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England's smallest city

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Wells is home to just over 10,000 people but it is still classed as city. It’s the smallest one in England, much tinier than many of its towns.
The only reason it can proudly claim this title is because of Wells Cathedral. The huge building looks almost out of place as it dwarfs the surrounding houses. Construction was begun in the 12th century, and completed over the next few hundred years. It has long been hailed as a masterpiece of Early English architecture, and thankfully it's still in good condition. The western front is decorated with around 300 carvings, showing the skill of the medieval craftsmen. The eastern side retains much of its original stained glass - a rare sight in modern England. Inside, the cathedral's most valuable treasure is its astronomical clock. It's the second-oldest device of its type, after the one in Salisbury. As well as displaying the time, it shows the positions of the sun and moon. Every quarter of an hour, a set of mechanical knights pop out to joust at each other.
For 8 centuries, the leader of the church in Bath and Wells has always lived next door to the cathedral in the Bishop's Palace. It looks less like a home and more like a castle, with a stout gatehouse and wide moat. The defences were put in place by the 14th centaury bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury. He taxed the townsfolk quite heavily, so he feared their retribution! For many centuries the moat has been filled with swans. They're trained to call for lunch themselves, by pulling on a set of strings. The water upon which they live comes from St. Andrews' Well, the source that gave the city its name.
On the other side of the cathedral is Vicar's Close, a residential street that was built for the men of the church choir. The idea was to separate them from the rest of the town, and its terrible temptations. The view from the end, with the spires in the background, is straight out of the 14th century. This is the oldest street of its kind in all of Europe. During construction, its architects pulled a sneaky trick. They tapered the width of the road, making it appear longer from the cathedral end.
One of the more fun places around Wells is the cave network at Wookey Hole. Once upon a time these caverns were simple abodes for prehistoric humans. In the present day they've been transformed into an entire theme park, complete with a crazy golf course, a circus and a penny arcade. Inside the cave itself you should watch out for the witch, who has lived there for hundreds of years. Thankfully she was turned to stone by a heroic monk, so she shouldn't be too dangerous. Some people have suggested that the witch is just a human-shaped stalagmite, but they clearly haven't got any imagination.
Visitor Information
Wells Cathedral is open daily from 7am to 6pm (7pm in Summer). Entry by donation £5.50 for adults, £2.50 children. Chain Gate, Cathedral Green, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2UE. Tel: 01749 674483
Wookey Hole is open daily (only weekends during December and January) from 10am to 4pm (5pm in Summer). Entry costs £16 for adults, £11 children. Wells, Somerset BA5 1BB, England. Tel: 01749 672243

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