St. Mary’s Church, Tissington, Derbyshire
High on a hill in the centre of the village of Tissington is the 12th century Parish Church of Saint Mary’s, surround by a Hall, various Farms and a large handful of cottages.
(see more on this church on my earlier link :- )https://davidoakesimages.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/sunday-and-off-to-church-again/
This last Thursday, the important Holy Day in the Churches Calendar, was Ascension Day. On that day each year, after Prayers, a procession of senior Holy leaders together with the parishioners proceed to the village and in turn visit each of the 6 Wells of the village. Each Well is blessed and prayers said for the continued giving of life’s waters.
Prior to the Blessings, each Well has been dressed by the villagers with a Floral Decoration depicting a biblical scene….
The origins of this custom is lost in time and many theories have been promoted. The most likely and best supported is that the custom of paying respects to the Wells and giving thanks for the water they provide goes back to pagan times. This area of Derbyshire is built upon Limestone notoriously porous, a land where rivers and streams in times of little rain, and more so at time of drought, disappear below ground.
The waters in some cases re-emerge in local Wells. Perhaps it was the existence of this water source that prompted the establishment of communities around these Wells. It is suggested that in Pagan times the Wells were worshiped and wild flowers placed as a symbol of the life giving properties of the waters.
Is thought that like many other established Pagan activities the Churches decided to ‘adopt’ the practice and meld it into its own beliefs. It is also thought that when the Plaque ravaged much of England, the importance of Blessing the Wells, gathered new impetus, the importance of fresh germ free water was vital to survival.
Tissington is recognised as the principle village that has maintained this link with its Well Blessing…now often described as Well Dressing.
There are six Wells in Tissington so lets take a look…
Yew Tree Well
The Children’s Well
Well Dressing is now a tourist draw, for one week visitors flock to see the displays. Each is created by the villagers in the traditional manner. Wooden frames, like giant pictures frames are filled with clay and left to soak for a week or more in the village pond. The design is then outlined onto the clay and individual flower petals and mosses are inserted into the design to build up these remarkable images…each year new designs are created always religious but on special occasion incorporating national events like the Queens Jubilees.
Well Dressing involves the whole village and for this one week it is flooded with visitors who also enjoy all the other delights of this very traditional Derbyshire village.
(C) David Oakes 2017