WELL DONE: The art of producing Buxton’s stunning well dressings

Working on the Childrens Well, year seven pupils Charlotte Oakley, Charlie Boam, Priya Seward and Mollie Betts.
Working on the Childrens Well, year seven pupils Charlotte Oakley, Charlie Boam, Priya Seward and Mollie Betts.
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Plenty of patience and a keen eye for detail are qualities which stand you in good stead when your job is bringing Buxton’s stunning well dressings to life.

St John’s Church was a hive of activity for three days last week as drab clay boards were transformed into colourful displays to give thanks for the spa town’s water.

Year nine pupils Natalie Hodgson, Faye Davies and Jenny Sun.

Year nine pupils Natalie Hodgson, Faye Davies and Jenny Sun.

John Moss, a member of the Buxton Well Dressing Festival committee, said: “It’s like a military operation getting everything to happen, and this year we even had to enlist some help from the military because a crane which was supposed to lift the St Ann’s Well boards into place broke down.

“So we relied on community spirit and elbow grease - and a massive thanks go to the armed forces who were here for the Buxton Military Tattoo at the weekend who helped us out.”

The art of well dressing requires time, patience and teamwork. Individual petals are pressed into the clay which has previously been applied to the boards. The tableaus are worked on in small stages, as the clay is covered with paper to stop it drying out.

Christine Gould, who oversees the well dressing process, commented: “There are not many things in life where you can start a project and three days later you have finished.”

The Children's Well at the top of Spring Gardens.

The Children's Well at the top of Spring Gardens.

Well dressing is an ancient custom unique to the Peak District and Derbyshire, and is thought to date back to Roman and Celtic times when communities would dress wells to give thanks for fresh water supplies.

Every year the living art installations are made from flower petals and other natural materials, and the designs feature everything from biblical stories to special anniversaries.

This year’s Market Place Well design pays tribute to 50 years of Buxton Civic Association, while the St Ann’s Well is a celebration of 100 years of St Mary’s Church.

The Children’s Well at the top of Spring Gardens has been designed, as usual, by pupils from Buxton Community School.

Well dressers at work on the St Ann's Well design.

Well dressers at work on the St Ann's Well design.

Inspired by patterns, the students submitted individual designs which were then incorporated into the finished article.

Art teacher Bernadette de Cent said: “The children loved their two days in St John’s Church and I’m so proud of them for what they have achieved.”

The well dressers at work on the St Anns Well board at St Johns Church.

The well dressers at work on the St Anns Well board at St Johns Church.

The well dressers hard at work.

The well dressers hard at work.

The Market Place Well

The Market Place Well

The well dressers at work

The well dressers at work