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

Emma defines herself as an academic, consultant, and author. She is a historian of late medieval/early modern religion and culture, and their associated art, architectural and ‘sensory’ environments.


She is an Associate Lecturer and Programme Director within the Department of History and Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York.


After receiving a Distinction in an MA in Buildings Archaeology, which followed a BA (Hons) in History of Art, both from the University of York, in 2013 Emma was awarded a PhD from Durham University for which she was the 2011-12 British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholar and was awarded a Society for Church Archaeology Research Grant.

Phil Taylor Photography ImageAcademic & 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. In January 2016, she was also made Associate Lecturer and Programme Director for the Centre for Lifelong Learning and, in 2017, was appointed as Associate Lecturer 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. 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 sits on Durham University’s Castle Society executive committee, the Academic Advisory Board of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS) and the editorial board of Royal Studies Journal — an open access publication which is a truly international and inter-disciplinary forum for scholars whose research is connected to monarchy in any aspect, period or geographical setting. 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, unravelling the history of architectural sites to parties across the UK.

Writing, Broadcasting, & Talks

A published author, copywriter, and editor, Emma’s publication repertoire includes trade books (for which she is represented by Andrew Lownie), edited volumes, renowned academic journals, handbooks, magazine editorials, and websites. Her most recent book, Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, was released in 2016Drawing on her previous research into cults and commemoration, Emma is currently attempting to understand/reconstruct the funerary rituals and memorials of the Tudor monarchs and how the dynasty’s reputations and legacies was thus developed and shaped in the following centuries from widely divergent perspectives and agendas, using varying mediums including literature, art, and political propaganda as well as modern films and television — a publication on this subject will be released in 2019. Moreover, she is currently completing research on the transformation of the sensory experience of devotion following the Break with Rome and throughout the sixteenth century, which also continues on from her doctoral research. Emma is in the process of writing her next book (entitled Heaven On Earth, 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 recently published while she is penning further chapters for volumes on medieval shrines, the devotional senses and the architectural legacy of the Tudor dynasty

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 become quite an authority on historic buildings and their histories in the north of England. She was 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 is often interviewed by various publications. Past examples are Living North and the York Press, while she was a property correspondent for the Yorkshire Times, and has penned editorials for BBC History and Listed Heritage, appeared on radio shows (BBC), and was invited to join the House Detectives’ team by its founder, Dr Nick Barratt. She has also contributed to various blogs including historicalhoney.com, as well as local publications. Please see the Press page for more details.

Whilst undertaking her doctorate Emma began working part-time as a 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 being asked to contribute to the British Museum’s Treasures of Heaven exhibition and the Lindisfarne Gospels Leverhulme Trust project, as well as an advisor and on-screen expert for various establishments including the BBC and Channel 4.

Her television work includes appearances on the Viral History channel, research and advising for the Elizabethan Royal Progress episode of BBC 2’s Britain’s Lost Routes (presented by Griff Rhys Jones, appearance from Dr Suzannah Lipscomb), Channel 4’s ‘Chapel of Secrets – Beadnell’ episode of Time Team (series 19), and was an invited specialist on the subject of medieval pilgrimage for the BBC1 history documentary ‘From the Dales to the Sea – A Great British Story’ (presented by Helen Skelton) in conjunction with Michael Wood’s series The Great British Story – A People’s History. She recently recorded a series of radio shorts for BBC Radio York on the history of Yorkshire as told through its buildings, landscapes and inhabitants, 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.

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

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