Please click the photo’s to enlarge.
I travelled back to the place I grew up last weekend. It brought back so many memories for me. Of a time when I was a young girl with no idea of where life would take me.
Each Sunday I would walk the 15 minutes distance of the village from our home to walk up to the Chapel where we would go to Sunday School in the Methodist Chapel. Often we would walk it twice a day on Sunday as we went to afternoon service and evenings on a special occasion, such as Easter or Harvest Festivals..
I being the eldest of 5 siblings would lead my bother and 3 sisters by the hand as we would Sing in the choir, often being the only choir some weeks. I often think we were made to go, just so as my Mother and Father could get some peace for a couple of hours.
On my revisit last weekend I walked that same distance, today however the chapel is no long a place of worship but converted into a private dwelling.
At one time I would have been able to name every one who lived in our village by name. Now apart from a few relations and old family’s still there most are now strangers,
Below is where I did the Maypole dance when I was a child with the village junior school. Weaving in and out holding coloured ribbons we would dance in front of the Parish Church St Martin’s. Bunting was spread out between the houses as it is now. We would practice long hours at Stoney Middleton Primary School so as we would not get our ribbons all twisted wrongly as we made our webs and patterns with the ribbons around the Maypole as the boys and girls skipped around..
Back then the older children of the village were allowed to help make the boarders of the main Well Dressing, while the adults created the main body of the wells. I am unsure as to how the village now organises its creation.
So what is a Well Dressing?
A Well Dressing is an old custom that the Village of Stoney Middleton has now been taking part in for the last 80 years. It is the Thanksgiving for the Spring water supply that dates back to ancient times of 1600 BC when the Peak District was occupied by a tribe of people called the Brigantia’s who took their name from Brigantia ( the Holy One ) a Goddess who was a protector that formed a bridge between the Spiritual and Material Worlds. Below her lay many lesser’] ‘Deities’ who were believed to be embedded in stone and Trees. The most special of these were the Rowan and the Oak trees. But also Water that sprung from the wells from out of the Limestone and grit-stone was revered
Many of these Springs were warm.. And the one in Stoney Middleton pictured here with this beautiful Woodpecker which my nephew designed Here is a Thermal Spring. ..
These springs were thought to come from the fiery underworld. The Spring Here is a constant temperature of 63 Degs even in winter. And today as back in my younger days, many of the villages would take there cars to the trough that overspills onto the road leading to the cemetry and wash their cars in warm water.
So back in those ancient times effigies were placed along with offerings near these caves and springs as the water was felt to have healing properties . Which led to the wells being dressed on May the 1st as an offering to the spring festival of Beltane as springs of flowers and branches would be left to honour Spring. The custom progressed within the Christian Churches which is carried on today called Well Dressing Week.
Many of the villages grow flowers in their gardens and allotments specifically to collect the petals and leaves.. The frame is made and filled with clay mixture.. When I was a child the adults would soak the clay in the local brook. And Everyone would have to work quickly, often we as children would carefully peel the petals so they were separated and we were allowed to do certain parts.. While the main picture was done by the adults who knew what they were doing. All of this is done voluntary.
Events are scheduled throughout the village week.. With Tug of War, Brass Bands, Maypole Dancing, Treasure Hunts, Cake stalls and competitions, while others have made cards, sell plants, and seeds and all proceeds are shared out among village projects and charities.
Below you can see the separate Petals used, and the seeds, pebbles, bark, leaves and stems used to create the Picture forming the Well Dressings.
Here is the restored Roman Bath House..
More can be found here about the Roman Baths and Stoney Middleton HERE
We walked around some of the village reminiscing as we went . Here I used to walk to the shop which was at the time of my childhood one of two in the village. We also had a Post office and 3 Pubs back then.. Sadly this is the state of the front of the Old shop now.. There are no shops or Post Office in the village now.. The nearest shop and post office is in the next village or local Town.. And there is only now One Pub left in the village which is the Moon Inn.. which is steeped in its own History and Dark Past which can be found HERE. A sad state of the times as people bought the house attached to the back but as yet have let the front shop fall into decay.
Before we left we went to say goodbye to some old family and friends who are no longer with us but who are close to us in spirit, And I said good bye as I reflected how quickly these last 41 years have sped by since I left the village for good when I got married in 1975..
If you want to find out more and see more of past well dressings you can see the progress of how one is made then click the link Here
All Above photo’s were taken by myself