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Buxton Well Dressings

The town of Buxton is very famous for its pure water and the constantly flowing nine natural thermal springs which emerge in the Crescent area. The water is one of the purist in the world and are the only true thermal waters in Derbyshire. The quality and purity, apart from being slightly radio active, has 40 minor constitutes and is a faint blue colour. The water that we drink today fell as rain 5000 years ago. It wended its way, filtering through the limestone of the Peak District, running through subterranean depths and the water is warmed to 82°F by passing through heat giving minerals and flows at some 150 gallons per minute.

There are two wells which enjoy being festooned with flowers every year in the summer by a dedicated team of well dressers, one in the marketplace and St Anne's well near the Crescent.

The first well dressing to take place in Buxton was in 1840 although it should more accurately, be called a pump dressing. It was organised by the local community as a token of thanks to the sixth Duke of Devonshire. He had kindly arranged for the supply of water to be piped from the cold springs on the outskirts of Buxton, to the town's marketplace, one of the wells still decorated on this site today.

The other well decorated in Buxton is St Ann's in the Crescent. There have been no actual specific dates as to when this well was first decorated, but there is an illustration from 1864 in the museum, which shows the Pump room decorated and festooned with greenery and flower garlands. The custom continued all the way throughout the Victorian era, until the fashion seemed to wane and in 1912 the custom ceased for a time.

Well dressings began again in 1925, at the instigation of the town council. They realised well dressing could potentially bring in revenue, and from this time on saw the well dressing become a valuable asset to any town. They attracted tourists, from all over the country then and still do today. Each year, the council appoints a team of well dressers, from one of the surrounding villages to dress St Ann's well and the Higher Buxton Well.

After the Second World War, a well dressing committee was formed and in 1947, the first Buxton festival took place, which included a fair, a carnival procession and Wells dressing Festival Queen. This celebration was on a much bigger scale than had ever been seen before in Buxton with the dressed Wells were certainly its focal point. A dedicated team of local people were formed to dress the Wells and they soon developed a beautiful, unique style of their own. Unfortunately in 1986, due to economic reasons, the local council had to withdraw all financial support for the well dressing and the dedicated and long serving team of dressers had to disband.

Not long after, a new team came together to learn and enjoy the art and craft of well dressing and to complete the boards. This was made up of around 50 people whose main task at first was to repair the boards before they could begin puddling the clay. They then drew the beautiful designs, dressed and then erected the boards around the town. As with most well dressing throughout the Peak District,  the volunteers put in around 500 hours to fully complete the process of well dressing and the local community and visitor from all over the country enjoy the benefits while the dressing last over their week period.