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Eyam Well Dressing

The blessing of well's is a unique Peak District tradition which has it's roots back in Pagan times. The custom had almost died out in the 1950s, but since then it has been revived with great enthusiasm by local people, primarily for the tourist industry, though it is now very much part of village tradition.

It is thought by some that it dates back as far as the period after the Black Death in 1348-9, when probably around third of England's population died. Miraculously, some Peak villages were left untouched, such as Tissington.  Local people attributed this to their clean water supply and thus gave thanks by then 'dressing' the village wells. There is also the theory, however, that it developed out of an older practice that goes back much further, probably to pagan times, linking to ancient fertility rites.

The limestone villages of the central and southern peak are the main adherents to this practise, with a succession of different villages dressing their own wells from end of May until early September. Eyam is the last of the larger festivals. Theirs takes place at the end of August, each year.

The construction of well dressings takes skill and involves many volunteers from the village. Dressings are created using a wooden board which has wet clay spread to a depth of a couple of inches across it, the chosed design is 'pricked out' using a paper pattern and then petals and other items are placed in the areas laid out by the design. It It is a labour intensive and time-consuming process with the clay needing to be kept damp to stop cracking and to retain petal adherence.

In Eyam the well dressing ceremony coincides with the beginning of Wakes Week with the Carnival at the latter end. There are two main wells which are dressed, one at Town Head and the other at Town End and once the dressings have been erected they are blessed in a short outdoor service with the brass band in accompanying them, in procession across the village.

Generally the theme for Eyams dressing are religious, as are many throughout the villages, although can show local landmarks or more secular activities, They are erected and stand for the whole of Wakes week, until after Carnival. Each has a collection box nearby to collect contributions for local charities and causes.

It is always a popular time to visit the village and the dressings catch the eye when entering Eyam bringing more visitors than usual to the village, to view the local handiwork. 


Eyam, Peak District Derbyshire, DE45, United Kingdom - Show on map - Email : info@peakdistrictonline.co.uk - Sales Tel : 0845 166 8022
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