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.
Originally the local water supply was provided by five waterspouts in Wells
Road. When the Rev. Thomas Keble, church builder and restorer and vicar of Bisley, in his early days covering six present day parishes, and brother of John Keble, who founded the Oxford Movement, restored the Wells, the spouts were increased to seven. The water supplied not only drinking water, but also three troughs for washing purposes, a horse pond and a large cattle trough.
The designer was the curate, the Rev. W.H.Lowder, who had been the architect for the restoration of Bisley Church in 1862. The original supply was from a spring under the churchyard and the two new spouts were fed from an adjoining spring. They are the source of the Swilly brook that flows into Toadsmoor Lake and then joins the River Frome.
The restoration of the Wells commemorated the marriage of Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, and they are inscribed with the Royal monogram 'A.E.A.' together with the inscription, 'O ye wells, bless ye the Lord: praise Him and magnify Him for ever'.
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.