Well-dressers, Hospital Sunday and Carnival

“When I was a boy we used to walk to Barlow feast over the fields from Dronfield.”
“You wouldn’t be on your own though, there would be crowds?”
“Oh yes, not just my family; the whole street!”

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Wilf Needham

Wilf Needham probably holds the record for the longest serving dresser in Derbyshire having worked on the Barlow 'Main' well for at least eighty years. He said he started when he was four, gathering flowers and helping his father with the dressing, he worked on it until he was ninety.

James Wilfred Needham died 9th December 1998 aged 92.

When a dresser dies he is remembered with the words 'In Memory of the Departed' on the arch above the well. Wilf's life as farmer, well dresser, church warden and councillor was depicted in the four pictures in 1999.

Childrens Well Dressers 1987

Christopher Ledger, Karl Kingston, Stan Ledger, Guy Kingston, Andrew Vickers
Geoff Whittaker (not in picture)

Childrens Well Dressing 1987


Main Well Dressers 1990

WIlf Needham, Roger Stubbins, Stan Hughes, David Hughes,
Chris Armstrong, Robert Drury, Peter Booker.

Main Well Dressing 1990



Valley Rise Well Dressers 1987


Valley Rise Well Dressing 1987


Main Well Dressers 1906

Main Well 1906

Maypole at Main Well 1906

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Hospital Sunday

Wilf Needham - "Before we had the carnival there was Hospital Sunday, it used to be the Sunday during welldressing week that was just for the hospital and that was going for many, many years. All the proceeds from the well and the procession went to the Chesterfield Royal hospital. Even the fair, on the Sunday, gave their proceeds to the hospital. They would parade through the village on the Sunday afternoon. It involved nearly everybody. There were no vehicles whatever, the Parish Council would head it off and everyone would follow. The procession set off in those days from the New Inn, then it went round Crow hole, through the village, on to the village boundary and then back again and into the big field in front of Rutland Terrace."

"Hospital Sunday finished when the hospitals were controlled."

When Wilf says that the hospitals were controlled he is referring to the inception of the National Health Service. The purpose of the N.H.S. 1946 Act was to nationalise all voluntary hospitals and put them under the control of the Minister of Health. The last meeting of the Board of Management at Chesterfield Royal Hospital was in 1948. Prior to this and in addition to other sources of funding it is accepted that a substantial amount of money was raised by voluntary groups. There were flag days such as the Alexandra Rose Day, two notable groups were the Women’s Medical Fund and the Linen Guild. Churches would have collection boxes and events would be staged such as Hospital Sunday as part of Barlow's well dressing week.


Hospital Sunday Parade 1908

Hospital Sunday Gathering, Millfield 1908


At the Fair 1910

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Stan Hughes - The carnival was first talked about in 1953, the year of the Queen’s coronation. There was a procession through the village on her behalf and everyone was given a tea at the village hall. The idea of a carnival was discussed in the pub the same night. There were thirty at the first meeting but then it dropped down to just a few, there were nine that really followed it up. There was Cliff Leyton for one, Fred Haslam, Mr. Sinderson, George Booker, Mrs. Watkinson, Mrs. Holmes, Homer Jolly, Des Hardy and my Margaret (Hughes). Des Hardy drove the first lorry in the procession. Oh, and Mrs. Wilton.

It was always going to be in August at the same time as the welldressings and the fair was here as well. The fair been coming to the village for the welldressings for as long as anyone can remember.


For more about Barlow Carnival please link to barlowcarnival.co.uk

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