Belper - Well Dressings
w/e 20 July 2014
All of this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

From early May until late September each year, there's hardly a day goes by when you won't be able to see an example of a well dressing somewhere in Derbyshire. Thought to have been introduced by the Romans or Celts it is an almost exclusively Derbyshire custom and tradition although it has now crept over the boundaries into some neighbouring counties too. The art form involves the creation of pictures by pressing petals, seeds, cones, wool and many other natural items into clay within a wooden frame and to use the tableaux thus created to decorate or dress wells as a thanksgiving for the water. The method of creating the pictures has been passed down from generation to generation although the tableaux are not now necessarily placed at wells. There is however a Blessing Service held either in church or at an outdoor location to commence each Well Dressing Festival. Many towns and villages in the county only have one or two dressings but others have ten or more.

In the past we have visited several locations for Well Dressing Festivals including probably the best known at Tissington which is held around Ascension Day. West Hallam's festival, being local to Ilkeston, has also featured several times on this site and although this year's was held last week, we decided to ring the changes and take a look at what Belper had to offer during the same week.

Christ Church

The first dressing we saw was outside Christ Church on Bridge Street which in traditional manner, depicted a Biblical scene. Well dressing panels often include quotations from the Bible too but now they have also become more secular and commemorate anniversaries and other specific events.
Belper River Gardens

The rest of Belper's tableaux were situated in the River Gardens so we first enjoyed a walk through the gardens and by the river to the far end before returning along the central path by the bandstand.

Central Path

The panels were arranged on either side of the central path.
Amber District Girlguiding

A recurring theme in this year's panels was the anniversary of the First World War, this display created by Amber District Girlguiding.
Long Row School

This collection of panels was produced by the Long Row Primary School pupils who were inspired by the local environment in the River Gardens.
Herbert Strutt Primary

The Herbert Strutt Primary took the anniversary of the Great War as the inspiration for their dressings.
Belper School

And the same anniversary also prompted the Belper School and Sixth Form Centre to produce two panels with this picture showing some of the detail of one of them.
The Bandstand

The bandstand is about halfway along the central path and the tableaux continued on the other side towards the imposing East Mill.
Friends of the Gardens

The first display after the bandstand was by the Friends of Belper River Gardens which provided a nice contrast of the dress code in the gardens in Edwardian times with a view of how it looks now.
Red Arrows

Another military exhibit commemorated the 50th anniversary of the formation of the RAF's Red Arrows Display Team but unfortunately I omitted to record the contributor of this panel.
Altonmanor Beavers

There was no such problem with this panel though for it shows that "In The Willows" was by the 1st Altonmanor Beavers but I expect they had a lot of help from their leaders and/or parents. Whoever helped it shows that a great deal of work had gone into the colourful display and bodes well for the future of well dressing in the Belper area as the skill is passed on down the generations.

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