The dressing of the Wells at Bisley and their blessing on Ascension Day by the vicar – a survival of the pagan practice of well-worship – was established in 1863 by the Rev. Thomas Keble after the restoration of the well-head. For over 150 years the children of the Blue Coat School bedeck the wells with flowers each year and the event has now become a standing engagement for local television reporters and press and this year will be no exception.
Each Ascension Day all the children from Bisley Bluecoat School will first attend a service, starting at 1.30pm at All Saints Church, where they will lead prayers and give Bible readings. Then, with our clergy and teachers, they will process through the village carrying floral arrangements and led by Avening Silver Band.
The Year 6 pupils will be wearing the traditional 18th century uniform of the school – the blue cloth used to be given by local mill-owners. The flowers carried by the senior pupils are in the shapes of stars and hoops bound with flowers and moss, making up the legends ‘A.D. 20YY’ and ‘ ASCENSION DAY’ and posies carried by every other child will be ceremonially placed around the wells. The lead clergy will conduct a short service (starting at about 2.20pm) blessing the water of the wells and Avening Silver Band will accompany the hymns.
School log books date back to the time of Thomas Keble and reveal how the school would close on Ascension Day for a holiday. But the children would still be part of the ceremony.
Today the school remains open for lessons in the morning and the ceremony takes place in the afternoon.