To ‘e’ or not to ‘e’? That is the Question
St Ann or St Anne?
Whilst in the process of updating the Visit Buxton website and some of our productions, such as the town guide and group travel pack, we arrived at a point of contest ̶ whether to spell St Ann/e with an ‘e’ or not.
The updates are to incorporate the new ‘Refreshingly Buxton’ marketing toolkit commissioned by High Peak Borough Council as part of its Visitor Economy Strategy for the town.
“Whichever is correct, we should at least be consistent” says Sally Potter, Chair of the Vision Buxton Marketing Group.
Members of the group undertook some desk research of its previous spellings to obtain some historical justification of using Ann/e in our publications moving forward. Unfortunately, this did nothing to help the matter…
In the first travel books about the Wonders of the Peak, Thomas Hobbes in 1678 writes “Unto St Ann the fountain sacred is”; whilst Charles Cotton, in 1683, writes “St Anne’s Well at the Buxtons”. In 1697, Celia Fiennes describes “a spring called St Anns Well”; whilst, in his 1727 account, Daniel Defoe uses Anne.
Of the 18th century doctors, writing about the waters, Dr Percival, in 1772, uses “Saint Ann” and then two pages later “St Anne”. Not greatly helpful! Dr Pearson in 1784 uses Anne in reference to the well, chapel and saint; whilst Dr Denman, in 1793, uses Ann for the well and saint. In the 19th Century, in 1854, Dr Robertson uses Anne but later uses Ann in 1880.
Henry Moore, in his 1819 guidebook uses Ann for the well and cliff (The Slopes), as does White’s 1857 Directory of Derbyshire – “the old church dedicated to St Ann” – although he then proceeds to use Anne in reference to the well. In 1893, Samuel Hyde uses Anne for the cliff, well, pump room and patron saint; although he quotes Thomas Hobbes as using St Anne, so perhaps he is not a reliable witness. He also uses Ann for the hotel and for the well later on. Black’s Guide to Buxton in 1898 uses Anne for the hotel, well, cliff, church and pump room. In 1914, Joseph Morris refers to the saint as Anne, as does Goodacre in Buxton Now and Then (1928); yet Ward Lock (1913, 1923) refers to Ann.
From a collection of previous town guides dating between 1899 to 2019, references to the well spelt without an ‘e’ are made in 1899, 1907, 1921, 1930, 1931, 1938, 1940, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1965, 1969, 2004 and then from 2011 onwards. References spelt with an ‘e’ are made in 1910, 1912 and 2005. Worryingly, there was no mention in 1959, 1965 or 1969! However, references made to the churches are almost exclusively with an ‘e’ with one exception in 1961. Postcards dated 1901, 1911 and 1912 all refer to ‘St Ann’s Well’.
Bartholomew’s map of 1898 refers to St Ann’s Well but the current OS OL24 map has St Anne’s Well. The illustrated map outside Pump Room features St Ann’s Well and St Anne’s Church.
If we look back to the first written records, generally found as secondary sources, referenced in later books, most do use Anne. Amongst others, Stephen Glover in 1830 and Dr Robertson in1854, quote a letter to Lord Cromwell from William Bassett, Knight, in the mid-16th Century as using “St Anne of Buckston”. A digitised version of John Jones’ book, published in 1572, includes “S. Aune found in the well” – probably a copying error from “Anne”. In his map of Derbyshire in 1610, ‘John Speede’ writes “Sainte Anne’s well”. The 1646 book “A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World”, quoted in Jewitt (1811) amongst others, references “Saint Anne”.
However, away from books and maps, the sign on the Crescent hotel itself says “St Ann” (pictured above) and “St Ann” is carved into the Pump Room’s exterior.
More recently, in 2001, Colin Wells uses Anne in reference to the well and cliff and today both the churches in the town use Anne.
As you can see, there is no great consistency, either for church or well, pump room, hotel or cliff. Even if we wanted to refer back to the ‘original’ spelling, this is as inconsistent as it is today, although most spelling was. We might consider that the pronunciation of Anne might have been different to today with the ‘e’ harbouring an inflection but becoming silent during the ‘Great English Vowel Shift’ of the 15th and 16th centuries. However, historically, there appears to be no difference in the pronunciation, so perhaps the ‘e’ was added by the first printers to increase their commissions – they were paid by the line.
However, looking at the origin of the name, the consensus seems to be that it is derived from the Hebrew Hanna(h), believed to be the name of the mother of the Virgin Mary. In Medieval Europe, the name Hanna transformed to Anna, which became a popular name in many countries. This transitioned to Anne in Old French and was then ‘imported’ to England in the 13th Century. However, by the 19th Century, Ann was most commonly used, perhaps an anglicised version of the name.
Another ‘origin story’ to consider is that Anne pre-dates the saint, instead originating from a weathered carving of ‘Aquae Arnemetia’ (or ‘Aquis Arnemeza’, the name as recorded in 700AD) with ‘Arne…’ becoming Anne.
A resurgence in popularity of Anne in the 20th Century is thought to be due to the publishing of Anne of Green Gables, the novel by L M Montgomery, in 1908. The titular character even addresses the spelling:
“But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”
“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.
“Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.”
So perhaps we decide which looks nicer! The popularity of Anne in the 20th Century may have been cemented by the naming of Princess Anne in 1950 by Queen Elizabeth II. This popularity over Ann continues to today with UK Baby Names reporting Ann as having an overall UK ranking or 1939 out of 5493 in 2020; whereas Anne has an overall UK ranking of 992. However, Anna continues to be more popular, being ranked 89th and it is currently trending for 2022!
So what conclusion should we draw? What conclusion can we draw? Other than neither have ever been used consistently in Buxton. Anne was the original, European spelling but Ann the English spelling? Moving forward, what should we put into print? Answers on a ‘correctly spelt’ postcard of Buxton please!
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