About this image
This well, by St John the Baptist, Tideswell reads 'How Christianity came to Britain'. Well dressing is thought to have originated from Pagan times, a ritual performed to give thanks for the supply of fresh water. Another school of thought claims that the Romans introduced the custom into Britain, the philosopher Seneca ' where springs or rivers flow we should build altars or make sacrifices.' Another suggestion connects the celebration with various outbreaks of plague. A mosaic picture, built up from natural materials, flower petals, seeds, grasses, leaves, tree bark, berries and moss is pressed into a 1 inch base of puddled clay, which is held within a wooden frame. The shape of the frames is almost as varied as the choice of theme. Some frames are sectional or recessed and have additions made over the years, the size is roughly 4 to 5 feet wide and 5 to 6 feet high, pinnacles and embellishments can add to this height. Some well committees abide strictly to the rules of natural materials whereas others are more flexible in their approach to 'natural materials.' The themes for the well dressings were more usually of a religious nature, but recently, more modern themes have been adopted. The designs usually last for a week or less before the flowers have died off.