Tissington Well Dressings
It is that time of the year when some very talented folk create some great works of art with which to ‘Dress’ the village Wells.
It has long been the tradition in the Derbyshire village of Tissington, that for Ascension Day the village Wells are ‘Dressed’ with floral decorations and on Ascension day itself a Church service is held in St. Mary’s Church. Following the Service the Congregation then proceed to visit each Well in turn and Bless them to ensure both purity and continuity of the water.
It is a tradition, rooted in a Pagan custom, later adopted by the Christian Church. It was given added importance following the Black Death 0f 1348. It should also be mentioned that Tissington like so many of the Derbyshire villages is built upon Limestone. Limestone being porous allows water to ‘vanish’ below the surface…. so any location that had a natural spring soon became a well and its waters protected.
Well Dressing has become a skilled and creative artform. Each well has its own display boards, boards that have been used for many many years. The boards are covered in local clay onto which the design is etched in outline. Then petals, leaves and other natural materials are ‘pricked’ into the clay, each overlapping the other like tiles on a roof. As for the Design, well obviously there is a religious story but also a different theme is chosen each year. This year it is Nursery Rhymes and Children’s stories.
Hall Well and the Children’s Well
Yew Tree Well
(celebrating 50 years since Woodstock)
So named not for its shape, but a place on the ‘Coffin route’ when folk had to carry their dead to Church for burial, a journey over fields, dales and some times long distances. It is here that the Coffin was laid on a flat stone whilst the mourners rested prior to entering the Church.
Saint Mary’s Church, Tissington
Standing on a hill in the centre of the village, the Norman church of St. Marys still casts a watchful eye over its village. Tissington remains a small village and is part of the wider Tissington Estate that has been in the ownership of the FitzHerbert family since the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Little has changed, cottage and farms, gardens and meadows, a couple of shops and of course a Tea Room…. all overlooked both by St. Marys and Tissington Hall.
For 7 days the village is packed with visitors, then the boards are stripped, cleaned and safely stored till next year….but the thinking of what designs to use will start at once.
(C) David Oakes 2019