Dr Emma J. Wells M.A, Ph.D.(Dunelm), MCIfA, FRSA, SFHEA

Emma defines herself as an academic, author, and broadcaster. She is an ecclesiastical and architectural historian, specialising in the late medieval/early modern English parish church/cathedral, pilgrimage, the cult of saints, and the ‘senses’, as well as built heritage more generally.


She is a Lecturer, Programme Director and Research Associate within the Department of Archaeology and Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York.


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, in 2013 Emma gained her PhD from Durham University, for which she was awarded the 2011-12 British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholarship and Society for Church Archaeology Research Grant.

Academic & Consultancy Career

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. In 2014, Emma was appointed as Programme Director of the PGDip in Parish Church Studies within the Department of History at the University of York (you can find the website run entirely by her students, here). 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, which Emma created, designed and developed. The Department of Archaeology then appointed her as Research Associate in 2018 and she was promoted to Lecturer in 2019. 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.

In addition to her research and teaching, Emma is the assistant editor for the Journal of Church Archaeology, sits on the Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), was elected to Durham University’s Castle Society executive committee, sits on the Academic Advisory Board of the Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS), elected as a Guardian for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), and is a member of the editorial board of Royal Studies Journal. In 2017, she was also 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 full member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA).

Writing, Broadcasting, & Talks

A published author and editor, Emma’s publication repertoire includes trade books (for which she is represented by Tim Bates at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop), edited volumes, renowned academic journals and collections, handbooks, magazine editorials, and websites. Her most recent book, Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, was released in 2016Drawing on her previous research into the sensory experience of devotion, Emma is currently completing research on the transformation of sensory devotion following the Break with Rome and throughout the sixteenth century. She is also in the process of writing her next book (entitled Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, to be published by Head of Zeus), and is in the final stages of transforming her PhD thesis into a book. 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 medieval shrines, the material culture of devotion, and architectural depictions within medieval stained glass will be published in 2019/20She is also a regular writer for magazines including BBC History, History Today, History Revealed, BBC Countryfile (for which she writes a regular column) and Listed Heritage and acts as a tour guide for Historical Trips and Andante Travels, unravelling the history of architectural sites to parties across the UK.

Emma is truly at ease in front of audiences and the media. An experienced and busy public speaker, the list of lectures and presentations she has given is extensive, and have covered a wide array of subjects associated with social, cultural and religious history, historic buildings, art and architecture. She has been invited to present talks at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Oxford University, the Listed Property Show, Who Do You Think You Are?, the Durham World Heritage Site and the Institute for Historical Research.

Emma has 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.

Her television work (for which she is also represented by Peters, Fraser and Dunlop) includes appearances on Viral History, as an invited specialist on medieval pilgrimage for BBC1 documentary, From the Dales to the Sea – A Great British Story, and various research consultancy work. Not only is she regularly interviewed for radio, but she has also appeared on Oxford historian and broadcaster, Dr Janina Ramirez’s Art Detective podcast, and as a ‘Don’ on BBC Radio 4’s The 3rd Degree. See TV and Radio pages for further examples.

Emma is often interviewed by various publications. Past examples are The Telegraph,  and The Yorkshire Post, while she was a property correspondent for the Yorkshire Times. Please see the Press page for more details.

Emma’s CV, including a list of publications, is available upon request.

When not writing or teaching, Emma can be found with her head in a book or her feet at the threshold of a country house, castle, or church (or watching endless episodes of QI).

She lives in North Yorkshire, but may be often found travelling south on the East Coast Mainline, or racing on roads and tracks up and down the country (*fun fact: Emma gained her racing licence aged 18 and previously raced with Formula Woman).

“Thank you for visiting my site. I hope it proves useful!”