Old Sarum
Old Sarum

Dr Emma Wells

Dr Emma Wells

Academic, author and broadcaster, Dr Emma J. Wells is a specialist in the ecclesiastical and architectural history of medieval and reformation-era England, and the author of an array of publications.

Publications including Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, the forthcoming Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, and co-editor for the Brepols series, Reinterpreting the Middle Ages.

Awarded her PhD from Durham University for which she was a British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholar and recipient of the Society Church Archaeology Research Grant, she is now Lecturer and Research Associate at the University of York, Secretary of the Society for Church Archaeology, Assistant Editor to the Journal of Church Archaeology, and a member of Norwich’s Centre for Parish Church Studies academic advisory board. She is also a broadcaster and regularly writes for popular magazines, such as BBC History, BBC Countryfile and History Today.

What first sparked your interest for archaeology?

The person who first sparked my love of historic sites was undoubtedly my grandmother. As I spent much of my formative years by her side, she sought out a different church, castle or monastery for us to visit each week--many appropriately chosen so that cake and sandwiches could be consumed in the "refectory" or tearooms afterwards, followed of course by a big rummage in the gift shop. It was her zest for finding the excitement and amusement in these often rather solemn spaces that I admired and held on to. One particularly noteworthy photograph still in my possession captured her infectious laughter as she sits atop the reredorter (WC) at Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire.

If you can – which is your favourite ecclesiastical building?

This is torturous--it's like asking one to choose between their children/dogs! But, if forced, I would have to say Fountains Abbey (again, in North Yorkshire)--for the sheer complexity and innovation of the Cistercian monastery, which is equally matched by the breathtaking vistas very deliberately conceived by John and William Aislabie's eighteenth-century water gardens (Studley Royal). There, or York Minster, just...because. Sheer magnificence. 

Video Interview - Dr Emma Wells

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