Accessibility statement

Dr Emma Wells
Lecturer in Ecclesiastical and Architectural History



Dr Emma J. Wells MCIfA, FRSA, SFHEA is a Lecturer in Ecclesiastical and Architectural History, specialising in the late medieval and reformation English parish church/cathedral, pilgrimage, the cult of saints, and the ‘senses’, as well as built heritage more generally. She is the Programme Leader for the PGDip in the History, Heritage and Fabric of the Parish Church in partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) and the collaborative MA in English Building History between the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Department of Archaeology.

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 on the sensory experience of pilgrimage in the medieval church, for which she was the 2011-12 British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholar and the recipient of the 2011 Society for Church Archaeology Research Grant.

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.

Her most recent book, Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, was released in 2016. She is also in the process of completing her next book (entitled Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, published by Head of Zeus), and transforming her PhD thesis into a monograph. Emma’s lead chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain was published in early 2018, while further chapters and articles on local medieval shrines, the transformation of sensory devotion following the Break with Rome, and birth in the cathedral will be published in 2019/20.

Professional Memberships

Higher Education Academy (Senior Fellow); Ecclesiastical History Society (elected exec. committee member 2012–15); Royal Historical Society (elected member); Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (Professional Membership Level: Full Member); Institute of Historic Building Conservation (Professional Membership Level: Affiliate); Royal Society of Arts (Fellow); CIfA Special Interest Group: Buildings; Royal Archaeological Institute; British Archaeological Association; Society for Church Archaeology (committee member 2019-present); Society for Medieval Archaeology; Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain; British Society of Master Glass Painters; Bedale Archaeology and History Society (11/12 committee member); Durham Medieval Archaeologists (09/10 committee member).



Forthcoming Matter of Belief: Making ‘Sense’ of the Late Medieval Pilgrimage Cathedral (Boydell & Brewer).
2020 Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals (Head of Zeus).
2016 Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles (Robert Hale).

Edited collections
Forthcoming A Companion to the English Church, Emma J. Wells, Salvador Ryan. (eds) (CUP).

Peer-reviewed articles
2019 ‘William Joy [Joye], Master Mason’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) (OUP).
2012 ‘Synaesthesia in Medieval Pilgrimage: The Case of St Neot’s shrine, Cornwall’, Church Archaeology, 14, 63-77.
2011 ‘Making ‘Sense’ of the Pilgrimage Experience of the Medieval Church’, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture, III (2), 122-46.
2008 ‘Stained Glass in York Minster: Perceptions and Representations of Space’, Imbas: The Journal of the National University of Ireland, 1, 24-44.

Book contributions
2020 ‘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. (Peeters, in press).
2020 ‘Sensory experiences at local shrines’, A Companion to Medieval Pilgrimage, A. Jotischky and W. Purkiss, eds. (ARC Humanities Press, in press).
2018 ‘The Medieval Senses’, The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain, C. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez, eds. (Oxford University Press), 681-96.
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.
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.



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

External activities


Emma has played a number of roles within British building and ecclesiastical history, including: assistant editor of the Journal of Church Archaeology; 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).

She is also a regular writer and speaker 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 include appearances on the BBC, ITV, Yesterday, Curiosity Stream, Dr Janina Ramirez’s Art Detective and BBC Countryfile’s podcasts, and as a ‘Don’ on BBC Radio 4’s The 3rd Degree.

Emma has also worked extensively as an historical research consultant, gaining a broad repertoire of experience and skills in the advice and management of many large and small-scale projects. Notable examples of her work include the British Museum’s ‘Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe’ exhibition and the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham Leverhulme Trust project, as well as an advisor and on-screen expert for various establishments including the BBC and Channel 4. She was also invited to be a lead consultant on the 2013/14 HLF funded project, Charting Chipeling 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: Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate. She is currently a partner on the HLF-funded Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales.