Well dressing was originally a pagan custom of celebrating the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water, but it took on a particular significance in Derbyshire in the 17th century as a way of giving thanks for being spared from the Great Plague of 1665.
(The village of Eyam became known for the self-sacrifice of its inhabitants: after becoming infected after a tailor received a flea-infested parcel of cloth from London, they decided to quarantine themselves rather than spread the plague to surrounding villages. 260 out of 350 villagers died.)
Derbyshire well dressings take the form of elaborate pictures made from individual flower petals pressed onto clay-covered boards. These pictures may feature local landmarks, Biblical scenes, or historical events. The Tideswell well dressing shown here features landmarks from the nearby spa town of Buxton (Aqua Arnemetiae is its Roman name), including the frontage of its Victorian railway station.
Well dressings are usually displayed as part of a week-long festival in the village, and houses and the streets may also be decorated.