TISSINGTON WELL DRESSINGS
Tissington is known as the mother place of well dressing and visitors come from all over the world to witness the annual well dressing ceremony. This takes place on Ascension Day, when large crowds gather to see the wells blessed.
For centuries five wells have been dressed in the village, Yew Tree Well, Hall Well, Hands Well, Coffin Well and Town Well, but in 1982 a sixth well, a Children's Well was introduced in some what unusual circumstances. This took place when Yorkshire TV visited the village in 1982, with the intention of filming a feature for schools, involving well dressing and children. As a result of the discussions it was decided to introduce a small Children's Well, built entirely by the children that the television company filmed, which by coincidence was also filmed by Granada TV.
Crowds gather at Tissington for the well dressings
Dressing consists of erecting boards covered in clay, into which thousands of flower petals are pressed to create an elaborate tableaux of some biblical or topographical scene. It is probable that well dressing took place here in 1348, in thanksgiving for the village’s escape from the Black Death, which the villagers attributed to the purity of its water. Tissington having escaped the plague, while other local villages had been ravaged.
The precise origins of well dressing are unknown but probably date back to primitive man giving thanks to water gods for maintaining an adequate supply of water. Tissington is considered to have been the first place to dress wells in the county and wells have been dressed here for over 650 years. But not in unbroken succession, due to interruptions for two World Wars and the outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.
Tissington is an estate village and Lords of the Manor, the FitzHerbert's, who have lived here for centuries have always taken considerable interest in the well dressings. This is maintained to the present day by Sir Richard FitzHerbert who takes an active role in the preparation work.
Hall Well with its imposing structure
For many years Tissington was the first to dress its wells in the county, until Etwall started well dressing in 1970. One of the problems of dressing wells so early in the year is that if the winter has been a hard one and the weather leading up to Ascension Day poor, obtaining suitable materials is more difficult especially flowers, than for those who hold their dressings in the middle of the summer.
The week before the well dressings are erected is a particularly busy one for such a small village. With a population of only about 200 people, many of whom live on outlying farms, nearly everyone is required to give a hand. All the effort is rewarded when everything is in place and the visitors start to arrive - Tissington may be small but it is internationally famous for the superb well dressings it produces year after year.
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TISSINGTON WELL DRESSINGS
Take place in 2010, from 13/19 May, with the Blessing Service at 11am on the first day.
PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Tissington Hall (Tel. 01335 352200) a fine Jacobean Manor House in the heart of the village. Open - see Tissington Hall Feature.
Ilam Village with its Alpine style cottages and close proximity to Dovedale makes it a very popular attraction. The National Trust grounds and country park of Ilam Hall are open to the public.
Ashbourne is one of Derbyshire’s finest towns, with a wealth of Georgian architecture. The triangular cobbled Market Place holds markets twice per week on Thursday and Saturday.
The Coach and Horses, Fenny Bentley (Tel. 01335 350246) charming 16th century pub, with beamed ceiling, stone flagged floors and a coal fire in winter. Meals served at lunchtimes and in the evenings during the week and all day at the weekend.
Bassett Wood Farm (Tel. 01335 350254) situated in a lovely countryside setting, morning coffee and afternoon teas are served daily in the summer (except Wednesdays). Reduced winter opening. The Pets Paddock is an added bonus.
The Old Coach House (Tel. 01335 350501) Award winning tea rooms in the beautifully renovated Coach House to Tissington Hall. Open daily, apart from during the winter months. Closed over the Christmas period. Please telephone for up to date details.
All the images on this page have been kindly supplied by John and Irene North and have been taken from their highly acclaimed Well Dressing Video, which is narrated by BBC Radio Derby's Paul McKenzie.
For full details of their video collection contact:
Alpha Audio Visual www.derbyshirevideos.co.uk
Tissington is one of the prettiest and most unspoilt villages not only in Derbyshire but in the whole of the country. An avenue of 200 year old lime trees, immediately creates an air of expectancy. No planner designed it; the beauty of the village is the result of evolution.
A relaxing walk taking in the Tissington Trail, Fenny Bentley and the beautiful countryside around Tissington.