Pagan Traditions and a Quintessential English Village…


Hands Well, Tissington, Derbyshire

In the Derbyshire village of Tissington the custom of Well Dressing continues with much vigour, its a village effort that continues a tradition that is reckoned to have its roots in Pagan times, its importance brought into close focus at the time of the Black Death and the need for ‘pure water’, it was a custom adopted by the Christian Faiths and continued each year since on Assentation Day.

Well Dressing put simply is the Blessing of the sources of pure water in the village at its six Wells.

Each year a different theme is chosen for the illustrations on the various decorated displays at each Well.  This year twin themes to mark the End of World War 1 in 1918 and also 100 years of the Votes for Women. The displays are created by pricking petals and mosses in to a clay board…the clay has been soaked in the village pond for over a week and watered regularly so this creative display will last at least a week. So here is just a flavour of the various creations produced this year….


Tucked away behind the Church in a cottage garden is one Well always sought after by visitors…..Perhaps it is the fact that it is known as the Coffin Well.  It is suggested that it is here those that carried the coffins to the Church for burial, often after tramping across miles countryside, paused refreshed and composed themselves for the last short distance to the Church…


The Coffin Well, Tissington

As to the Village of Tissington itself… I did describe it as a Quintessential English Village and it is just that…a village that has remained much the same for centuries as new building (apart from farm out buildings) is not permitted and as I understand it the cottages are passed from Local Family to Family.

Like all old English Villages it is centred round both the Church (Saint Mary’s) and the Manor House, Tissington Hall the home of the Fitzherbert Family since the reign of Elizabeth I.  Surrounding those two key village elements are a mix of Farms, Fields and Cottages and even more recently a Methodist Chapel. Perhaps the only logic for the location of these buildings round the village are the locations of the Wells. Its does illustrate the  inter-mix of all that was essential for a village community… the spirit of which continues today….

_DO85485aaTissington Hall and The Village



Well Dressing Services and Events will occur across the summer and autumn in various Derbyshire Villages.

15th May

(C) David Oakes 2018




5 thoughts on “Pagan Traditions and a Quintessential English Village…

  1. What’s in the little bowls on the stall?
    I love the tradition. It marries new christianity with the pagain religion in a beautiful way. And I also love Tissington in your photos. Many old traditions originate from Pagan traditions. I would think it is a happy marriage of the two as many beautiful traditions come from it.

  2. I don’t have very good eyes. Left is minus 12½ and right minus 7. But I have small looking glass and now I can see it. How beautiful and delicate.

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