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

Emma defines herself as an historian, author, and broadcaster. She is an ecclesiastical and architectural historian/buildings archaeologist as well as public 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.


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 Director for the Centre for Lifelong Learning then, in 2017, was appointed as 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 2021, she was appointed as a Research Fellow at Durham University. After almost a decade in academia, in summer 2022, Emma decided to move back into the consultancy world and was appointed Principal Historic Buildings Consultant for SLR Consulting.

In addition to her research and teaching, Emma is Secretary & Assistant Editor for the Society and  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 was 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) and a Patron of the Walpole Old Chapel, Suffolk Unwrapped fundraising Project. In 2021, Emma was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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 first book, Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, was released in 2016, and her most recent book Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, was published by Head of Zeus in 2022. Alongside Dr Claire Kennan, Emma is also the co-editor of the Brepols series Reinterpreting the Middle Ages: From Medieval to Neo and its associated monthly What (is) Medieval? seminar series. Finally, Emma has her own Substack titled Churches & Their Naughty Bits. Subscribe now to keep up with exclusive and weekly audio and written content.

Moreover, her 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 teaching the medieval/medieval in the modern were published in 2022She is also a regular writer for magazines including Catholic Herald, Church Times, MinervaBBC History, History Today, History Revealed, and BBC Countryfile(for which she wrote a regular column)and acts as a specialist tour guide for 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 Canterbury Cathedral, Ripon MinsterCourtauld Institute of Art, Oxford University, the Listed Property Show, Who Do You Think You Are?, Durham’s World Heritage Site, the Institute for Historical Research and appeared at BBC Countryfile Live!

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 (Gentleman Jack, Series 1) 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 was also a partner on the HLF-funded Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales.

Her television work (for which she is also represented by Tris Payne at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop) includes appearances on Yesterday, Curiosity StreamChannel 4 & 5, Viral History, as an invited specialist on medieval pilgrimage for BBC1 documentary, From the Dales to the Sea – A Great British Story, and research consultancy work. Not only is she a regular guest on television and radio shows, but she has appeared as a ‘Don’ on BBC Radio 4’s The 3rd Degree. See TV and Radio pages for further examples.

When not busying herself with research, teaching or broadcast work, she also makes YouTube videos on all-things medieval and ecclesiastical! Find her channel here.

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 church, country house, or castle (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!”

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