Dr Emma Wells
Research Associate



Dr Emma J. Wells BA (Hons.), MA (Dist.) PhD, MCIfA, FRSA, SFHEA is an ecclesiastical historian and buildings archaeologist at the University of York, specializing particularly in the history and archaeology of the late medieval/early modern English parish church and cathedral, with a distinct concentration on pilgrimage, the cult of saints, sensory experience and applying cross-disciplinary and comparative approaches to the past.

After receiving a Distinction in the MA in Buildings Archaeology which followed a BA (Hons) in History of Art, both from the University of York, Emma was then awarded a PhD in Buildings Archaeology from Durham University for which she was the 2011-12 British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholar and the recipient of the 2011 Society for Church Archaeology Research Grant. Her PhD thesis was entitled ‘An Archaeology of Sensory Experience: Pilgrimage in the Medieval Church, c. 1170–c. 1550’.

From 2009-13 Emma joined Durham University’s Archaeology and Combined Honours departments as a graduate lecturer/tutor and, following this, was a Visiting Lecturer in Theology at York St John University. Simultaneously, Emma set up her own heritage consultancy which she saw go from strength to strength.  In 2014, Emma was then appointed as Programme Director of the PGDip in Parish Church Studies within the Department of History at the University of York. In January 2016, she was also made Associate Lecturer and Programme Director for the Centre for Lifelong Learning then, in 2017, was appointed as Programme Director for the new collaborative MA in English Building History between the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Department of Archaeology, at York which Emma created, designed and developed. 

Emma has played a number of roles within British building and ecclesiastical history, including: a member of Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC); Durham University’s Castle Society executive committee; Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS) Academic Advisory Board; Guardian for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB); and executive committee member of the Ecclesiastical History Society. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a full member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA).

Emma is also a regular writer for BBC History, History Today, History Revealed, BBC Countryfile and Listed Heritage, and a tour guide for Historical Trips and Andante Travels. Her television, radio and podcast work includes appearances on Viral History, Michael Wood’s BBC1 spinoff to ‘A Great British Story’, Oxford historian and broadcaster, Dr Janina Ramirez’s History Hit Art Detective podcast, and as a ‘Don’ on BBC Radio 4’s The 3rd Degree, as well as various research consultancy work.


Full publications list


  • Wells, E. J. (forthcoming 2020) Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals (Head of Zeus).
  • Wells, E. J. (2016) Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles (Robert Hale).


Journal articles

  • Wells, E. J. (2012) ‘Synaesthesia in Medieval Pilgrimage: The Case of St Neot’s shrine, Cornwall’, Church Archaeology, 14, 63-77.
  • Wells, E. J. (2011) ‘Making ‘Sense’ of the Pilgrimage Experience of the Medieval Church’, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture, III (2), 122-46.
  • Wells, E. J. (2008) ‘Stained Glass in York Minster: Perceptions and Representations of Space’, Imbas: The Journal of the National University of Ireland, 1, 24-44.


Contributions to books and edited volumes

  • Wells, E. J. (forthcoming 2020) ‘Sensory experiences at local shrines’, A Companion to Medieval Pilgrimage, A. Jotischky and W. Purkiss, eds. (ARC Humanities Press).
  • Wells, E. J. (forthcoming 2019) ‘The Arte of Prophecying: Transformative Worship and ‘Sense’-orship in the English Reformation Parish Church’, Material Cultures of Devotion in the Age of Reformations, Salvador Ryan, Samantha Smith and Laura Katrine Skinnebach, eds. (Four Courts Press).
  • Wells, E. J. (2018) ‘The Medieval Senses’, The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain, C. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez, eds. (Oxford University Press), 681-96.
  • Wells, E. J. (2017) ‘Kipling through the Archives’ and ‘Historic Buildings Analysis’, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate, J. Brightman, ed. (Solstice Heritage), 6-17; 31-50.
  • Wells, E. J. (2013) ‘“...he went round the holy places praying and offering”: Evidence for Cuthbertine Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and Farne in the Late Medieval Period’, Newcastle and Northumberland: Roman and Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology, J. Ashbee and J. M. Luxford ed. (Maney), 214-31.


All other works

  • Wells, E. J. (September 2018) ‘Heritage and mission are not in conflict’, Church Times, 14.
  • Wells, E. J. (November 2018) ‘Thomas Becket: Murder in the Cathedral’, History Revealed Magazine, 39-44.
  • Wells, E. J. (September 2018) ‘The Feudal Age’, and ‘Faith & Devotion’, BBC Countryfile Magazine, 46-50; 58.
  • Wells, E. J. (August 2018) ‘Monks Behaving Badly’, BBC History Magazine, 56-59.
  • Wells, E. J. (March 2018) ‘Those Walls Can Talk!’, History Today, 11-13.
  • Wells, E. J. (September 2016) ‘How naughty was the past? The hidden depths of the medieval church’, BBC History Extra.
  • Wells, E. J. (November/December 2014) ‘Understanding Significance: The Importance of Knowing the History of a Listed Property’, Listed Heritage, 2-6.
  • Wells, E. J. (2014) ‘Medieval pilgrimage: the call for a built perspective’, Ecclesiastical History Society Newsletter, 7.
  • Wells, E. J. (2011) ‘Kings, Commoners and Communities: ‘Sensing’ the Pilgrimage Experience of the English Medieval Church, c. 1170–1550’, Monastic Research Bulletin, 17, 11-16.



Recent research projects include:

  • 2013/14 HLF funded project, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate which sought to uncover the social and architectural history, and underlying archaeology, of Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire, and was a co-author of the resulting publication
  • 2017-present HLF-funded Ledgerstone Survey of England (LSEW) which aims to record all the ledgerstones of England and Wales.  



  • Programme Leader: PGDip in Parish Church Studies
  • Programme Leader: MA in English Building History

External activities


2018-present     Guardian, Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).

2018-present      Member, Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC).

2018-present      Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

2017–present      Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

2017-present       Executive Committee Member, Durham Castle Society, University College, Durham.

2016-present       Member, Society of Authors.

2014-15              Communications Officer (Committee Member), Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Archives Group.

2013-15              Executive Committee Member & Social Media Manager, Ecclesiastical History Society.

2013 – present     Member, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA)

2012 – present     Member, Society for Architectural Historians of Great Britain

2011 – present      Member, British Archaeological Association


Contact details

Dr Emma Wells
Research Associate
Department of Archaeology
University of York
King's Manor
Exhibition Square