Well Dressing in Tideswell
A typical Tideswell Well Dressing.

Well Dressings are made by making a large picture made from flowers, leaves and a variety of mostly natural materials.

Tideswell has celebrated Wakes Week for over 750 years – accompanied by the tradition of Well Dressing, though this tradition lapsed and was revived in the 1940’s.

One theory for how Tideswell got its name is that it stems from a “tiding well” situated in the north of the village. This well was sometimes referred to as the “Ebbing and Flowing Well” and allegedly ebbed and flowed like the tides.

Well Dressings

The ancient custom of Well Dressing is only found in and around the Peak District and is the art of decorating springs and wells with pictures made from natural materials. Four wells are dressed in the centre of Tideswell.

Well dressings are made by making a picture from flowers, leaves and a variety of natural objects, inserted into a panel of clay. Before work can begin, the frame is soaked in water for a few days before a 1.5” clay base is trowelled in.

In Tideswell, the design is transferred from the paper to the clay base by ‘pricking out’, making a series of cuts along each line of the picture like a dot-to-dot puzzle.

The design is outlined using sweet cicely seeds, alder cones and sometimes beans, then ‘coloured in’ using natural materials such as flower petals. The Well Dressings in Tideswell are then displayed around the village from very early on the morning of the first Saturday of Wakes Week.

Visitors to Tideswell may note that we now have a shiny new well dressing frame for the main well. The old one had served us brilliantly since at least 1946, but of late “it was only the woodworm holding hands that kept it together.” In 2012 whilst being lifted into place, a panel came off the side revealing deep wet rot in the chassis of the frame. With a grant from the Sustainable Development Fund, via the Peak National Park and excellent craftsmanship by Stuart and Richard Fletcher, we now have a well dressing frame that should keep our village tradition alive until at least 2070!!

Tideswell Well Dressings from the Past

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