Through the Archives: 130 Years On

This week marks the start of the 130th anniversary of The Recreation Grounds and The Bishop’s Barn being given to the people of Wells.

130 general

The Grounds were given to the city by Bishop Lord Arthur Hervey in two parts, in 1887 and 1897, as a place for recreation and amusement.

With a varied history: from a medieval tithe barn storing grain in the fifteenth century to a 1970s venue for iconic bands such as Status Quo, Supertramp and SLADE –  housing audiences of up to fifteen hundred; from a site for the quartering of Royalist troops during the Bloody Assizes to a roller skating skating venue in 1910; from an over-spill Christmas sorting space for the Post office in 1955 to its more recent use as venue for weddings, celebrations and community events in the 90s: the Bishop’s Barn has seen its fair share of history.

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Today I took a visit to the fantastic Wells City Archives at the Wells and Mendip Museum to explore the history of the Barn further.

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Image from the Phillips Collection from Wells and Mendip Archives

Given over in 1887 Bishop Hervey wanted the grounds to provide an important outdoor space for families in Wells who did not have access to green spaces. At the time (130 years ago) there was great focus on the impact of outdoor spaces on health and wellbeing and improving the lungs!


Over the coming months we’ll be sharing lots of memories and images. We’d love to find out about your memories from the Recreation Grounds and Barn! Do you have any photos in your family collection you could share?


1 thought on “Through the Archives: 130 Years On”

  1. The rather sad looking commemorative poppy display near the band stand could do with re-siting? I wonder if the hard tarmac on the north wall of the barn, which needs to be removed so there can be an effective soak away, could be transformed into a wild flower/poppy display with an interpretation board to explain that since the Barn was built in the year of the Battle of Agincourt (1415), the poppies commemorate the fallen in all wars since, including the Great War. There is much that could be done to make the entire site much more wild life friendly and improve its rather municipal landscaping look.


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