First Well Dressing

Extract from The Sheffield Telegraph 3rd August 1936

Whatever doubts might have existed in the minds of people as to the success of Stoney Middleton’s venture into the art of well dressing, were completely dispelled last Friday night. The veteran well dresser, Mr. Ted Shimwell, a former resident of Youlgreave, achieved a big success.

Mr. Shimwell, who has only been at Stoney Middleton about a year, celebrated his golden jubilee as a well dresser by inaugurating the ancient custom in the village. He was very proud on Saturday night when well dressers from Youlgreave complimented him and his son, Mr. 0. Shimwell, and their pupils, on the excellent work they had done.

The 300 years old well, known as White’s Well, is admirably situated in one of the prettiest parts of Derbyshire, and so that the setting should not be spoilt by an ordinary wooden platform, Mr. and Mrs. Peters artistically arranged it with valuable old furniture and plants, with a fig tree bearing fruit at the front. Mr. Hall, who has a garden in the vicinity, gave some prize dahlias, which were put in an antique vase on the table.

The proceedings opened on Saturday afternoon with a service, close to the well, conducted by the vicar of Stoney Middleton, the Rev. G. Caldwell, and the address was given by the Rev. W. H. Nixon, the vicar of All Saints, Matlock, who congratulated them on making history. He said although they had had a plentiful supply of water in this particular spring for over 300 years, they had never had the decency to meet and thank God for his gift. The work of the artist who did the pictures was as clever as that of the wielder of a brush. He made reference to the well dressing custom at Wirksworth, Barlow, Buxton, Tissington, and Youlgreave. Attempting to trace the history of the ceremony, he said it was difficult to find the origin. In the old, old days it was a custom to scatter flower petals on running streams, and put posies round wells to please the God of Water. He asked them to recall the efforts of their forefathers for the common good, and to follow their example. In the present day of hurry, confusion and selfishness, men did not think as deeply as they might, and it was something to make them realise the sacramental nature of life.

The Rev. G. Caldwell thanked Mr. Nixon for coming and giving them such an inspiring address. He expressed his thanks to those who had been responsible for the production of such a beautiful picture and the inauguration of such an interesting and inspiring custom. The lesson was read by Mr. Carter (Stoney Middleton) and others on thplatform were the Rev, A. W. Lister (vicar of Curbar), the Rev. R. V. Whitwill (rector of Eyam) and Mr. 0. Shimwell (chairman of the Well Dressing Committee).

The picture portrayed was Christ calling his disciples, and bore the inscription “Follow Me.” This has been taken to heart by the people of Hathersage, Curbar, Calver and Eyam, who have been inspired by the work, and  intend to inaugurate the custom of well dressing in their villages. Thousands of people visited the well during the weekend, coming from all parts of the country.

The well dressers who assisted the principals were Messrs. P. Nugent, J. Nugent, A. Mycock, G. Mycock, B. Milne.r, G. Hawley, S. Hancock, B. Furness, E. Edge, E. Barker, W. Jones and F. Ascroft.

After the inauguration of the well a procession led by the Hathersage Brass Band, who accompanied the singing, marched to the football field, where sports were held for the children. The officials were Messrs. 0. Shimwell, P. Nugent, S. Hancock, T. Shaw and B. Milner. Mrs. G H. Lawrence, of Belmont, Hathersage, who kindly presented the prizes, was introduced by Ms. 0. Shimwell, and she was given a real Stoney Middleton welcome.

After the sports, tea was served to the children by Mrs. Hirst, Mrs. F. Walker„ and Misses E. Mycock, J. Mason, Mosley, M. Shimwell and M. Ascroft. The task of making, tea was very kindly taken by Mrs. G, Shimwell.

The results of the sports were:

Boys – 40 yards, under seven years: 1, G. Betney: 2, John Hancock. 80 yards, seven to I I years: 1, N. Betney; 2, A. Edge. Sack race: 1, B. Wilson; 2, P. B. Ascroft. Throwing the cricket ball: i, L, Barker; 2, B. Wilson.

Girls — 30 yards, under seven years: ?, M. Ackley; 2, P. Goddard. 60 yards, seven to 11: 1, D. Ibbotson; 2, M. Uttley. 80 yards, over 11: 1, E. Richardson: 2, Edith Richardson. 80 yards skipping: 1, Elsie Richardson: 2, H. Hobson, Sack race; 1, J. Hancock; 2; Edith Richardson. High jump: 1; H. Hobson; 2, Elsie Richardson.