Hill of Fountains

In order to highlight the dilapidated condition of many of Malvern’s springs, from 2001 to 2007 the sculptor Rose Garrard became the organiser of the annual Well Dressing festival here, doubling the number of participating sites to twenty-eight and moving the event to May Day. Whilst out walking on the Malvern Hills Rose found herself musing over the word “spring” as the name for this season of the year and for a pure water source. As a performance artist with a previous interest in religious and folk traditions, Rose searched for information about spring rituals connected with springs of water. Putting together scattered fragments from very diverse sources, she began writing this fascinating book in 2005.

Here she traces a particular history of ‘Well Dressing’ as a veneration of springs and spring fertility, through the beliefs and superstitions that have influenced our May Day celebrations in Britain today.  From their origins in the sometimes grisly Celtic offerings at sacred springs and the ancient Roman flower 'Festival of Joy' for the goddess Flora on 1st May, to the later veneration of the Virgin Mary as Queen of the May, this lineage of traditions surrounding the dressing of springs at springtime brings surprising new insights into our present day events.

For the first time Rose also uncovers a previously lost history of Well Dressing in the Malvern`s since at least the 12th century and tells the intriguing stories behind fourteen of the most ancient holy wells hidden around the Malvern Hills.  The book contains over one hundred unique photographs and illustrations, including Rose’s own drawings and water sculptures, plus rare pictures brought to her by local people when she was Artist in Residence during her 'Spring Water Arts Project' in Great Malvern in 1997.  Her female sculpture 'Malvhina' appears on the front cover crowned in the finery of its first Well Dressing in 1999.

This unique and fascinating book is available from bookshops in Great Malvern including Beacon Books, the Tourist Information Centre, and Aquarius, plus from the printers - Aspect Design, 89 Newtown Road, Malvern, Worcs WR14 1AN. email: allan@aspect-design.net  - Price: £8.99p plus £2 post and packaging.