding this phase of the work.”

The programme of conservation work will continue through the summer to complete in time for Wells Cathedral’s big reveal of the Antony Gormley sculpture in August.