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The Wells of Derbyshire

Aprile 2013
Un’usanza antica e piuttosto bizzarra piace tutt’oggi agli abitanti del Derbyshire: la decorazione dei pozzi! C’è chi dice che derivi da una tradizione pagana, chi dalla peste nera; fatto sta che ogni anno i villaggi rendono omaggio ai loro pozzi nei più svariati modi.

di Rebecca Lewis

File audio:

This well dressing was created for last year's London Olympics by the children (and parents) of Etwall Primary School in Derbyshire.
This well dressing was created for last year's London Olympics by the children (and parents) of Etwall Primary School in Derbyshire.
This well dressing is in honour of Elizabeth II’s 60 years as monarch.
This well dressing is in honour of Elizabeth II’s 60 years as monarch.

Speaker: Derek Allen (Standard British accent)

The county of Derbyshire in the English Midlands has some interesting customs. One of these is well dressing. Well dressing is an old tradition that the people of Derbyshire still enjoy today.
We don’t know the exact reason for decorating wells, but some people believe that it started as a pagan tradition. Others think that it was a way of saying thank you for clean water supplies during the Black Death. The Black Death spread throughout Derbyshire very quickly and it was difficult to find uncontaminated water.

CHRISTIANITY

When Christianity came to Derbyshire people stopped well dressing because it was probably a pagan tradition, but in 1349 the villages wanted to revive it.
Tissington was the first village to start decorating its wells again. Well dressing in Tissington is very important and on the first day there is a service outside St. Mary’s church. After the service the vicar and the congregation walk round the village and bless each well.
In Etwall well dressing day is a festival and there are lots of fun things to do, like a children’s art competition and various food stalls.
Last year the towns of Etwall and Belper did the most well dressings; at least 21 each.

DESIGN

Today most villages in the Midlands follow the well dressing custom and they still use traditional methods during the preparation. First, an artist draws a picture on clay, then the people in the village colour it in. They use petals and flowers but also seeds, pieces of coloured glass and plastic.
The  pictures are usually of important events that have happened in England. Because the villages are jealous of their designs, they plan them months before and keep them a secret for as long as possible.
In 2012 a lot of the designs were of the Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It takes five or six days to complete a well dressing, but you can only see it for about a week, while the flowers stay fresh.

IN SEASON   

The best time to visit Derbyshire and the wells is from May to August, but some villages decorate their wells in September and even in December.  

For more information about the well dressings go to www.welldressing.com


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