Reviving the Ashbourne Spring

Bakewell well dressing

A Bakewell dressing

Tissington’s Well Dressing dedication is on May 29th and in the days before you could see the village is getting ready with marquees and signage. The website lists more than 100 active well dressing locations in the area and an amazing 250 historical – including ones in France, Germany and Australia.

Overall the ceremony is attributed to giving thanks for water and, in Derbyshire, became an act associated with giving thanks for deliverance from the Plague. Originally it appears that flowers adorned the wells and “dressing is recorded at Tissington in the 14th Century. The development of this ritual into the beautiful and varied pictures made out of flower petals and seeds evolved in the mid-1800s. The dressings are constructed on a base of very wet clay in a wet wooden frame. The patterns are hugely varied – mainly but not exclusively, biblical in theme. The design is scaled to the size of the frame and then pricked on to the surface of the clay using a needle and then the outline is marked with seeds or wool. The design is then built using a variety of materials (largely overlapping flower petals) by a group of up to 20 people. The frame is often kept damp by spraying with water. The designs are often kept secret until the day of dedication.

Well dressings are folk art at their finest and are well worth a visit. They are fund-raisers for charities and so donations are customary. Tissington is always one of the first as the dedication is on Ascension Day but the well dressing “trail” progresses across villages and counties well into the autumn.

There are over 100 well dressings in the area and Ashbourne is a good base to explore them from – although it doesn’t have a well dressing itself.

Of course, we have an excellent reason to give thanks for water in Ashbourne. Up until 2003 the Nestle site produced magnificent Ashbourne Spring water. In 2005 Cedar House Developments had their plans for the site approved. It would, of course, have starter and affordable housing, a non-food retail park, and business units. The remaining 15 acres were to be made available for community use with the Shrovetide monument, a Shrovetide Trail, sports pitches, picnic area and parking. It’s true! – see the BBC coverage This may be a subject for another blog…

The actual spring borehole itself was retained by Nestle and it remains a bit of an eyesore. With all the new developments and associated money – Sainsbury, library, recreation ground, new housing – wouldn’t it be wonderful, and somehow symmetrical, if this could be marked by a unique new 21st century well?

About justaukcook

/kʊk/ Not a chef, not an epicure, not a foodie. Just one who likes to prepare food – What really happens in the kitchen and on the high street is what I write about. Follow me on Twitter @Justaukcook and on
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