ST CHAD'S WELL
St Chad's Well is an ancient site of pilgrimage, and the beginning and end of the Two Saints Way pilgrimage route. Its history goes all the way back to the first baptisms in Mercia of St Chad himself.
history of the well
When in 699 Chad was appointed as Bishop in Mercia, he established his see in Lichfield. He chose for his dwelling ‘a shallow watery valley where a stream divided to form a small island. He founded a small monastery beside a well of spring water. According to Bede he prayed naked at this well, standing on a stone at the bottom of the water. He baptised converts to the Christian faith in this water. Close by he built a church which he dedicated to St Mary. After his death, this little church was re-dedicated in his name and has continued the work of God to this day.
The Well became a place of pilgrimage and in the nineteenth century it was covered in a stone structure about l0 ft tall with an arched entrance and step leading down to the water.
Tradition indicates that the water in the Well had healing powers and was used for bathing. In 1949 the building was demolished and replaced by the present structure.
Well Dressing was carried out in the nineteenth century on Ascension Day and in Pitt’s History of Staffordshire published in 1817 it reads:
‘In the times of Popery when rites and ceremonies where considered essentials of religion, the clergy and populaces assembled at this well on Holy Thursday (Ascension Day) and adorned it with green boughs and flowers. This custom is still observed, for the clergy attended by the Church Wardens and a multitude of children, visit this Well, when the ceremony of strewing the spot with flowers takes place and the gospel for the day is read.'
Another source describes the earlier practice of feasting, games and general merrymaking once the religious rites had been performed.
In 1995 Well Dressing was revived at St Chad’s. Initially it was to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Christian Aid and it continued each year (until 2010) always on the second weekend in September. In 2008 it was a combined effort of 32 people and over 130 ‘man’ hours of work to produce the ‘masterpiece’ with the theme of ‘The Baptism of Jesus’.
The local St Chad’s Primary School make their own smaller structure which sits beside the main one. The theme for the Well decoration always relates to some aspect of the Christian Church.
There is a service of Blessing when water from the Well is sprinkled on the gathered congregation by the clergy using a branch of Yew. On Palm Sunday worship begins at the Well, when the Palm Sunday Gospel is read and the congregation return in procession to the Church for the continuation of the service.
A useful link on the internet which mentions Well Dressing at St Chad’s Lichfield can be found on the link below: is on the BBC Website