Looking WELL! Hundreds turn out for annual well dressing celebration

HUNDREDS turned out for the Gee Cross Community Well Dressings which this year reached a landmark 20th anniversary.

It was back in 2000 that the village well dressings, which historically went back to the 1800s, were revived by Gee Cross and District Women’s Institute for the millennium.

Treasurer Pauline Williams explained how she found an old newspaper report covering the well dressings and they were once viewed as a tourist attraction.

“We reinstated them for the millennium and since then have gained new momentum”, she said.

The procession, containing several hundred adults and children, left the Grapes Hotel and headed up Joel Lane to three wells.

They were led by Denton Brass Band and this year All Things Bright and Beautiful was the hymn, with one verse and chorus sung at each well, except the first when it was just the chorus.

Children from Holy Trinity School decorated Arnold Hill Well with the theme saving the ocean with a display made of plastic. The blessing was made by headteacher Sue Lane.

Slateacre Well was dressed by pupils from Dowson Primary Academy with the theme Great Britain, Great Manchester, Great Me. The blessing was given by the Rev Jill Goodwin.

The final one on Joel Lane was at the railings to the reservoir with Alder Community High School providing a mental health awareness theme. Headteacher Richard O’Regan gave the blessing.

It was then on to Stockport Road to Gee Cross Methodist Church where a picture of an angel had been designed by members of the congregation. The blessing was by the Rev David Hardman.

On the opposite side of the road was a display, Scouting and Space, put on by the 3rd Gee Cross Scouts, Cubs and Beavers with their leader Wendy Stockton providing the address.

The second Gee Cross Hyde Chapel Guides, Brownies and Rainbows also provided a display Girl Guiding New Programme with Marjorie Ashurst providing the blessing.

It was back to Booth’s Well at the side of the Grapes Hotel for the final blessing by the Rev Andrew Parker.

The theme for this year’s well dressing picture was Man’s first moon walk 50 years ago on July 20, 1969 and was created by Gee Cross and District Women’s Institute.

The parade then headed to Hyde Chapel for a community service and a welcome was made by Jennifer Hall, chair of the Gee Cross Community Well Dressing Committee. The benediction and blessing was made by the Rev Hazel Cook and organist was Michael Holmes.

• The Grapes Hotel plays a central part in the story of the well dressing, which is a way of saying thank you for the abundance of water we have.

Around 150 years ago the landlord of the Grapes, with an eye on the local mill workers, needed a reason to part them with their money and that is how the well dressing started.

The tradition slowly died out until in 2000 the Gee Cross WI, looking for a millennium project, made a decision to revive it.

First they restored the site of Booths Well, beside the Grapes.

Over the 20 years there have been many subjects at this well including Peter Rabbit, the Cenotaph, RNLI, the green tram and the postal service.

In its present form the clay is smoothly put into frames. Dorothy Charlton draws the picture and borders and its then enlarged and placed on the clay.

The first task is to prick out the shapes out with a cocktail stick, the picture is then removed and the shapes are highlighted with peppercorns. All natural materials are used.

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