In 1286 March 15, Robert, bishop of Bath and Wells (Robert Burnell) was granted, by Edward I, (In year 14 of his reign) a Royal licence to crenellate cathedral church of Wells and the precinct (Wells Cathedral Precinct)
Licence for Robert, bishop of Bath and Wells, to enclose the churchyard of the cathedral church of Wells and the precinct of the canons' houses in the city with a stone wall, and to crenellate the same for their better security, making sufficient gates and posterns, to be opened at dawn. (CPR)
Granted at Woodstock.
Clearly a defence against thieves rather than military although the actual buildings are more a status symbol than anything else. However, note should be made of Coulson's general comments on the general use of gates and precinct walls to symbolically represent social order and control. Very similar to the licence granted to Lincoln cathedral the previous year, although the need to mollify the citizens of Wells must have been less and Burnell prestige and the prestige of the see (in comparison to Lincoln) are probably more important factors here.
Original source is;
Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1893 (reprint 1971), Calendar of Patent Rolls (1281-92) p. 229 online copy
(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation
of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be
noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or
early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect
the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to
the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)
Significant later sources are;
Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 167 Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 79, 93 online copy
Burnell, Robert (d. 1292)
Burnell, Robert (d. 1292), administrator and bishop of Bath and Wells... Immediately after Edward's coronation in September 1274 Burnell replaced the veteran Walter of Merton (d. 1277) as chancellor and became the leading figure of a new government. (Harding)