There are hundreds of wells across the country and a large number of holy wells in the county of Kent – however very few have been as specially treated as the village well of Broomfield in the shadow of Leeds Castle. Locally the well is called St Margaret’s based on an old record which states
‘…to the reparation of St. Margaret’s well, 12d Agnes, Widow of Ricd Caring of Leeds 1507.’
It appears that local people believed this to be the specific well and repaired it in 1990. Once repaired a discussion occurred to how to make the well more celebrated. It would appear that the idea of well dressing was decided. It is said that this colourful custom was transported down from Derbyshire by a local man Revd. Bill Withers who was the vicar coming down from a Derbyshire living.
Previous effort have had a religious topic; but since the early 1990s the ideas have diversified. Like those in the Peak District themes have been 2019 First Man of the Moon; 2018 100 Years of the RAF; 2014 WWI and 2000 Battle of Britain. However, uniquely in 2015 the church got a new treble bell and that was celebrated. In a curious twist of irony 1999 celebrated the EU 30 years before we left it! Although to all impressions the style is identical to that of the Peak District; the technique differs utilising plant oasis rather than puddled clay which sounds easier but perhaps more challenging to maintain.
When I attended in 1996 it was the year of the Olympics and as such this was the theme. A large group of people had attended to see the vicar lead the service after starting in the church. The children attending had baskets of flowers which after the prayers are said at the well placed them around the well head. A small ceremony which despite being out of place has developed and so far survived the impact of Covid-19. Indeed if I have read correctly the skills were even transferred north.
“Kent Messenger Maidstone reported
A well dressed congregation – South Yorkshire 14 Aug 2009 Parishioners enjoyed a service with a difference when the ancient custom of well dressing came to Kent. Well dressing – blessing the water supply – is a feature of the Peak District, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire, and includes decorating the village well. The custom almost died out in the 1950s but has since been revived. Broomfield vicar the Rev Robin Gill led the service there.”