Article from Nick Ladd, Chair

Stoney Middleton Well Dressing is Coming Soon

Nick Ladd – Chair, 29 April, 2024

When Anne and I moved to Stoney just over two years ago, we were completely new to the area and knew nobody. We have found the village extremely welcoming and really feel at home here. One of the things that helped us to get to know people was getting involved in the Well Dressing. The history of this is buried in the mists of time, but in its recent recorded history in Stoney Middleton, it has been going on for 88 years.

So, there is a long history and tradition of well dressing in the village, which is treasured by many. People who grew up here learnt how to do ‘petalling’ in school. They have grown the flowers, created the designs, prepared the clay for the frames on which the designs are ‘pricked out.’ But the life of the village has changed and it is no longer a straightforward task to pass on these skills. But we have many people in the village who know how it works and are keen to see others become involved and share with them all that they know.

Well dressing is a great vehicle for building community in the village and bringing all generations together. As well as creating the well designs that lie at the heart of the event, the committee are planning a number of activities for all ages that will run throughout the week. Most of the action takes place in July but there is still work to do behind the scenes from now onwards.

Here are the dates:

Preparation week: 20th-26th July (This is when we turn the designs into reality – preparing the frames and the clay, putting the design on the clay and doing the petalling).

Well Dressing week: 27th July – 4th August (This is when the wells are dressed and all the activities take place).

Here’s what’s happening right now:

  • Creating the designs for the three wells. We are trying to bring a small team together to create and supervise the making of the designs. People with experience would love to help others try it out – from designing to petalling.
  • Planning and organizing events during the week in July. The more we can do and the more variety we have, the wider the appeal. But we need people to join in and help run and support the events during the week.
  • We want to grow some of the flowers that we will use in the designs. We have a patch on the allotments to do this and a group will be starting work soon. There is always room for more to be involved and we would particularly love it if people would grow some seeds at home that we can transplant into the allotment.
  • We run a shop and refreshments during the week and there is always room for more people to help this to happen
  • There are a number of quite physical tasks involved in setting things up. The clay is dug from a ‘secret location’ known only to a few. This is the start of ‘puddling’, preparing the clay to go in the frames. It involves digging up the clay, soaking it in barrels for a few weeks, thus breaking down the large lumps, stirring, sieving to remove stones and putting the clay into the frames. This is float trowelled like plaster to get a smooth flat surface. This work is traditionally done by ‘The Heavy Gang.’ We would love to welcome some younger folk in particular to help this to happen.

This year, I was asked to come on board as chair of the committee and will be shadowing Paul Fox to learn how it all happens. The committee has decided that it does not want everything to fall on the shoulders of a few overworked people, so that is why we have created groups to organize different aspects of the week.

Joy Mason – well design – 07980 777787

Andy Hibbert – entertainments – 07969 786922

Rosie Potter – allotment – 07879 471425

Paul Fox – practical tasks – 07709 504772

Jude Hirst – refreshments – 07772 926853

Nick Ladd – chair – 07540 425381

If you would like to be involved in any aspect of the well dressing preparation and the week itself, please contact the relevant person. Or get in touch with Paul or myself, if you want to know a bit more. We would love to be able to sustain this for the future and draw more of the village into the fun of planning and making well dressing happen. Anne and I really appreciated the way this drew us into village life and the committee is keen for this to work for all residents – whether long-term or recently arrived.

We will be giving regular updates over the coming months on the Stoney Middleton Facebook page and on this website.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Nick Ladd – Chair