MEMORY LANE: Celebrating 175 years of Buxton Well Dressing Festival

Buxton Advertiser archive, 1912, Ida Berry, Buxton well dressing queen and her retinue
Buxton Advertiser archive, 1912, Ida Berry, Buxton well dressing queen and her retinue

An exhibition to celebrate the 175th anniversary of well dressing in Buxton has opened at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

The display of photographs and other memorabilia opened at the Terrace Road gallery yesterday (Saturday) and runs until June 20.

Buxton Advertiser Archive, 1920s, Two Buxton tradesmen decorate their wagon at Wells Dressing time

Buxton Advertiser Archive, 1920s, Two Buxton tradesmen decorate their wagon at Wells Dressing time

As well as celebrating the history of the event all the way back to 1840, it will commemorate the centenary of the death of respected townsman and well dresser Robert Brunt.

Buxton was a community of just 1,000 inhabitants when the first Buxton Well Dressing Festival was held in 1840.

Life was hard and there was little in the way of the amenities which we take for granted today.

So it’s not hard to imagine the excitement brought by the news that the 6th Duke of Devonshire had instructed his workmen to build a fountain on the Market Place in Higher Buxton, fed from springs on Manchester Road.

Buxton Advertiser archive, 1910, Connie Wysehall, Buxton well dressing queen

Buxton Advertiser archive, 1910, Connie Wysehall, Buxton well dressing queen

Residents were so thankful they conceived the idea of dressing the fountain and having a day of celebration.

The opening on Wednesday June 24, 1840, was a day of rejoicing, accompanied by demonstrations of gratitude to His Grace the Duke of Devonshire. It was felt it conferred great benefit and blessing to the inhabitants, as well as reflecting the highest honour to the donor.

The morning was employed in decorating the fountain by the young ladies of the place. At 2pm, His Grace’s workmen sat down to a substantial dinner with a plentiful supply of ale.

At 4pm, children formed a procession and, with music from Buxton Band, walked around the street in a most orderly way.

Upon their return, they sat down to tea with an abundance of currant cake. Dancing followed until a late hour when the assembly separated , highly pleased with the day’s arrangements.

So began the tradition of well dressing in Buxton, which has over the years had a rich and varied history which hopefully would please and delight the residents of 1840.

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