Wells Cathedral and Elizabeth Goudge

Our recent visit to Wells gave me the opportunity to enjoy some of the places described so lyrically in Elizabeth Goudge's novels, especially A City of Bells, Henrietta's House and Smoky House.

Goudge's novels are all set in the close, cloisters and lanes of beautiful Cathedral cities; she lived her life in Wells, Ely and Oxford. She documents carefully the clerical and cathedral lives of these cities. In A City of Bells, we meet Jocelyn's Grandfather, one of the Cathedral Canons and his family. The novel is concerned with ecclesiastical gossip and concerns as well as a gentle love story and the laying to rest of a ghost! Wonderful.

The opening pages describe Jocelyn Irving's first glimpse of Wells, which was very similar to our approach to this beautiful city:

"The train swung round a bend, the blue hills parted like a curtain and the city of Torminster was visible. Seen from a little distance it had a curiously unsubstantial air, as though it were something real yet intangible, a thing you could see but not touch. It lay in a hollow of the hills...where no sound was heard but the ringing of the bells....through forgotten towers and steeples. Jocelyn could see a confused mass of roofs and chimneys and church-spires, some high and some low, weather stained and twisted by age into fantastic shapes. The smoke from the chimneys went straight up into the windless air....the Cathedral....It stood there gloriously, its majesty softened by the warm day but not diminished, its towers a little withdrawn in the sky yet no less watchful."

We enjoyed a magical few hours exploring this beautiful city and promised ourselves a return visit very soon.