20A Chamberlain Street


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Wells, Somerset, BA5 2PF


Ordnance survey map of 20A Chamberlain Street
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Statutory Address:
Wells, Somerset, BA5 2PF

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Dwelling, previously one half of a larger house. Medieval origins, with later alterations, including refronting and internal refurbishment probably in the first half of the C18. Further alterations in the early C21.

Reasons for Designation

20A Chamberlain Street, previously one half of a larger house with medieval origins and later alterations, including probable C18 refronting and a rear addition, and early-C21 alterations, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the articulation of the principal elevation and the good use of materials, combine to produce an elegant composition; * with the attached Grade-II* listed 22 Chamberlain Street it historically formed a single, early-C18 town house that retains some medieval roof fabric.

Historic interest:

* for its strong association with the Vicars Choral of Wells Cathedral, whose estate the building formed part from at least the mid-C16 until 1860.

Group value:

* it has strong group value with a large number of other houses in the immediate locality of a similar style and date which are listed.


This building (the attached 22 which forms a part of it is separately listed at Grade II*) on Chamberlain Street has an evolved plan with its origins in the medieval period. Documentary records (Wells Cathedral Archives, see Sources) relating to various leases on the building indicate that it formed part of the estate of the College of Vicars Choral, the men of Wells Cathedral Choir, from at least the mid-C16. The Vicars Choral, which was founded in 1348, was an independent corporation whose estates provided most of the income for their salaries; yet they were responsible to the Dean and Chapter for their duties in singing the Cathedral services. The house on Chamberlain Street appears to have once comprised two principal ground-floor rooms within the front range and a service range to the rear, perhaps with accommodation for servants at attic level. The left-hand half of the building (22 Chamberlain Street) was extended to the rear to provide an additional room on both floors, but it has not been possible to establish the date this was added. The building underwent substantial refurbishment during the first half of the C18 when a programme of improvement was carried out. It is depicted on Simes’ Plan of the City of Wells of 1735, but the façade illustrated on the Plan differs from that of the current house, though this may because the plan is a stylised representation and not completely reliable.

In 1860 the freehold of the building was sold to Henry William Livett (b 1815), a physician and surgeon, who was Mayor of Wells in 1860 and 1861, and later became the city’s Medical Officer of Health. The building provided a doctor’s surgery until 2004 when it was sub-divided into two separate dwellings. As part of the work an existing rear extension was demolished and the windows in the rear elevations were replaced. Some internal reconfiguration was also carried out, such as the construction of a party wall in the front range to divide the two properties and, within 20A, the removal of some partition walls and the insertion of a staircase. For the attached 22, a front entrance which had previously been sealed-up was re-opened and a single-storey extension (kitchen) was added to the rear.


Dwelling, one half of a formerly larger house; the other half is 22 Chamberlain Street (Grade II*). Medieval origins, with later alterations, including refronting and internal refurbishment probably in the first half of the C18. Further alterations in the early C21.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed of stone rubble and brick, and is rendered and colour-washed, except the single-storey part of the rear range. The roofs are clad with triple-roll clay tiles and slate. There is a brick chimneystack to the far right of the front range, and two ridge stacks to the rear range which have been rebuilt and are also of brick.

PLAN: it has an L-shaped plan; originally part of a larger L-shaped house, and comprises a front range of three bays and a long, rectangular range to the rear.

EXTERIOR: the building has two storeys with attics; the long, rear range is one and a half storeys. The principal (south) elevation fronts onto the street and has a plinth, a moulded cornice and a plain parapet. These continue onto 22 Chamberlain Street (Grade II*). To the left-of-centre is a six-panel door in a panelled recess with timber architrave. The twelve-pane sash windows have exposed boxes and architrave surrounds. There are two small dormer windows. The windows and doors in the rear elevations of 20A are early-C21 replacements.

INTERIOR: the entrance door opens onto an L-shaped room created by the removal of a partition wall in the front range in 2004. An early-C21 open-well staircase has been introduced at the rear of the room. Some historic fittings have been retained on the ground floor of the rear range, formerly the service wing, including a large segmental-arched fireplace with ashlar jambs and lintel and a chamfered ceiling beam with runouts (dining room), and a further fireplace in the current kitchen. One of the front bedrooms has a fireplace with a simple flat-arched surround and a hob grate dating from the early C18. The roof to the front range retains pegged principal rafters and threaded purlins.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the large garden plot (sub-divided with 22 in 2004) to the rear is bounded by random stone rubble walls of varying heights and different dates of construction. The most intact length of walling forms the eastern boundary and dates probably to the C18. It is coped and appears to survive to its full height of approximately 2.5m.


Books and journals
Hill, R G , 'The Somerset Estates of the Vicars Choral of Wells' in The Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History , , Vol. 142, (1998), 287-308


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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