‘Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ. Two fonts, two caves. One pallace, mount and pit.’
St. Ann’s Well was called a “wonder” by famous philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and by poet, Charles Cotton. The Well has a colourful history. It was both a pagan shrine surrounding the cult of St. Anne and then came to belong to a chapel which was closed by Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIIIth’s reign. It has also been noted for its “healing” qualities attracting the attention of then prisoner of Chatsworth House Mary Queen of Scots.
Thomas Hobbes has beautifully descriptive verse on St. Ann’s Well, which illustrates its importance to those in Derbyshire even in the seventeenth century.
‘The Sun burnt clouds but glimmer to the fight,
when at fam’d [famed] Buxton’s hot bath we alight [?]
unto St. Ann the Fountain sacred is:
With waters hot and cold its sources rise,
And in its Sulphur-veins there’s medicine lies.
This cures the Palfied [?] members of the Old,
And Cherishes the Nerves grown Stiff and cold.
Crutches the Lame [?] unto its brink convey,
Returning the ungrades [?] filing them away.
The Barren hither to be fruitful come,
And without help of spouse, go pregnant home,
into a ciltern [?] Square, the water Flows
And seldom higher than five foot it goes.’
One key line within this verse is, ‘go pregnant home’ which shows that the well was also associated with fertility, in turn suggesting that although England was heading towards supposed enlightenment, that folk tales and myths persisted and were in fact a marker of local identity and culture.