Wells Cathedral Clock – Somerset, England - Atlas Obscura

Wells Cathedral Clock

Wells Cathedral

This astronomical clock is the second oldest in England.  


This clock was constructed during the early 14th century by a monk from Glastonbury named Peter Lightfoot. The clock was eventually relocated from Glastonbury Abbey to Wells Cathedral. Initially, there was only the face inside the church, but around 1400, a second face for the clock was installed outside the church. 

The face inside the church is an astronomical clock that displays the motions of the sun and moon, the phases of the moon, and the time since the last new moon. It’s crafted in the pre-Copernican model of the universe where the earth is at the center of the solar system. 

On the quarter-hour, a small automaton called Jack Blandifers strikes two bells with hammers, and two with its heels. When it strikes, a group of jousting knights appear above the clock face. The outer face has two striking jacks in the form of knights in armor.

The original mechanisms of the clock were replaced sometime during the 19th century. They were taken to the Science Museum. Apart from the clock at Salisbury Cathedral, this is the oldest clock in the country. 

Wells Cathedral is the oldest Gothic-style structure in the British Isles. The cathedral choir of St. Denis, now a suburb of Paris, is the first Gothic structure in the world. 

Know Before You Go

The cathedral itself is well worth a visit. Prior to this cathedral, all European churches were influenced by the Norman style. This building is commonly referred to as the first Gothic building in Great Britain.

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March 30, 2020

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