This film is part of Free

Buxton Well Dressing (1904)

A lavish bioscope show, maypole dancing and decorated wells in Edwardian Derbyshire.

Non-Fiction 1904 6 mins Silent


The Buxton tradition of decorating a well or a pump dates only from 1840 and was revived in 1904, thanks in part to the efforts of showman 'President' George Kemp, who both paid for the event and filmed it. Maypole dancing, initially in front of Kemp's Cinematograph, is succeeded by shots of two wells, one lavishly decorated. Kemp himself can be glimpsed in a white jacket and shoes.

President George Kemp was a colourful character, presenting freak shows and novelty acts with performing seals, tattooed ladies and midgets. He toured America and Canada, earning the title 'the Midget King' and 'President' for having exhibited before President McKinley. His travelling bioscope shows had a reputation for extravagance that is borne out by what we can see here.