Historically, visitors to Buxton were encouraged to both bathe in the thermal waters (at 28 degrees Celsius, hardly even warm!) and to drink the water, which was doled out at St Anne’s Well by ‘well women’.
The picture above shows the water source inside the Pump Room, built in 1894. But the tradition of well women long predated this structure.
Dr Granville visited Buxton on his tour of English spas in 1839. While having some good things to say about Buxton, he objected to the ‘venerable’ attendants who handed out the drinking waters, and to the penny tip which was expected, since the well women received no other payment. He suggested the attendants should be younger (but not that they should be properly remunerated!).
The museum collection includes this hand-coloured etching of Martha Norton, aged 90 in October 1820. She attended the well at Buxton for over 50 years and her name is recorded in the Vestry Book in 1775. Was she the daughter of a Dr Norton of Macclesfield who attended to visitors in Buxton?
Before the Pump Room, attendants like Martha Norton worked out of a modest Georgian building nearer the Old Hall, at the foot of Hall Bank. The elegant vase shown on the roof of this building was moved to the pediment of the Devonshire Dome, and later to the well on Buxton Market Place.