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
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.
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
The panels were arranged on either side of the central path.
A recurring theme in this year's panels was the anniversary of
the First World War, this display created by Amber District Girlguiding.
This collection of panels was produced by the Long Row Primary
School pupils who were inspired by the local environment in the
The Herbert Strutt Primary took the anniversary of the Great
War as the inspiration for their dressings.
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 is about halfway along the central path and the
tableaux continued on the other side towards the imposing East
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
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.
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.