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COLUMN: More people are needed to keep tradition alive

Belper well dressing.

Belper well dressing.

It’s almost time for work on the Belper Well Dressings to commence. We still have a number of wells (boards) available and would like to invite some more Belper community groups or groups of friends to take part in this wonderful and historic tradition, as it would be a great shame to see it die out.

Full training and help is given and all the wells are worked on at the same place, so there is always someone on hand to advise; it’s a lovely social event.

The decoration of the wells happens during the first week of July and the wells are displayed from 12th to 16th July. If you would like to take part, please contact Kathy on 07779412702 or email her at kathyf100@hotmail.com. The history of well dressing is a bit of a mystery.

It has been around since the ancient Celts, and is unique to the Peak District and the surrounding areas such as South Yorkshire and East Staffordshire. The early Christians were not happy with the custom of dressing wells - they considered it water worship and tried to put an end to it, but the tradition refused to die. Tissington was the first village to re-introduce the practice in 1349, after the village managed to escape a terrible outbreak of the Black Death that swept through England at this time.

The local people attributed their lucky escape from this terrible disease to their clean water supply and gave thanks by ‘dressing’ the village wells once again. The custom had, once again, almost died out in the 1950s, but has since regained its popularity to a great degree in many Derbyshire towns and villages.

Belper has been upholding this wonderful tradition for many years, with a number of groups and individuals designing a collection of beautiful and original wells every year in July.

There are wells prepared by schools, voluntary organisations, community groups and pairs of individuals.

All the wells are different and attractively constructed using predominantly natural materials such as flowers, seeds, nuts, wool, stones etc. It’s a really great event which helps make Belper a wonderful town to live in, as it encourages all aspects of the community to work together in a creative and social way. The wells are displayed in Belper River Gardens and visitors, sometimes in coach loads, come from all over the Midlands to see them, thus encouraging tourism to our lovely town.

 

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