I've taken you to Tissington several times over the years I've been writing this blog but never at Well Dressing time. I wanted to visit the village during the well dressing festival as I have happy memories of school trips there. My mum always used to say that Spring turned to Summer the day we children boarded the bus to take us the thirty five miles from school in Scarcliffe to Tissington.
There were about thirty children at our school and I'm not sure if all of the three classes - known to us as baby class, middle class and top class - went along. I guess it would probably have been the older children. My overwhelming memory is of the heat of the day, coats and cardigans soon abandoned, smelly sandwiches in greaseproof paper bags - usually fish paste or egg and bottles of pop. I remember the cattle grid at the gated entrance to the village - it's still there.
Of course life is much busier now and there is a special entrance and parking at the top end of the village and a one way system to exit.
According to the booklet, given to us as we paid to park, the origins of Well Dressing may well have had their roots in pagan times but later given Christian meaning. One theory is that the custom began just after the plague or black death of 1348-49 to give thanks for the purity of the water from the wells which they thought was the reason that the village population all survived.
Another theory is that the tradition recalls that during the severe drought of 1615 the five wells of Tissington kept flowing freely and the surrounding district were grateful for the supply of water from the village. A thanksgiving service was held and the wells were decorated each year after.
The boards on which the images are to be made are soaked in the village pond and then plastered with local clay which has been mixed with salt and trodden to reach the right consistency. The design is then traced onto the boards and marked out with coffee beans before the task of applying the petals begins. Here is some more information about the process. Everyone in the village contributes in some way in dressing the wells, digging clay, gathering flowers and assembling the dressings ready for the start of the festival.
There are six wells now in the village which we wandered around. There were also several bric-a-brac stalls, an art exhibition and a craft exhibition in the village hall. Coffee from Herbert's Tea Room halfway round was most welcome as we sat and people watched for a while. There were lots of dogs too and a special ice cream van just for them. I also met four lovely cats along the way. It's a very cat friendly village.
Here are the Well Dressings.
Yew Tree Well