Well Dressing is the traditional art of decorating springs and wells with pictures using only what nature can provide. Its origins are a mystery and are thought to date back to the time of the Celts or even earlier.
With dedication and skill in its execution, this ancient custom offers a fascinating insight into traditional Derbyshire heritage. To set the foundation for the pictures, a wooden board is soaked for a few days before it is filled with soft, wet clay. Every village then has its own way of transferring the outline of the picture to the clay. Some use wool, others use bark or alder cones, known locally as ‘blacks’.
The picture is then ‘coloured in’. Some villages call this ‘petalling’, but some villages have different methods. In Barlow, for example, this process is known as ‘flowering’ because, instead of petals, they use whole flower heads to decorate the picture.
These intricate and detailed pictures can take a team of people up to seven days to complete and the dressing will only last about a week before the clay dries and cracks and the flowers fade. Details of these events are provided in our yearly events brochure, but more infromation can be found about Well Dressings in the area on the Visit Chesterfield website.