Bisley Well Dressing

Bisley Well Dressing – Ascension Day 2017

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Another traditional May event to visit is the Bisley Well Dressing ceremony. Bisley is a delightful village, high above Stroud, it has all the great features of a classic Cotswold village with a historic old pub, The Bear with it’s association with the Bisley Boy legend ( a story of a switch between a local lookalike and a child Elizabeth I), a lock-up and traditional delightful Cotswold stone cream buildings.

First held in 1863. Rev Thomas Keble established the tradition shortly after he had tidied up and formalized the village’s main water supply in Wells Road, Bisley. The act of dressing wells with flowers has pagan origins, with its roots in the worship of the life-giving force of water but it could be that Rev Keble simply wished to mark the restoration of the wells. A similar ceremony takes place in the Derbyshire Peak District.

A short Church Service is followed by a Procession to the Wells where wreaths and posies are laid. The eldest 22 children in the Bluecoat village school carry the wreaths and garlands that head the procession and form the centrepiece of the ceremony. These consist of Stars of David, the letters A.D. and the year, letters spelling out the word ‘Ascension’ and five hoops.

The ceremony was blessed with glorious weather this year and also a special visitor, the Bishop of Gloucester the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek.  It was lovely to see the children and villagers still embracing this ancient tradition.  Here are some photographs I took.

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