Monday 14 June 2010

Derbyshire Well Dressings

The blessing of the source of water, in the form of a well or spring, is an ancient ceremony dating back to the Celts or even earlier. It is only found, apparantly, in or near the County of Derbyshire.

Many believe it originated from a pagan custom of making sacrifice to the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. Like many folk traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water. Tradition has it that it took on a special significance in 17th century Derbyshire as various villages, notably Tissington, gave thanks for their deliverance from the Plague which wiped out many inhabitants in the Derbyshire village of Eyam (said "Eeem not I-am). In fact, they had been spared by the altruism of the inhabitants of Eyam, who unselfishly quarantined themselves while the disease, accidentally introduced in a package of clothing from London, ran its deadly course.

Well Dressing is the art of decorating springs or wells with pictures made entirely of natural products like flower petals, moss, bark, shells, pebbles and leaves.

Wet clay is pressed into boards, which have been soaked for up to a week beforehand so as not to dry the clay out. Then the picture is traced onto the clay using a pointer. Next comes the delicate task of filling the picture with the petals and other natural materials. Each petal has to be put in individually by hand, and petals overlap like tiles on a roof so that rain will flow off the picture. This is a slow and laborious task which takes many hours and usually occupies most of the week prior to the well being dressed.

Well dressings take place at many Derbyshire villages between April and September, and details of these can be found at:



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