The Croxton Wells

Further to my post last Monday on the subject of Well Dressing, which you can read here, I did eventually get to visit the wells on Friday. They were only left in situ for one week so this was really my last opportunity. I half expected them to have faded, having been decorated using natural materials, but in fact they were still in good condition.

Well No. 6This was a good excuse to go out on the bike (‘Lola’) and to prove that I did here is my bike by Well No. 6.

I was intending to ride the 6.3 miles Heritage Trail which included visiting the five village wells and the sixth which was a bit further away along a lane out of the village. Croxton is about 3 miles from my home so the round trip would have been about 12.5 miles. Unfortunately I missed a turning down one lane (see Friday’s post) and ended up doing a round trip of about 14 miles.

As I mentioned in my previous post the theme this year was ‘Supporting the Community’ and Well 6 is a spring-fed well beside a fishing pond, near the remains of an old manor house. This ‘Dressing’ celebrated the Shropshire and Staffordshire Blood Bikes (which now also cover part of Cheshire). This is a volunteer organisation that transports blood, as well as breast milk for premature babies and microbiological samples on behalf of the NHS, using specially equipped motorbikes.

Boughy's Well No 1The wells all served the community in times gone by, some providing water for the people of the community and others were used to water livestock and passing coach horses. Well No. 1, on the left, is known as Boughy’s Well and is another spring fed well on an area known as The Flash. This well provided drinking water for the village and is now protected by a fence. It was ‘Dressed’ by members of the local community and represents the police, fire and ambulance services.

Well No 2

Well No. 2 on the right was created by local children and represents Staffordshire’s Lowland Rescue Service, helping find missing people and saving lives at times of flooding as well as transporting paramedics to casualties in adverse weather conditions.

Well 3 RNLI

The  small ‘Dressing’ for Well No. 3 sits above a ‘sloping well’ carved into the sandstone rock. It celebrates the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

 

Well No. 4 below is another ‘sloping well’ that was used to water farm animals and coach horses. This star-shaped ‘Dressing’ depicts the village groups that support the community, such as the choir, the church, the Garden Guild, the Tennis Club and the WI (Women’s Institute – who initiated the Well Dressing Festival).

Well No. 4

Finally Well No. 5, below, is known as ‘Cattery Well’ as it sits outside a local cattery! It is a deep spring-fed well and always has water. It provided a plentiful supply for local residents. This well is also fenced for safety purposes and the ‘Dressing’ sits above it. The ‘triptych’ design was created by children from the local primary school and references their school badge which includes a bee, train, kingfisher and the church. As well as learning about the ancient custom of Well Dressing while doing this the children also learnt about the importance of wells in rural villages.Well No. 5 Cattery Well

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.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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