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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
Monday6th May 2019Newborough Saturday11th May 2019
Saturday11th May 2019Waingroves Wednesday15th May 2019
Friday17th May 2019Chester Green Sunday19th May 2019
Saturday18th May 2019Etwall Monday20th May 2019
Saturday18th May 2019Swanwick Thursday23rd May 2019
Saturday25th May 2019Middleton by Youlgreave Saturday1st June 2019
Saturday25th May 2019Brackenfield Monday27th May 2019
Saturday25th May 2019Endon Monday27th May 2019
Saturday25th May 2019Monyash Monday3rd June 2019
Saturday25th May 2019Wirksworth Wednesday29th May 2019
Sunday26th May 2019Cromford Saturday1st June 2019
Thursday30th May 2019Tissington Wednesday5th June 2019
Wednesday5th June 2019Chatsworth Sunday9th June 2019
Saturday8th June 2019Cressbrook Saturday15th June 2019
Saturday15th June 2019Ashford-in-the-water Sunday23rd June 2019
Saturday15th June 2019Biddulph Saturday22nd June 2019
Saturday15th June 2019Wyaston and Edlaston Friday21st June 2019
Friday21st June 2019Norbury Primary School Friday28th June 2019
Saturday22nd June 2019Tideswell Sunday30th June 2019
Saturday22nd June June 2019
Saturday22nd June 2019Hope Sunday30th June 2019
Saturday22nd June 2019Litton Sunday30th June 2019
Saturday22nd June 2019Over Haddon Sunday30th June 2019
Saturday22nd June 2019Youlgreave Thursday27th June 2019
Sunday23rd June 2019Whaley Bridge Sunday30th June 2019
Friday28th June 2019Elmton Sunday7th July 2019
Friday28th June 2019Old Whittington Friday5th July 2019
Friday28th June 2019Tintwistle Sunday7th July 2019
Saturday29th June 2019Hayfield Sunday7th July 2019
Saturday29th June 2019Bakewell Monday8th July 2019
Saturday29th June 2019Buxworth Saturday6th July 2019
Saturday29th June 2019Derby Sunday7th July 2019
Saturday29th June 2019Rowsley Saturday6th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Aston-on-Trent Thursday11th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Bollington Sunday14th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Chapel-en-le-Frith Sunday14th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Coal Aston Friday12th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Crich Saturday13th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Dore Sunday14th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Hathersage Saturday13th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Matlock Saturday13th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Wessington Monday8th July 2019
Saturday6th July 2019Whitwell Saturday13th July 2019
Sunday7th July 2019Buxton Monday15th July 2019
Sunday7th July 2019Apperknowle Sunday14th July 2019
Thursday11th July 2019Pilsley Thursday18th July 2019
Friday12th July 2019Charlesworth and Broadbottom Saturday20th July 2019
Friday12th July 2019Cutthorpe Sunday21st July 2019
Friday12th July 2019Dronfield Woodhouse Friday19th July 2019
Friday12th July 2019Holmesfield Friday19th July 2019
Friday12th July 2019Millthorpe Sunday21st July 2019
Saturday13th July 2019West Hallam Friday19th July 2019
Saturday13th July 2019Great Longstone Saturday20th July 2019
Saturday13th July 2019Little Longstone Saturday20th July 2019
Saturday13th July 2019Pleasley Wednesday17th July 2019
Friday19th July 2019Charlesworth Church of the Immaculate Conception Tuesday30th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Ault Hucknall Sunday28th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Brimington Saturday27th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Clowne Friday26th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Heath Village Saturday27th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Rowthorne Sunday28th July 2019
Saturday20th July 2019Stoney Middleton Sunday28th July 2019
Saturday27th July 2019Bonsall Friday2nd August 2019
Saturday3rd August 2019Bradwell Saturday10th August 2019
Saturday3rd August 2019Wingerworth Saturday10th August 2019
Thursday8th August 2019Great Hucklow Wednesday14th August 2019
Wednesday14th August 2019Barlow Tuesday20th August 2019
Saturday17th August 2019Blackwell Friday23rd August 2019
Saturday17th August 2019Taddington Friday23rd August 2019
Thursday22nd August 2019Holymoorside Sunday8th September 2019
Saturday24th August 2019Wormhill Saturday31st August 2019
Saturday24th August 2019Eyam Saturday31st August 2019
Saturday24th August 2019Foolow Monday2nd September 2019
Saturday7th September 2019Chesterfield Saturday14th September 2019
Saturday7th September 2019Hartington Saturday14th September 2019
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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.

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Last Updated : Friday, 01-Feb-2019
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