Saddleworth Museum celebrates anniversary with traditional well dressing

AS Saddleworth Museum celebrates one year since its £1million ‘Into the Future’ renovation, they are still making sure to keep ancient traditions alive.

The well dressing, featuring the museum and Pots and Pans

As part of the anniversary celebrations, an eye-catching well dressing was created and placed on the wishing well outside the Museum on Uppermill High Street.

Well dressing is a summer custom practised in rural England in which wells, springs or other water sources are decorated with designs created from flower petals.

The creation at Saddleworth Museum is the brainchild of Christine Barrow and Brenda Cockayne, Friends of the Museum, who wanted to do something special for the anniversary.

With a small team of volunteers, their brightly-coloured well dressing was carefully crafted over three days using locally sourced petals, little stones, slate, and bark all pressed into clay.

It depicts the Museum alongside hills with Pots and Pans on top, and words reading ‘Saddleworth Museum’ and ‘One year on’.

It is housed in a wooden frame created by Men in Sheds, and thanks to local sculptor Jean Fenton for providing suitable the clay.

A sign next to it says: “We hope you enjoy Saddleworth’s first well dressing. An annual custom which is thought to originate from Pagan times and celebrates the continuous supply of water.

“A project supported by Saddleworth Museum – please help support us with a donation.”

The well dressing and sign

Christine explained: “We decided to do it to celebrate one year since the re-opening of the Museum. I’ve never done anything like it before so it was just a bit different.

“Peter Fox, the Museum curator, says it is the first one in Saddleworth that he has heard of.

“It has proved really popular with people visiting the museum so hopefully we’ll be holding a workshop in the New Year to get other villages involved.”

Christine and Brenda visited Gee Cross WI for advice on the well dressing, as well as seeing other examples nearby, including at Eyam and Derbyshire.

They hope their well dressing may inspire other villages to have a go and they are looking to organise some workshops next year – contact the museum if you are interested.

Meanwhile, to mark the one-year anniversary of their refurbishment, the Museum held a Grand Prize Draw, with 14 prizes generously donated by local artists who exhibit in the museum gallery.

The event raised over £900 to help towards the running of the Museum, which is a registered charity.

Peter Fox, Museum curator, said: “A big thank you must go to all those who bought tickets.

“The draw wouldn’t have been possible without prizes and the Museum has to thank local artists who donated original art works, as well as the Saddleworth Historical Society for donating books.”


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