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Every year between May and September, the people of Longnor and
surrounding villages in the Staffordshire and Derbyshire Peaks,
create huge floral designs to dress their natural springs and wells.
In Longnor, Theresa Riley revived the tradition 21 years ago. She
comments: “We make this huge slab of clay, leave it overnight
and then it’s time to get creative!”
Staffordshire village of Endon also holds annual well-dressing ceremonies.
In Endon this coincides with the coronation of the Well-Dressing
Queen, Morris dancing and a tradition known as Tossing the Sheaf.
Participating villages are very competitive and try to ensure
their well-dressing designs remain a secret from other villages.
The well-designs are decided upon months before they are unveiled
and are not revealed until the last possible minute.
The origins of well-dressing remain a mystery but it may date back
to the Celts. The Staffordshire/Derbyshire border can be quite remote
in places so perhaps it was harder for the Saxon, Danish and Norman
invaders to impose their customs. Maybe this is why well-dressing
is still alive and kicking today in this area.
early Christians didn't like well-dressing as they saw it as
water worship and so promptly put an end to it. The village of Tissington
(just over the Staffordshire border) was the first place to reintroduce
well-dressing in 1349, just after the village had escaped an outbreak
of Black Death.
How it's done
Firstly the wooden boards which the designs will be mounted
on are taken to the local river or pond and are left to soak
for several days before being covered in clay.
this pictures are created using living plants, flowers, petals,
berries and seeds. The pictures are often biblical scenes, usually
constructed by the Women's Institute of youth organisations such
as the Scouts or Guides.