Dressing up Buxton

well dressing: a new team formed in 1986 to carry on the tradition is still going strong. Photo contributed.
well dressing: a new team formed in 1986 to carry on the tradition is still going strong. Photo contributed.

A new team….. Back in 1985 John and Wendy Swain, who had led the Buxton Well Dressing team for many years, decided to retire.

So in 1986, a new team was formed. David Sanders, an experienced Well Dresser from Hope was asked to help put a new team together.

An appeal was published in the Buxton Advertiser and volunteers were asked to attend a meeting to be introduced to the craft of Well Dressing.

Anne and Christine Gould decided to go along. They’d always admired the Well Dressings and wondered how they were done and this seemed the ideal opportunity to have a go. So they joined a number of volunteers one evening.

Before they left, anyone who was willing was given a job. Christine agreed to help design the outer boards for the Wells and Anne had volunteered to source some of the materials that would be needed

So came the first day of the dressing. The boards were laid out in one of the Council garages in the Cattle Market. Anne joined David and one other volunteer.

The work progressed but it was obvious that the Wells were not going to get finished. David decided to move onto plan B.

He went out and bought more flowers on the morning of the second, and last day of the dressing. He instructed the volunteers to place the flowers into the clay as whole flower heads. This speeded up the dressing considerably and the Wells were finished in the evening. The next day volunteers were up early and, joined by Council workmen, put the boards in place in time for the Blessing Ceremony.

This was a struggle as no one was quite sure how they went together, but eventually they were up.

The dressing at the St Ann’s Well was designed to commemorate the 125th Anniversary of St Anne’s Catholic Church in Buxton.

The new dressers were so proud of what they had achieved and were very grateful for the kind comments received from the people of Buxton. But they realised in the cold light of day that they had a lot to learn and resolved to do better the next year. After a couple more years David left the team to their own devices. Christine ended up designing the Wells and Anne and Ken Gould organised everything that goes into making Buxton’s Well Dressings happen.

Today, a team of around 50 volunteers, among which are a small nucleus of people who started back in 1986, dress the wells.

To link back to the first year of the new team they are commemorating the 150th anniversary of St Anne’s Catholic Church along with the 150th anniversary of Christ Church, Burbage on the Market Place Well.

St Ann’s Well will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible and pupils from Buxton Community School will dress the Taylor Well on Spring Gardens.

Visitors can see the Well Dressings being created in St John’s Church on Thursday 7 July 7, 12 noon to 8.30pm, Friday 8 July 9am to 8.30 pm and Saturday 9 July 9am to 4pm.

The Wells are Blessed on Sunday July 10 starting from St. Anne’s Church, Bath Road at 1.45pm.

This is followed by the crowning of the 2011 Well Dressing Festival Queen at St John’s Church at 3pm.

For more information see www.buxtonwelldressing.co.uk