Ashford well 2005
The blessing of the watersupply, in the form of the well, is an ancient custom which is unique to the Peak District and the surrounding areas such as South Yorkshire and East Staffordshire. The custom had almost died out in the 1950s, but since then it has been revived with great vigour, primarily for the tourist industry.
Some sources attribute the practice to the period of the Black Death in 1348-9, when probably a third of the population of England died of the disease, but some villages such as Tissington were untouched.
The local people attributed this to their clean water supply and gave thanks by 'dressing' the village wells. However, it seems very likely that the practice goes back much further than this - probably to pagan times - and the fact that many well dressings have a 'well queen' suggests echoes of ancient spring fertility rites.
The practice is continued mainly in the limestone villages of the central and southern peak with a succession of different villages dressing their wells between the end of May and early September. Traditionally, Tissington is the earliest in late May, and Eyam is the last of the large festivals at the end of August. Outside the Peak District, places which 'dress' their wells include Chesterfield, Etwall (near Derby), Endon (near Stoke on Trent) and Penistone (South Yorkshire).
The construction of the well dressings is a skilful art in which frequently almost the whole population of the village is involved, and usually takes about ten days to perform. Wet clay is spread to a depth of a couple of inches across a wooden backing board, a design is 'pricked out' using a paper pattern and then petals and other items are placed in the areas laid out by the design. This is a laborious and time-consuming process, and the clay has to be kept damp or it will crack and the petalls will fall off.
Petalling the welldressing
After the well dressing is erected next to the well it is blessed in a short outdoor service, and usually a brass band will be hired for the occasion. Since many of the towns and villages have several wells, there will then be a procession around the town to bless each one in turn.
Band at Eyam welldressing
The well blessing ceremony is usually the signal for the start of a week of celebrations (or 'wakes') with a range of events often culminating in a carnival at the end of the week.
See also the article on Well Dressing Art
and the current well dressing list
0 - Tideswell well dressing 2019
1 - Litton welldressing 2019
2 - Cressbrook welldressing 2019
3 - Bradwell Town end welldressing 2019
4 - Bradwell welldressing 2019
5 - Hucklow welldressing 2019
6 - Welldressing at Ashford, 2001
7 - Welldressing at Ashford, 2001
8 - Welldressing at Ashford, 2003
9 - Welldressing at Ashford, 2005
10 - Welldressing at Ashford, 2005
11 - Ashford Welldressing
12 - Ashford Welldressing
13 - Bradwell welldressing
14 - Welldressing at Cressbrook, 2000
15 - Welldressing at Cressbrook, 2005
16 - Eyam Town Head welldressing, 1996
17 - Eyam childrens' welldressing, 1996
18 - Eyam main welldressing, 1996
19 - Eyam - brass band in welldressing parade
20 - Litton childrens' welldressing, 2001
21 - Litton welldressing, 2001
22 - Litton childrens' welldressing, 2004
23 - Litton welldressing, 2004
24 - Litton - traditional dancing in Wakes week
25 - Monyash well dressing, 2004
26 - Tideswell welldressing, 2004
27 - Tissington Well Dressing
28 - Wardlow welldressing, 1996
29 - Wormhill welldressing, 1996