Road into Derbyshire village with well dressings

Well Dressings in Derbyshire

11, May 2022 | Derbyshire, Peak District, What's On

Two well dressings made of shaped petals on clay

What is a well dressing?

Throughout Derbyshire during the summer months many of the villages display well dressings. A well dressing is in collage form and made from placing different coloured and shaped petals onto a clay mixture to form a scene. They can also contain other natural material, such as leaves, seeds or nuts. The pictures may have a religious link, such as a scene from the bible, or commemorate a significant event or person. It may be this year the Platinum Jubilee features on a number of dressings.

Where are well dressings found?

Well dressings, as the name suggests, are often found near former wells or water. However, over time they can also be found in village squares, church gardens or other local places. There is a calendar of well dressings throughout Derbyshire.

2 Derbyshire village well dressing images made from flowers

How did well dressings originate?

Well dressings are thought to have originated as part of pagan festivals to give thanks for a reliable water supply. As time progressed the dressings started to be blessed and this custom often continues. The blessings usually take place on the first day the well dressing is placed on display. Well dressings also became associated with celebrating new water supplies to villages. Probably the most notable site for well dressings is Tissington. The historic village displays a number of well dressings around the time of the Ascension Thursday.

Ashford in the Water cricket club well dressingHow are well dressings and Derbyshire linked?

Well dressings are most common in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. When we consider the importance of water it is perhaps not too surprising that this type of ritual developed. The reason why the tradition is associated with Derbyshire is not clear. However, one theory suggests that during the Black Death epidemic in the middle of the 14th century, many Derbyshire villages were spared, and this was thought to be linked to some form of ‘protection, from the deadly disease. However, the Pagan route is still likely. Interestingly the arrival of Christianity was not good news for well dressers as water worship was banned and action was taken by Henry VIII’s chancellor, Cromwell, to put an end to the tradition.

Well dressings today

Today the wonderful art of well dressing continues and there are dressed wells throughout the county for visitors to enjoy from May through to September. And one of the great things about the dressings is that no two are ever alike. There is always something new to see and surprises in store.

There are a number of well dressings close to us at Glendon. The dressings at Wirksworth are close to us. A little later in June Ashford-in-the-Water offers six dressings and there are usually other events taking place in the village. At the end of June, the Youlgrave well-dressings are on display. Again there are different dressings to view throughout the village. Later in August the village of Eyam, often referred to as the plague village, hosts their well dressing.

Visiting Derbyshire to view the Well Dressings

If you are travelling to Derbyshire to visit a well dressing , there are so many things to do in the Peak District, making it an ideal place to spend a few days. If you are looking for somewhere to stay we would be delighted to welcome you to Glendon Bed and Breakfast, we have fantastic reviews! A number of our visitors tell us they have not stayed at a Bed and Breakfast previously and are not sure what to expect. If you want to know more about what we offer for our guests read why you should book Glendon bed and breakfast, we hope this helps.

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