WELLS Cathedral has won a £577,562 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to save and open up the oldest continuously inhabited medieval street in Europe.

The project aims to make a number of the historic properties on Vicars’ Close, in Wells, accessible to the public for the first time, to better share their rich history.

The scheme will also conserve the unique architectural heritage of the close.

The windfall funding will Wells Cathedral progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

The plans are to open up two houses of Vicars’ Close as interpretation centres, alongside creating public access to other hidden gems on such as the Vicars’ Hall and Treasury Rooms.

The street was built for the cathedral choir in 1348 and the choir still live there today.

An unbroken archive of the cathedral choir exists from the close’s construction until 1936. It will be used to bring to life the social history of the inhabitants of Vicars’ Close alongside the story of its musical heritage which has been integral to life on the close and the cathedral for more than 600 years.

The project will provide opportunities through new programming to work with and support groups throughout the cathedral’s local and regional communities.

It will fund essential work to the exteriors of the properties on Vicars' Close, conserving ageing buildings to ensure they survive for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Changing weather patterns are accelerating the deterioration of the street, so the conservation project provides an opportunity to address the climate crisis through factoring in ambitions to reach carbon net zero.

The Dean of Wells, the Very Rev Dr John Davies, said: “We are delighted to receive this support thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players.

"‘Vicars’ Close: A Medieval Street Singing Through the Centuries’ project is a critical step to conserve, interpret, share, and make accessible this wonderful heritage asset.

"The project will create opportunities for our local and regional communities through skill building, education and employment that will work towards healing the effects of the Covid pandemic.

"The project will also create an innovative and exciting new experience for Wells, Somerset and the South West to be proud of.

"It is delightful to know that we are a step closer to ensuring future generations will continue to be able to experience this wonderful place.”