Decision to charge tourists explained

THE Acting Dean of Wells Cathedral has explained more about the decision to introduce a new entry charge for tourists.

From April 22, tourists will be required to pay a Cathedral admission charge of £14 – which includes access to any exhibition, a ground-floor tour, children’s activities and 12 months of re-entry.

Entry will be free for those living within the parish boundaries of the City of Wells, as well as for worship, prayer, and to light a candle. Donations will still be welcome, with a suggested donation of £8. 

The Venerable Anne Gell, Acting Dean, said: “Many believe that cathedrals are funded by the Church of England but this isn’t the case; whilst Wells receives funding for the stipends of the Dean and two residentiary canons, we actually receive very little additional funding from the Church of England or the UK government. This means, as with all English cathedrals, Wells relies heavily on donations and grants as well as income we can generate for ourselves.

“And most people probably don’t realise that it costs us £4,500 each day to run Wells Cathedral. For many years we have managed financially but there have always been fragilities. Now, with the increases in costs the Cathedral continues to face, we have to look to ways in which we can grow our income and increase our fundraising.

“That’s why we will be asking adult tourist visitors to contribute towards the care and upkeep of this Grade I Wells Cathedral and to ensure we can keep our doors open for future generations.”

She said that the decision has been taken by the Cathedral Chapter only after a lot of work, discussion and with expert advice. “My Chapter colleagues and I recognise the responsibility we have to ensure the Cathedral is a focus for the community today as well as being conserved and maintained for future generations and we believe this admissions strategy will help us to do that.”

There will be a number of exemptions to the tourist admission charge which include no charge for under 18s, for accompanying carers of a paying adult, or for Cathedral Cardholders / Friends Of Wells Cathedral cardholders and Wells Cathedral Planned Givers.

But with an estimated 167,000 tourism visitors in 2023 (from a total of more than 312,000 visitors during the year), the Cathedral is hoping to generate about £600,000 per year in additional income.

“The Cathedral was built many centuries ago to the glory of God as a place of Christian worship and prayer, and this continues to be the primary purpose of this inspiring and beautiful place,” said the Acting Dean.

“Anyone coming to the Cathedral to pray or for worship will always be able to come in freely and without charge. However we know that we are also privileged to be responsible for a building of stunning architectural interest and great historical importance and that many visitors come primarily for those purposes.

“We hope that those who do will understand our need to conserve and look after the Cathedral for all those who come after us and will be willing to contribute to that through the tourist admission charge.”

Anyone who lives within the parish boundaries of the City of Wells can apply for a free Wells Cathedral Residents’ Pass which will give them barrier-free entry. Application forms are available on the website at or people can take a form of address ID to the Welcome Desk in the Cathedral and the pass will be processed there (between 9am and 4.30pm Monday-Saturday, and 11am to 3pm on Sundays).

Each resident will need to apply for an individual pass, and if applying for more than one pass, will need to provide proof of address for each named individual.

Anyone who is on the church electoral roll of a parish in the diocese (or the Cathedral Community Roll) is also eligible to apply for a Wells Cathedral Parish Pass. There is a form on the Cathedral’s website for this which should be completed with their churchwarden. The team on the Welcome Desk will then process the pass. They also have copies of the form available. The Acting Dean said: “Wells Cathedral will remain free for anyone to come in for worship, prayer, reflection or to light a candle – we love to welcome people from far and near to services, and to experience the prayerful and awe-inspiring yet warm atmosphere of this lovely Cathedral. My prayer is that those who do will find peace and a sense of God’s presence and love. I would also say that all money that is raised through the tourist admission charge, along with money from grants, donations and legacies, is ploughed back into the Cathedral to fund worship and mission, care and restoration of the fabric, visitor operations, hospitality and outreach. I hope our visitors and supporters understand the reasoning behind why we’ll be asking adult tourists to contribute to its upkeep.”