Well Dressing

Well Dressing PosterLast Saturday, 1st July, a village near where I live in Staffordshire held its biannual Well Dressing. This custom was revived in 2012. The second local event was held a year later in 2013 and since then it has been held with a two-year gap, in 2015 and again this year.

The custom of well dressing is believed to have its roots in pagan times when the local community would decorate and bless the wells to give thanks to the gods for clean water. Some people believe that, rather than being a pagan custom it stems from the time of the Black Death (1348) when people would give thanks, again for clean water.

Originally the ceremony was confined to one or two villages in Derbyshire Peak District in the 19th century, having been introduced in Buxton in 1840 but it has since spread to  other villages, mostly in the neighbouring counties of Staffordshire, South Yorkshire and Cheshire but it has also spread to a few villages in Shropshire and Worcestershire, as well as the village of Kemsing in Kent where it was introduced in 2011.

The Croxton event near my home celebrates a different theme on each occasion. This year it was ‘Supporting the Community’. There is a trail of about 5 wells which have been refurbished in recent years and are dressed by different organisations within the community. The main well is blessed by the vicar of the local church, linking it to Christianity for modern consumption, and there are other events and activities available on the day to celebrate the occasion, as you can see from the poster.

First Croxton Well DressingThe  dressings are created on a board, usually a pallet filled in with clay, making them very heavy, and the are ‘coloured in’ with petals – hence the alternative name ‘well flowering’. Here is a photo of the very first Croxton well dressing (2012) at the main well and sponsored by the local Women’s Institute who are very active in encouraging the tradition to continue.

I did not manage to go along on the day but hope to follow the trail before the boards finally fade. There is a walking and cycling route established to view them so perhaps it will be out on the bike.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julespaige
    Jul 03, 2017 @ 18:40:24

    Thanks for the interesting lesson. It was the first I’ve heard of such.
    I hope you get to see them all and take photos.

    One of our local parks has a 4th of July celebration – it will be 2000 years old this year. https://www.lititzspringspark.org/history.html

    I know it isn’t as old as some European traditions…but we are a young country 😉


  2. grannysu
    Jul 06, 2017 @ 01:21:24

    I had not heard of this! Please, explain to me about the wells? Are these holy wells, or community water wells, or ancient village wells, or…? I like the idea of blessing them. We have a very deep water well on our farm (723 feet) and I give thanks almost daily for its abundant water.


    • Libby
      Jul 07, 2017 @ 15:10:27

      These are old village wells, some for community water and some for watering passing coach horses and farm animals. Some are mostly dry now (expect when it has rained) but some have water all the time. I have been round them today and will post pictures next Monday. 🙂


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