Heritage Open Days Wells

The Bishop’s Barn is delighted to be taking part in this year’s Heritage Open Day events. Heritage Open Day events take place up and down the country – opening up some of the UK’s finest and most-loved buildings.

Heritage Open Days in Wells take place from 7-10 September 2017. This year ten sites in the city will be open to the public free of charge, allowing you to see areas not normally open, or the opportunity to hear from a local expert. Wells Walking Tours will also be offering a Heritage Walk.

The Bishop’s Barn will be open on Friday 8th September from 12-2pm – come and have a look around the barn and have a chat to Louise – Project Development Manager about plans to conserve and develop the barn.

Don’t forget to visit all the other brilliant organisations opening up their doors in Wells, including:

At the Town Hall where you can visit the Mayor’ Parlour and see local history displays, including ‘Prisons of Wells’ (medieval to modern), railways and fairs; St Cuthbert’s Church will have displays, tours & talks about the medieval reredos conservation project; The Wells and Mendip Museum is offering Curator’s Tours at 11am Thurs-Sat; The Almshouses; The Old Deanery; Wells United Church will be having an Exhibition of Arts and Crafts with refreshments; Wells Walking Tours is offering a free Heritage Tour of South Wells at 10.30am on Friday, starting at entrance to Tor Hill Woods, Mendip Hospital Cemetery and Chapel.

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Heritage Open Day 2017 Plan


Have Your Say in the Development of The Bishop’s Barn and the Wells Recreation Ground


Fill in the 2017 Wells Recreation Grounds and Bishop’s Barn survey here

We want your feedback on what events and programmes you’d like to see at The Bishop’s Barn, and what kind of place you’d like it to be for the next 130 years!

Below is a link to an online survey which will inform the activity plan developed for the Barn and grounds. Please do share with friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and organisations with an interest in Wells. Thank you very much for your support

Complete the online survey by clicking here

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?


Historic Barns and Buildings Re-imagined

We’re delighted to have received confirmation from Heritage Lottery Fund that they would like us to work up our Project Enquiry regarding the Bishop’s Barn into a full Stage 1 Application. The proposal is being supported by Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust and Historic England.

This week I’ve been busy exploring and researching historic barns and buildings that have been brought back to full community use, re-imagined and restored to become an integral part of the community they belong to.


Tithe Barn, Dunster

There are some magnificent examples of restored barns – I’ve been to visit the Beautiful Tithe barn in Dunster which has a brimming community programme of classes, talks, meetings and weddings. Dunster Tithe barn offers a vital and exclusive community space for local people to get married at an affordable rate.

The Tithe Barn in Nailsea which dates back to 1480 hosts a community cinema, provides lots of opportunities for older residents, can be hired for events and is also developing a wonderful schools education programme.

In a few weeks I will be visiting Messums in Wiltshire – a fourteenth century monastic barn and beautiful grounds transformed into a pioneering multi-purpose gallery and arts centre with a significant schools programme.

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Messums Wiltshire, Tisbury Barn

Researching other venues and restoration projects there are countless other examples – St Donats Arts Centre, Riverhouse Barn in Walton on Thames, Hanger Farm in Southampton.

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Hanger Farm, Southampton

The Bishop’s Barn and Recreation Grounds provide a vital community space and its vital the buildings and grounds should reflect the needs and interests of community to which they belong. We’d like to see the barn restored to ensure its alive with the ideas and imaginations of the people of Wells.

We’d love to hear your views, thoughts and ideas on the Bishop’s Barn and Recreation Grounds. You can email thebishopsbarn@gmail.com or leave comments and thoughts on the blog

Master Planning – What is a Master Plan? And Why We Need You!

A major part of exploring how we bring The Bishop’s Barn back to full community use is not just thinking about the range of community activities that could take place in the barn once it is restored, but how the site will work as a whole.

The design of public spaces has a huge impact on community that uses them: how we move about in them, how we relax, how we get fit, our wellbeing. As a gift to the people of Wells, and as a fundamentally important piece of open recreation space in the city, it is critical that the Recreation Grounds and barn respond to the community that owns, loves, and uses these spaces.

Over the coming months, as part of exploring the restoration of the barn and site, we will be evolving the overall master plan. Benjamin and Beauchamp Architects have already consulted widely on the site and put in place some proposals of how the space could be used and developed (which you can see here)

Now we want to build on these findings, re-engage the community in expressing your needs and desires for the Recreation Ground site, and continue evolving a plan that is both visionary and realistic.

I think everyone agrees it is of vital importance that this beautiful community space is preserved for generations to come – so conserving the barn will be a priority. Throughout the process we will be exploring other projects that have successfully re-developed barns and landscaped community areas to give new ideas and inspiration. But being visionary doesn’t mean making radical changes. Vision will be about having a clear sense of purpose, having ambition for the space, looking at the finer details and understanding of the use of the site now and in the future

The key considerations for master planning will be:

  • How spaces and buildings are connected
  • The quality of the buildings and design
  • How the design of buildings and the landscape relates to their use
  • How we preserve and share the unique heritage and character of the spaces
  • Ease of movement
  • Adaptability and flexibility

I think the most important things to take from the master planning process is that this will be a fluid process that will evolve and re-shape according to feedback and input from the community and stakeholders. It will be a collaborative process that responds to the ideas and ambitions of the community, informed by examples of best-practice.

Over the coming months there will be lots of ways to feed into the master planning process: we will be involving local students, asking for your feedback and thoughts, and developing a community task group. If you would like to be involved, or you or your organisation have any thoughts on how the site and the barn should be developed we would love to hear from you. You can post comments here or email Louise by contacting: thebishopsbarn@gmail.com