Dr Emma Wells
Lecturer, Parish Church Studies



Dr Emma J. Wells MCIfA, FRSA, SFHEA is an expert in pilgrimage studies, ecclesiastical history and architecture, as well as historic buildings in general. She is the Programme Leader for the PGDip in the History, Heritage and Fabric of the Parish Church 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 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 was a lecturer/tutor for Durham University’s Archaeology and Combined Honours departments 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. Previous to this, Emma designed and taught courses for the Centre as a Visiting Lecturer on subjects ranging from landscapes and country houses to cathedrals, stained glass and the Tudor monarchy.

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; 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).





Wells, E J. Forthcoming. Matter of Belief: Making ‘Sense’ of the Late Medieval Pilgrimage Cathedral (Boydell & Brewer).

Wells, E J. 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).

Book contributions

Wells, E J. 2020. ‘Local pilgrimage cults in Britain’, A Companion to Medieval Pilgrimage, A. Jotischky and W. Purkiss, eds. (ARC Humanities Press). 

Wells, E J. 2018. ‘Religion and the Senses’, The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain, ed. C. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez (Oxford University Press).

Wells, E J. 2017. ‘A History and Analysis of the Hall’, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate, ed. J. Brightman (Solstice Heritage).

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, ed. J. Ashbee and J. M. Luxford (Maney), 214-31.

Articles in refereed journals

Wells, E J. Forthcoming. ‘The Art of Building(s): The Iconography of Architectural Representations in the Great East Window and St William Window of York Minster’, Speculum.

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 and Architecture, III/2, 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).

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.

Other contributions, editorials and notes

Wells, E J. 2018. ‘Doubting Thomas Becket: Saint or Sinner?’, History Revealed.

Wells, E J. 2018. ‘Monks Behaving Badly’, BBC History, 56-59.

Wells, E J. 2018. ‘Those Walls Can Talk: The Importance of Buildings to History’, History Today, 11-13.

Wells, E J. 2018. ‘How naughty was the past? The hidden depths of the medieval church’, BBC History Extra.

Wells, E J. 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.



Programme Lecturer: PGDip in Parish Church Studies

Programme Lecturer: MA in English Building History

External activities


Emma sits on the Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), Durham University’s Castle Society executive committee, the Academic Advisory Board of the Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS) and the editorial board of Royal Studies Journal. In 2017, she was elected as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and, in 2018, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). She is also a tour guide for Historical Trips/Andante Travels, unravelling the history of architectural sites to parties across the UK.

Her broadcasting work includes appearances on Viral History, an invited specialist on medieval pilgrimage for BBC1 documentary, From the Dales to the Sea – A Great British Story, and various research consultancy work. She appeared on Oxford historian and broadcaster, Dr Janina Ramirez’s Art Detective podcast, as a ‘Don’ on BBC Radio 4’s The 3rd Degree and regularly contributes her expertise and writing to radio as well as popular magazines such as History Today, BBC History and BBC Countryfile.

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. She was also 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.

Emma acts as a peer reviewer for the following journals: Journal of Medieval Archaeology, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture, Royal Studies Journal.