WIRKSWORTH WELL DRESSINGS
For many people, the small town of Wirksworth remains undiscovered. It does not perhaps make much impact on the busy traveller driving through, but all those visitors with time to explore the narrow streets and maze of interesting alleyways, to admire the old buildings and lovely views, to visit the ancient church and the cathedral–like close, will soon find themselves falling in love with this fascinating old town.
Standing as it does virtually at the centre of Derbyshire, about two miles to the south of the Peak District National Park boundary, Wirksworth was the centre of the English lead mining industry when it was at its height.
An exploration of the town will be well rewarded at any time of the year, particularly when Wirksworth holds its annual Well Dressings. Although dates have been changed in the past to accommodate visitor requirements, they now take place over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.
The custom was first adopted in Wirksworth, to celebrate the arrival of piped water in the town, in 1827, when the taps were dressed. Nowadays the dressings are placed in convenient locations around the town and visitors can obtain a map of the sites to ensure they do not miss any.
Well dressing is very popular in the town and is always completed to a very high standard using only natural materials. There is always a carnival spirit about the town, a well queen is crowned and along with her attendants forms part of a procession for the blessing of the wells accompanied by a brass band. Janet Reger, when she had a factory in the town donated the gown for the queen to wear.
At Wirksworth Heritage Centre visitors can see a permanent display of how well dressings are made. Apart from viewing the display the ‘Wirksworth Story’ is told at this splendid little heritage centre and museum. Where you are taken on a fascinating journey through time to learn all about the history of this historic old town.
If you would like to actually see a well dressing being constructed, you are welcome to call in at the Methodist Church Community Room off Wood Street, during the well making process
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
1. Wirksworth Well Dressings run from 29May to 2 June 2010
2. The Blessing Service commences at 10.45am on 29 May 2010 at St Mary's Church
3. Wells in the Making - Methodist Church, Wood Street 24 -28 May. Information: 01629 824169.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Wirksworth Heritage Centre: (Tel. 01629 825225) where the ‘Wirksworth Story’ is told taking you on a fascinating journey through time on three floors of the centre. The special displays are excellent and if you want something different you can always try a computer game. For further information see the special feature
The National Stone Centre: (Tel. 01629 824833) tells the story of stone, its geological and industrial history. The exhibition inside shows how advanced technology makes use of stone in an incredible number of ways. Outside the visitor centre, the quarry trail takes you back over three hundred million years. Open all year seven days a week.
North End Mills: (Tel. 01629 824731) one of the largest factory shops in the country which sells clothes for all the family. Visitors to the Mills can still see hosiery being made, have a coffee and admire the display of old photographs of Wirksworth. Open seven days a week.
All the images on this page have been kindly supplied by John and Irene North and have been taken from their highly acclaimed Well Dressing Video, which is narrated by BBC Radio Derby's Paul McKenzie.
For full details of their video collection contact:
Alpha Audio Visual www.derbyshirevideos.co.uk
Well dressing is not unique to Derbyshire, but it is the county where the tradition is the strongest. Almost all the wells dressed every year are either within the county, or only a short distance from the county boundary. Click below to read the fascinating story.
Click below to read the remarkable 'Wirksworth Story' of how this small town recovered from what seemed almost insurmountable problems to gain both national and international recognition for its achievements.
Enjoy a Outstanding walk that reveals much of the heritage of the area and the industrial landscape.
A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:
Click below for details.