Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Stoney Middleton well-dressing, 2015

Posted on by royvickery |

033The custom of well-dressing – placing screens (shallow trays) containing damp clay into which natural, usually plant, materials are pressed to create pictures, at water sources – is indigenous to the Derbyshire Peak District, where it was first recorded in its present form in 1817.  A 2015 leaflet lists almost 80 towns and villages which will hold dressings at dates between 4 May and 19 September during the year.

036Wells have been dressed at the village of Stoney Middleton since 1936, and in 2015 the dressings were displayed from Saturday 25 July until Monday 3 August.  Three dressings were prepared: the main well which marked the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (according to legend the parish church of St Nicholas was built by Joan Padley in thanksgiving for the safe return from battle of her lover Robert Eyre), the children’s well (not a water source, but a free-standing screen) which depicted the ‘class of 2015’ and the Bath Garden well which depicted the rising sun.

The dressers of the main well utilised a wide range of materials, not all of them natural, but dressers of the other two screens restricted themselves to natural, mainly to plant, materials.

038At 3.00 p.m. on Saturday 25 July an opening ceremony was held and the wells blessed by the Archdeacon of Chesterfield.  This was rather disappointing, the Archdeacon and an accompanying clergywoman did not go near the wells, but officiated from a gazebo in the churchyard to an audience standing on the roadway outside.  Tideswell Band provided music for the hymn singing, but few people sang.  The blessing was followed by a displays of maypole dancing by local primary schoolchildren and dancing by a visiting morris side, and more music from the Tideswell Band.  There were a number of stalls, and teas were served in the churchyard.  Festivities, including a darts and dominoes evening, a curry night and a fell race, continued until Monday 3 August.

All photographs taken 25 July 2015; for other images see alder, hydrangea, pepper and sweet cicely on the Material Collected page of this website.

Edited 24 October 2022.

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