Dr Emma Wells
Associate Lecturer, Parish Church Studies



Dr Emma J. Wells MCIfA is an expert on pilgrimage studies, ecclesiastical history and architecture, as well as historic buildings in general. She is the lead Associate Lecturer for the PGDip in the History, Heritage and Fabric of the Parish Church and remains an historic buildings consultant. Prior to this post, Emma was a lecturer for accredited and non-accredited courses at the Centre for Lifelong Learning and, from 2009-13, she was a lecturer/seminar tutor for Durham University’s Archaeology and Combined Honours departments. Following this she held the post of Visiting Lecturer in Theology at York St John University. Emma was elected to the executive committee of the Ecclesiastical History Society and sits on the Editorial Board/Advisory Committee of the Royal Studies Journal.

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 academic publications have received high praise, particularly her article on medieval pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and Farne Island in a review by Professor David Rollason. Other praised publications include the article ‘Making “Sense” of the Pilgrimage Experience of the Medieval Church’, published in the journal devoted to the study of pilgrimage art and architecture: Peregrinations. Emma has further publications due to be released in 2016, including a more general readership book entitled Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles and the lead chapter of a section on religion and the senses in The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain. One of her key achievements, however, was undertaking the first systematic survey of St Neot parish church (Cornwall) to establish construction and repair history, including the alleged 14th-century shrine/wall painting, all previously overlooked by archaeological analysis. The results were published in the esteemed national journal Church Archaeology using an innovative multi-disciplinary approach for an otherwise practical-based publication. Her PhD thesis, which she is currently developing into a monograph, investigated the sensory experience of pilgrimage in the artistic and architectural infrastructures of late medieval English churches, from three distinct perspectives.

In the past Emma has worked extensively throughout the heritage, archaeological, and academic sectors, with a focus on all aspects of medieval pilgrimage. Notable examples of her work include a lead consultant for the HLF project, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate, and being asked to contribute to the British Museum’s Treasures of Heaven exhibition, being invited to research for the Lindisfarne Gospels Leverhulme Trust project, and contributing her historic/archival research and broadcasting skills to various establishments including the BBC 1 and Channel 4.


Professional Memberships

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); CIfA Special Interest Group: Buildings; Royal Archaeological Institute; British Archaeological Association; Society for Church Archaeology; Society for Medieval Archaeology; Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain; British Society of Master Glass Painters; Vidimus (devoted to medieval stained glass); Bedale Archaeology and History Society (11/12 committee member); Durham Medieval Archaeologists (09/10 committee member).




Emma’s primary research interests are in the study of the late medieval and Reformation ecclesiastical history of England (particularly the 15th to mid 16th century) as well as the application of true interdisciplinary research. Her work on the experience of late-medieval pilgrimage was the first attempt to use a sensory methodological framework in the field of ecclesiastical history and architecture, and remains the only study to analyse the experiential activity of three distinct social groups. Her future research is aimed at further developing this in relation to the study of significant events/rituals/processions of ‘Tudor’ spaces in order to establish underlying social, cultural, political, and religious discourses more fully. She also holds a fundamental interest in the material culture of the Reformation, particularly the transformation of space, places, rituals, and materiality from spiritual to secular – what happened as a result and how/were they still commemorated and remembered (i.e. stained glass) – as well as in the untold tales of scandal and intrigue of the medieval and Tudor eras.


Selected publications



Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles (Robert Hale, 2016). ISBN: 9780719817076


Matter of belief: Making ‘sense’ of the medieval pilgrimage cathedral (forthcoming).



Book contributions


‘Religion and the Senses’, The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britained. C. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez (Oxford University Press, forthcoming late 2016/17).


‘A History and Analysis of the Hall’, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate, ed. J. Brightman (forthcoming 2016). ISBN: 9780993310607


‘“...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, ed. J. Ashbee and J. M. Luxford (Maney, 2013), 214-31. ISBN: 9781907975936




Articles in refereed journals


‘Synaesthesia in Medieval Pilgrimage: The Case of St Neot’s shrine, Cornwall’, Church Archaeology, 14 (2012), 63-77.


‘Making ‘Sense’ of the Pilgrimage Experience of the Medieval Church’, Peregrinations Journal, III (2) (2011), 122-46 (this paper was used to teach the day course ‘Treasures from Heaven: Saints, Relics & Devotion in Medieval Europe’ run by the Guildford Institute which complemented the British Museum’s international loan exhibition).


‘Stained Glass in York Minster: Perceptions and Representations of Space’, Imbas: The Journal of the National University of Ireland, 1 (2008), 24-44.




Other contributions, editorials and notes


‘Those Walls Can Talk: The Importance of Buildings to History’, History Today (forthcoming late 2016).


‘Understanding Significance: The Importance of Knowing the History of a Listed Property’, Listed Heritage (November/December, 2014), 2-6.


‘Medieval pilgrimage: the call for a built perspective’, Ecclesiastical History Society Newsletter, (2014), 7. 


‘Kings, Commoners and Communities: ‘Sensing’ the Pilgrimage Experience of the English Medieval Church, c. 1170–1550’, Monastic Research Bulletin, 17 (2011), 11-16.