Triggered by the recent discovery of an ancient well shaft, the art of well dressing has arrived in Burngreave. The Friends of Burngreave Cemetery, helped by Firshill Afterschool Arts Club, created a display from petals and flower heads on a puddled clay board, which celebrated water, the source of life.
The well shaft suddenly appeared in January 2005 and is older than the cemetery itself, dating back to the time when the area was still Burngreave Wood, used as a source of charcoal for smelting iron. Maps of the time show the woods cut through with footpaths joining small mining works, wells and bell pits.
Well dressing is a tradition unique to Derbyshire and the Peak District and, although shrouded in mystery, is thought to have its origins in Celtic rituals, “Saying thank you for the water, worshipping the water goddess sort of thing,” Saleema Imam explained, one of the team who had spent the previous evening creating the dressing.
Lord Mayor Roger Davison launched the event, praising the superb example of this ancient art, and the way local children had been involved. Albert Jackson, local historian, took the group on a tour of some of the many historic graves and the final resting places of famous Sheffielders before the morning ended at an exhibition in the increasingly busy chapel.
The Friends of Burngreave Cemetery run regular events in the chapel and hope they will be able to raise the funds needed to restore both the chapels and the well to form a feature to be celebrated for years to come. They were keen to acknowledge the support they’d received from Bereavement Services and from Burngreave Voices.
by Mark Lankshear