Saturday, 21 September 2019

St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells

A few years ago when I was feeling rather sad, I happened to go into St Cuthbert’s in Wells to get some Christmas cards. It was November and the weather matched my mood.

I am not a religious person, but being in the church lightened and lifted my mood. It was very marked. I came out feeling - well, it sounds fanciful, but blessed. 

Today I went in again, to see if it would have the same effect. It wasn’t quite as noticeable, but there was something: I felt soothed. It’s not a feeling I’ve had in any other church, though I have had a similar sense on the hill and by the sea. 

Anyway, make of that what you will - while I was there I noticed a couple of things. One was the ceiling, which is extraordinary: I can’t imagine how I failed to see it before. They call it an ‘angel roof’ - for obvious reasons - and it dates from the 15th century. 

The other thing relates to Saint Cuthbert. Apparently no-one really knows what the link is between him and this church - he’s very much a product of the northeast. He is associated with Lindisfarne - a place I’m very fond of - and he’s buried at Durham, where I was at university. During the war, he’s said to have saved the cathedral from destruction during a raid by German bombers, by summoning a mist to cloak the tower and hide it from view. I’ve written a short story about this. 

The only apparent link with Somerset is that he’s said to have appeared in a dream to King Alfred and encouraged him to keep on fighting the pesky Vikings when, to be honest, any sensible person would have given up. And I’ve written a book about Alfred, called Warrior King. 

I don’t suppose any of this means anything at all. But I like the sense of there being links. And I like the feeling that maybe - just maybe - I have Saint Cuthbert in my corner. 


  1. What a lovely ceiling! I’ve only been to Wells once, on my way from Bath to Glastonbury as a tourist in the 1980s. We had about an hour before the bus to Glastonbury was due, so we went into the cathedral, which had that gorgeous clock with the jousting knights.

    If I ever get the chance to return, I’d love to see St Cuthbert’s church.

  2. It's amazing, isn't it? I can't think why it's not more talked about - but then I suppose it's the cathedral which, quite understandably, gets all the attention.

    1. Thing is, the cathedral was right near the bus stop and we had only an hour. So we did the tourist thing nearest. Next trip to England I’ll do some of the things I couldn’t manage last time, promise! 🙂