The Peak District is the home of the ancient custom of well dressing
The practice of well dressing is continued in many places in the Peak District with a succession of different villages dressing their wells between the end of May and early September. Traditionally, Tissington is the earliest in late May, and Eyam is the last of the large festivals at the end of August.
Some sources attribute the practice to the period of the Black Death in 1348-9, when probably a third of the population of England died of the disease, but some villages such as Tissington were untouched.
The practice is continued mainly in the limestone villages of the central and southern peak with a succession of different villages dressing their wells between the end of May and early September. Traditionally, Tissington is the earliest in late May, and Eyam is the last of the large festivals at the end of August. Outside the Peak District, places which 'dress' their wells include Chesterfield, Etwall (near Derby), Endon (near Stoke on Trent) and Penistone (South Yorkshire).
The construction of the well dressings is a skilful art in which frequently almost the whole population of the village is involved, and usually takes about ten days to perform. Wet clay is spread to a depth of a couple of inches across a wooden backing board, a design is 'pricked out' using a paper pattern and then petals and other items are placed in the areas laid out by the design. This is a laborious and time-consuming process, and the clay has to be kept damp or it will crack and the petalls will fall off.
See also the article on Well Dressing Art and the current well dressing list.
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