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Well Dressings

Well Dressing

Derbyshire, which is the major county in the Peak District is world famous for its well dressing. They can be seen from May to September throughout the county. Probably the most well known village that has well dressing is Tissington which is the first village to hold their well dressing festival in May.

Making a Well Dressing

Most well dressings are of a similar form. Near the well will be a large wooden frame containing a picture made out natural materials. Well Dressing - Peace to His people The predominant material is petal leaves. The technicalities of the construction is that the wooden frame is full of nails, a little like a bed of nails. Into this frame is spread clay, about 25mm (1") thick. This will have been collected seven to ten days before the festival. During the intervening period it is 'puddled' - a process whereby the well dressers walk over the clay in much the same way as grapes used to be pressed. This has the effect of softening the clay and makes the removal of stones, grit, twigs, and other unwanted contaminates easier. A little salt is added to the clay to assist with its water retention. Then the image is marked out with seeds, small stones, or coffee beans, in much the same way a child's colouring book looks. Then the coloured images are filled in with petals, Hydrangea are good for blue skies, moss for greens and bark for trees and buildings. No self respecting well dresser uses any paint whatsoever. They will use diverse natural materials such as eggshell, lichen, straw, wool, stone or coal to give their well dressing the colours it requires. It will take a proficient well dresser about seven hours to attach all the petals. They are laid like tiles so that any rain will run over the petals and off the bottom of the picture.

Rain is not the biggest threat to the pictures. Most rain will run off of the pictures, but wind will cause the clay to dry out, then it will crack and the petals may be blown away.

The best time to see the dressed wells is in the first three or four days after they have been erected. The index lists villages on the route that have well dressings. See also a comprehensive list of well dressings which includes well dressing within the Peak District National Park and many villages and towns outside the Peak National Park which have well dressings.

The Origin of Well Dressing

There is no definitive explanation as to why they were started. It is thought that they originated in pagan rituals or sacrifices to water gods as a thanks for past supplies and a request for continuing future deliveries. With much of the Peak District residing on porous limestone, water could, at times, be in short supply. The scarifies are thought to have been replaced by the colourful decoration as a tribute to the gods. It is known that the Romans made similar offering to their gods and one theory says that they probably brought this custom to Derbyshire. Unfortunately, no similar custom exists in modern Italy. So, the most favoured theory has the custom originating before the Romans and that is was a Celtic custom that managed to survive the successive invasions of Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans.

What is more certain is that the early Christian Church absorbed the pagan rite into it. The early Christian Church has an history of absorbing rather than suppressing pagan customs. Why else is Christmas day so close to the shortest day? In pagan times this was a time of rejoicing as the days would now get longer. And why is Easter a moveable feast? The name Easter comes from Eastre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour. Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals. Thus, most modern day well dressing coincides with religious festivals with the pictures depicting a biblical or moral theme. Indeed, one primary school has used the paintings of L.S Lowry, who lived that later part of his life in Derbyshire, for its well dressing. As part of the absorbing of the well dressing tradition, it is thought the the Christian Church gradually changes the well dressing themes to a religious theme and allowed the well dressings to be more complicated with the modern day picture frames.

Although many of the wells are not in active use, the tradition of well dressing survives to this day.

Comprehensive List of Well Dressings

Each village and town's well dressings in this list have been colour coded as follows:
Well Dressings that have recently been taken down - you can also see all previous Well Dressings.
Well Dressing that has just been put up in the last few days and today would be a good time to see the Well Dressings in their prime condition.
Well Dressing that has been up for more than a few days and its condition may be deteriorating.
Well Dressing that will be put up in the next 2 weeks.
Well Dressing that has not yet been put up and are at least 2 weeks from being put up.

If your village or town's well dressing is not shown on our list, or you have a definite date for next year's well dressing, please contact us and let us know.

Start Date Village or Town Local Contact End Date
Friday16th June 2017Norbury Primary School Friday23rd June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Biddulph Saturday24th June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Flash Sunday25th June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Litton Sunday25th June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Tibshelf Sunday25th June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Tideswell Sunday25th June 2017
Saturday17th June 2017Wyaston and Edlaston Friday23rd June 2017
Friday23rd June 2017Crosspool Sunday2nd July 2017
Friday23rd June 2017Elmton Saturday8th July 2017
Friday23rd June 2017Tintwistle Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Bakewell Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Buxworth Saturday1st July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Derby Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Hope Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Mayfield Thursday29th June 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Old Whittington Wednesday28th June 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Over Haddon Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Rowsley Saturday1st July 2017
Saturday24th June 2017Youlgreave Thursday29th June 2017
Sunday25th June 2017Whaley Bridge Sunday2nd July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Aston-on-Trent Thursday6th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Bollington Sunday9th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Coal Aston Thursday6th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Dore Saturday8th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Hathersage Sunday9th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Hayfield Sunday9th July 2017
Saturday1st July 2017Wessington Monday3rd July 2017
Sunday2nd July 2017Buxton Monday10th July 2017
Sunday2nd July 2017Chapel-en-le-Frith Sunday9th July 2017
Wednesday5th July 2017Peak Forest Saturday15th July 2017
Friday7th July 2017Crich Sunday16th July 2017
Saturday8th July 2017Pleasley Wednesday12th July 2017
Saturday8th July 2017Whitwell Saturday15th July 2017
Thursday13th July 2017Pilsley Thursday20th July 2017
Thursday13th July 2017Upper Langwith Sunday16th July 2017
Friday14th July 2017Cutthorpe Sunday23rd July 2017
Friday14th July 2017Dronfield Woodhouse Friday21st July 2017
Friday14th July 2017Holmesfield Friday21st July 2017
Friday14th July 2017Millthorpe Monday24th July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Ault Hucknall Sunday23rd July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Bamford Sunday23rd July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Belper Wednesday19th July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Charlesworth and Broadbottom Sunday23rd July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Charlesworth Church of the Immaculate Conception Sunday23rd July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Great Longstone Friday28th July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Heath Village Saturday22nd July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Little Longstone Friday21st July 2017
Saturday15th July 2017Rowthorne Sunday23rd July 2017
Thursday20th July 2017Unstone Tuesday25th July 2017
Saturday22nd July 2017Clowne Saturday29th July 2017
Saturday22nd July 2017Stoney Middleton Sunday30th July 2017
Saturday29th July 2017Bonsall Friday4th August 2017
Saturday5th August 2017Bradwell Saturday12th August 2017
Saturday5th August 2017Wingerworth Saturday12th August 2017
Thursday10th August 2017Great Hucklow Wednesday16th August 2017
Wednesday16th August 2017Barlow Tuesday22nd August 2017
Saturday19th August 2017Blackwell Friday25th August 2017
Saturday19th August 2017Taddington Friday25th August 2017
Thursday24th August 2017Holymoorside Monday4th September 2017
Friday25th August 2017Foolow Saturday2nd September 2017
Saturday26th August 2017Eyam Saturday2nd September 2017
Saturday26th August 2017Wormhill Sunday3rd September 2017
Saturday9th September 2017Chesterfield Saturday16th September 2017
Saturday9th September 2017Hartington Saturday16th September 2017
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This information is provided to the best of our knowledge. We have collected and collated it in good faith but we are not responsible for its accuracy and anyone intending to make use of this information is advised to check it out.

Well that's the legal stuff sorted.

Should you decline to comply with this warning, a leather winged demon of the night will soar from the deep malevolent caverns of the white peak into the shadowy moonlit sky and, with a thirst for blood on its salivating fangs, search the very threads of time for the throbbing of your heartbeat. Just thought you'd want to know that.

Last Updated : Saturday, 23-Jan-2016
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