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Well Dressing

Ancient Peak District custom

Fitzherbert School Well dressing and cottage - Tissington 2010 

What’s this? Decorating wells and water sources with garlands of flowers is a lovely ancient custom around the Staffordshire and Derbyshire Peak Districts, nearby villages and some other counties (May – September).

The designs gradually became more elaborate with wooden frames and clay boards used to create patterns for designs and wording. Flower petals, seeds, berries and leaves are laid over each other like roofing tiles, so rainwater runs off.

The actual timeline isn’t known but theories around well dressing include it being of Celtic pagan origin, reintroduced in the Derbyshire village of Tissington after it escaped the bubonic plague, the Black Death, from 1348.

Villages celebrate at different times from May–September and include Endon in Staffordshire, which crowns a well dressing queen, features Morris Dancers and a custom of the Throwing of the Sheaf. Hartington village on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border traditionally dresses its wells in September.

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Information

Spring: Mar, Apr & May

Summer: June, July & Aug

Autumn: Sep, Oct & Nov

Ancient, Roman, Saxon

Text © Alison Plummer

Image by Mick Lobb