This week is Wells Dressing week, and the wells were formally blessed yesterday, as they have been since 1840, or that's at least when it was first documented.
The Romans discovered the spa spring water here (hence the Roman name of our town- as in my blog sub-title) and by Tudor times it was in demand as a cure-all.
Above is St Anne's well, the biggest of the three in the town centre, and the one open to the public and suitable for drinking. People fill large containers and lug it home, cheaper than buying the bottled version and somewhat more eco friendly.
This is the children's well, the theme was 30 years of the festival fringe, and was done by children from the class I work with. I didn't photograph the third face as it appeared to be Bill and Ben the flowerpot men, and there was a big shadow across it. I'm not sure what the image was meant to be- I'll ask them.
The tableaux are made by pressing flower petals, seeds etc., into a clay base. The themes change each year, they used to be religious, but have become less so over the last few years.
The other well is on the market place, and now the funfair has arrived ready for the carnival on Saturday, it's difficult to get near. The carnival used to be a huge affair when I was small. Floats, bands, you name it. Then it tailed off, but is experiencing a comeback. The weather, of course, is a big influence on the turnout.
This is a side-view of St Anne's well, showing the redirected water from the granite pump (with tableau attached) to a small makeshift spring. The water emerges at 27.5 degrees, regardless of the weather conditions, and is a surprise to people filling a bottle and expecting a cool drink. This is what made it so good for the thermal baths that the Romans, then the Georgians, built here. I learned to swim in those baths, closed fror many years now, and they were wonderful. Hopefully when the Crescent renovation is agreed the baths will also be restored.
This is St Anne's well from 1909. Notice that, just as now, they've laid turf in front.
Here we are in 1905. More turf and the simulation of a rocky spring again. They don't do that bit nowadays. Since someone made off with the (antique, almost life-size) Nativity scene from its traditional spot in town, nothing that isn't nailed down is left out. Says a lot about today's society. I think this is the well on the Market place, judging by the building on the right. I love the Union Jacks plonked on top.
There are several villages in Derbyshire that dress the wells. I believe Tissington has the longest tradition. They started to decorate the wells/ springs after the plague in 1348 when the village escaped the disease, when all around were ravaged. It's thought they believed the purity of the water was to thank.
We'll be off to see the carnival on Saturday, whatever the weather. The town will be heaving with visitors and they'll be parking even up our road, which is a good stride from the town centre. Then it's off to the fair for the annual shake-up, candy floss and price-hikes on the rides. We love it.
Oh, and here is how St Anne's well looks in its usual state, the picture was taken in March.