Friday, 22 March 2013

The Site of St Ann’s Well

Ashampoo_Snap_2012.01.22_16h55m54s_002_Pinpointing the true site of St Ann’s well which was situated inside a wooden lean to structure on the side of Mrs Blee’s farmhouse shown on the left, has been problematic, as no maps have ever been made of the lands while the farmhouse was in existence. Tarbotton’s 1881 Map of Nottingham show’s the site of St Ann’s Well, but not Mrs Blee’s farmhouse or the magical well itself. The only significant house at the top of the Wells Road at this time was number 368 on the list of St Ann’s street names in the 1883 Wrights Directory, which was occupied by Mrs Sarah Man, a greengrocer & shopkeeper.




Sunday, 29 January 2012

Photographic Survey

This is a photographic assessment of the site of the Gardeners pub off The Wells Road on January 28th 2012. The weather was kind with blue skies, and the land was easily accessible.

Gardeners Pub Site, St Ann’s, Nottingham

On this occasion I met railway enthusiast Mr Taylor who lives in Kildare Road. He educated me about the Suburban Railway and the viaduct which bisected the site, taking trains north through St Ann’s station. He was very informative, and in his opinion little would be gained from an archaeological dig on this land because the foundations of the viaduct would have meant that any useful archaeological finds would have been discarded by workmen while building the huge structure.

Never-the-less, I believe the actual site of Tarbotton’s monumental edifice lies on accessible land on the south side of this site, along with the position of the last large house & gardens to be found here before the railway viaduct was constructed.

It means that Mr Greenwell was digging in the wrong location in 1987, and only succeeded in uncovering the remains of an underground stream.

The true plane of the land is equivalent to the surface level of The Wells Road, which means that any archaeological excavations will have to dig down to this point before uncovering any artefacts.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Video update 27 January

On a very dull wet afternoon I visited the site of St Ann’s Well and was surprised to find the perimeter iron fence removed and the land opened up. While walking around the site taking video scenes, I realised that this was the first time anyone had ventured on the land, and walked around the grounds of Mrs Blee’s farmhouse and St Ann’s well since the Gardeners pub was first built here 44 years ago. The music is from the period of the year 1550.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Video: The Robin hood Pageant 2011

The Robin Hood Pageant happens every year at Nottingham Castle, and attracts hundreds of tourists far & wide. This year I went along with my friends June & Andrew Gaskell, together with their daughters Jessica (10) & Angelina (8). They invited their school friend Holly. It was a lovely day out and the weather was fine

Nottingham Castle

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mrs Blee’s Farm At ST ANN’S WELL

SA_Page_041_Image_0001There can be no doubt that a hermitage existed on the site of St Ann’s Well since it is mentioned in the Nottingham Corporation records dating from 1513, which refer to ‘Le Hermitage,’ ‘Hermitage Wong’, and ‘Hermitage Close.’ Hermitages were small sites where one or more hermits went to find peace in remote places. Access to hermitages would be limited - physically, e.g. by their remoteness, or socially, e.g. in private places. They were simple sites usually with a small house and simple chapel often built by the hermit them selves. Wealthy patrons could endow hermitages, as at Warkworth, Northumberland.

It consisted of a single building attached to one side of a farmhouse on the same site. The farm being the means that made the hermits here self-sufficient in food from the land, supplemented with the meat from farm animals. The location of the hermitage here was entirely due to the spring of the Beck that trickled up out of the ground, and flowed down the hill of the Beck valley.

St Ann’s holy well was important since it was a valuable attraction for pilgrims and visitors, who gave gifts of money or other valuables to the hermits, and brought food and ale for themselves. The greatest attraction being on St Ann’s Day itself, which is 26 July at the height of the British Summer.

SA_Page_040_Image_0001Another attraction was known as ‘The Shepherd’s Race,’ which was situated on land at the side of The Wells Road, now a new housing estate, between Coburn Street & Eccles Way. This was the name of an ancient 'miz-maze' of unknown origin. It was cut into the turf on Blue Bell Hill, some historic references state that this was an ancient or Roman maze, but conflicting records suggest that the priests of St Ann’s Chapel, who had to seek their recreation within site of the chapel, created it for recreation. It was ploughed up when the surrounding Lordship of Sneinton was enclosed on February 27th 1797. The land was then used as a quarry for materials needed while building the old St Ann’s. The diameter of the maze is given as 51 feet. In addition, its total length of path was 535 yards.

henryholbein1536The hermitage was well established up until1540 around the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. Roman Catholic writers referred to this period as the Suppression of the Monasteries, it was the formal process during the English Reformation by which King Henry VIII (Shown on the right) confiscated the property of the monastic institutions in England, Wales, and Ireland between 1538 and 1541. He was given the authority to do this by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church of England. In 1543-4 The Rev. John Orange recalls that all there was left of the hermitage was a piece of the hermitage wall situated in part of the great fireplace of the large farmhouse at St Ann’s well.

12028525I remember visiting Dale Abbey that was also the site of a hermitage. Dale Abbey is situated three miles South West of Ilkeston off the A6096 road, six miles North East of Derby. Once known as Depedale this tranquil little village contains a tiny church, a pub, a school and the remains of an abbey founded here by Augustinian monks in the 13th century.

The curious little church of All Saint's, measuring just 26 feet by 25 feet, probably one of the smallest in the country, shares a roof with an adjoining farmhouse. The church dates back originally to the mid 12th century, Dale_Abbeyaltered in 1480, to give it its present form.

It contains a pulpit that dates from 1634 and the whole interior appears rather crammed with its box pews and open benches. The farmhouse was once possibly used as an infirmary for the Abbey. For some time before 1820 it was used as a pub called the Blue Bell, the bar being used as a vestry, with a door into the aisle. It was rebuilt in 1883.

The small church at Dale Abbey which shares its roof with the farm house, is some what similar to the set up at St Ann’s Well itself, were the hermitage is attached to one side of the farm house. However, the hermitage at St Ann’s Well is a little different to others since there were frequent visitors by Nottingham town’s folk to the well, and secondly the site is located in The Coppice which is the King’s domain, that was frequently used for hunting deer and wild bore.

In the 16th century, the farmhouse would have no running water so constructing the building next to a cold-water stream percolating up out of the ground was the best solution, and to have this ‘well’ in a lean-to shed with access from inside the farmhouse itself was even better. 19th century paintings of the farm show a small building next to the farmhouse itself which houses St Ann’s Well almost certainly paid for by Nottingham town elders to protect themselves, and town people from the elements, and spare their blushers, however, originally their may not have been such an elaborate structure.

In the 16th century, straw was a valuable material; it was used to thatch the roof of the farmhouse, and out buildings, and quite possibly the hermitage itself. Straw was used to make manure during the daily task of cleaning out the cowshed, pigs and stables.

It was also used as a building material. The walls of a farm building were first weaved from relatively straight wooden branches obtained by the Woodward who had the job of coppicing the nearby woodland. Sturdy wooden poles were hammered firmly into the ground, and then the thinner branches were weaved in and out to form the wall. The process was completed on all four sides leaving a space for the main doorway. Straw, cow or horse dung, and lime were mixed together to form a white daubing mixture that was applied thickly by hand, and pushed into all the cracks.

For larger buildings like the farmhouse or farmyard sheds, tree trunks were used, which were axed and worked into long beams. Simple mortise & tenant joints were cut and fitted together. A hole was drilled through the side of each joint, so when the two pieces were fitted together, a wooden beg hammered through the holes held each joint firmly in place.

Straw was also used to make rope; hand full of straw were pushed together lengthways, and then twisted. Once a good length was achieved, one end was bent round forming a loop, which then went onto a iron hook attached to a building, or quite often, the hook was attached to a wooden hand held handle. It was then a matter of adding further hands full of straw, and twisting the rope until the desired length had been achieved, at this point each end was tied firmly with a piece of linen string. Straw rope was useful in thatching the roofs of buildings, and around the farm.

It was also used to make the beds of the farm labourers. In the sixteenth century farmhouse, those that were considered wealthy used luxurious eiderdown, or feather stuffed mattresses, others would have flock or wool, and those who were servants made use of straw. Man size straw filled sacks had to be changed every eight to twelve weeks because they tended to become smelly and attracted bed mites and small insects. In an effort to prevent this, herbs were used to keep the insects at bay, and keep the straw mattress reasonably fresh.

The floor of the farmhouse was originally the hardened clay soil base where the building was constructed, although in the 19th century this was brick laid.

The chimneystack was quite large at the base to allow for a good-sized fireplace indoors for cooking with various size vessels of iron or pottery. Inside the chimneybreast was two or three iron bars part way up the chimney, used for smoking hanks of pork, veal, venison, or fish. Such cured meats would stay fresh to eat for many weeks after being treated in this way. The fireplace was used for baking bread, and boiling the water ready to make ale or mead, which every member of the household drank because it was far less likely to cause illness, even fresh water from St Ann’s Well had to be boiled before it could be drank, except when the thirst was so great it was drunk neat with cupped hands or beaker with a certain amount of risk involved.

When spring cleaning came around, the straw beds had to be emptied and re-stuffed, and textiles used for covering tables or beds, had to be hung over a line and beaten to get rid of the accumulated dust of the previous season. In these early times, the available textiles were made from homespun wool, linen, or hemp.

Cleaning the big chimney was a big job involving three or four men, and they used a number of branches of prickly holly all tied together. This bush was tied with a long rope that was dropped down the chimney inside the fireplace. At the bottom, two men pulled on the rope to drag the holly bush down the chimney cleaning all of the soot along the way. Sometimes the holly became stuck on the iron bars inside the chimneybreast, and a man had to stand up inside the chimney to free the bush. Understandably, it was a messy, dusty business. Afterwards, the inside of the farmhouse had to be swept clean using a broom, which was also used to sweep the crevices of the white interior walls.

The main table, stools and trestles were all made out of wood collected locally, even the soup bowls, and candles provided the lighting. In later years, whale oil lamps replaced the candles.

At St Ann’s well the farmhouse had, an upper floor either reached by an angled wooden ladder or constructed stairs, to reach the part of the house used as the sleeping quarters. As the decades passed their were many improvements to make things easier, and the farmhouse and its rooms more comfortable.

In time, the hermitage became derelict through the lack of maintenance, and disrepair, as the people living here became much more involved in farming the land, brewing ale, and receiving visitors to the holy well that had grown in popularity. It was demolished sometime in the mid fifteenth century around the time of the dissolution of the monasteries through out the country. Although the hermitage here was by no means a monastery, it was originally built as a religious retreat, it therefore fell into disfavour, and its useful purpose declined.

However, as a working farm and holy spring latterly run by a Mrs. Blee, business was doing really well. Although we don’t know what animals the farm had, I think it likely that pigs, one or two dairy cows, chickens, and geese were here providing the meat, and produce making the household self sufficient. The Woodward was responsible for coppicing the nearby woodland of mainly horse chestnut, and oak trees. Most probably charcoal making on a small scale, which can be used as a smokeless fuel for indoor cooking.

Mrs. Blee’s farm at St Ann’s Well was not the only local farm in the area, another was Rose hill farm on Beacon Hill situated at the top of what is now St Matthias Road; at the time of Blee’s farm this was a cart track, as was Beacon hill rise that also ran through Rose hill farm. The Beck valley of course was another cart track than ran from the town of Nottingham up to St Ann’s well and the coppice woodland. Today the Wells Road is lined either side with horse chestnut trees, some of which are over two centuries old; these trees were plentiful in The Coppice near Blee’s farm.

In the past, Horse-chestnut seeds were used for whitening hemp, flax, silk, and wool. They contain a soapy juice, fit for washing of linens and stuffs, for milling of caps and stockings, etc., and for fulling of cloth. For this, 20 horse chestnuts were sufficient for six litres of water. They were peeled, then rasped or dried, and ground in malt or other mill. The water must be soft, either rain or river water. The nuts are then steeped in cold water, which soon becomes frothy, as with soap, and then turns white as milk. It must be stirred well at first, and then, after standing to settle, strained or poured off clear. Linen washed in this liquid, and afterwards rinsed in clear running water, takes on an agreeable light sky-blue colour. It takes spots out of both linen and woollen, and never damages or injures the cloth. Horse chestnuts were also used to make a form of starch for stiffening cloth.

Farming the land was certainly hard work for the farmhands who did not have the benefit of early tractors, and machinery to make life easy; it was hard backbreaking work.

At St Ann’s well the farmland stretched across the present well’s Road, and covered much of the appropriately named Wells Gardens nearby. The land was often difficult to dig and cultivate because of the many woody fibrous roots in the hard baked ground. The first task was to use stones found lying around, and willow to mat together, and construct a perimeter fence around the land, so that farm animals could not escape, especially pigs.

Pigs in the 18th century were a valuable asset, not only for their bacon but because they forage for their food digging into the ground for the roots, and vines. Therefore, by putting pigs into the enclosure to be cultivated for about a month, they did much of the hard work. After returning the pigs to their farmyard pens, farmhands could then cut and pull up much of what was left, piling the woody roots into small bonfires around the enclosures. These pyres were then lit and left to burn, smouldering away for a number of days. The red, and brown, powdering residue being rich in phosphates, it was then spread across the worked ground.

hand-plow-women-1919The land was then ready for manual ploughing, although in time the farm horse was brought into service. The manual plough was a carefully angled piece of mettle on the end of a wooden stave, with a cross bar at the top end. The labourer would put his chest against the cross bar and push forward, turning the plough to the right. As the plough halted, he would repeat the process over again until the entire field was roughly ploughed in toWooden-Harrow furrows. The crops of beans, peas, cabbage or kale, and potatoes were then sown in the rows, before the ground was lightly spread with farmyard manure; it was then ready for ‘harrowing.’ A harrow looked like a large rake, a square or triangular structure of wood, one to two meters in size, with cross hatch struts and rows of teeth at every junction. The hard preparation work was complete, and the crops were left to grow, while farmhands carried out the occasional weeding of the ground.

It is important to mention that up until the Middle Ages of the 16th century Paganism played a part in worship practices at St Ann’s Well. Paganism is the broad term used to describe any religion or belief that is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Paganism can be traced back to Neolithic times and survived up until the middle ages when Christianity became powerful enough to erase it from existence. Paganism is an earth based religion which lays emphasis on the worship of all aspects of nature. Paganism appeared very early on in the history of the world. Examples of early paganism can be seen in ancient Greek and Roman religions, as well as in ancient Goddess worship and Druidic religions.

Ancient people believed that everything had a spirit and were polytheistic and they placed great importance on the worship of many Gods, Goddesses and Deities. Gods were a part of everyday life and great emphasis was placed on placating them through worship and ritual. Pagans believed that the Gods were immanent and entered every aspect of their society, influencing everything from laws and customs to the general workings of their community.

In the few short years that Blee’s farm was the first pub in St Ann’s, pagan beliefs caused rows & brawls inside, and outside, the premises, that led to the premises losing its victualler's license.

Since St Ann’s well was principally a farm the Lacnunga chant composed in 1050 may have been used once the land had been prepared and sown with crops, along with a charm for increasing the fertility of the fields, known as the Acerbate. It contains a pagan hymn to the sun and another to the earth. Both contain details of the ritual—

Turn to the east and bowing humbly nine times, saying these words:

'Eastwards I stand, for favours pray

I pray to the great Lord, I pray to the mighty Prince.'

Then turn three times sun wise and stretch yourself along the ground full length.

The hymn to the earth included a ceremony that continued well into Christian times, the ceremony of burying a cake with the first ploughed earth. Take every kind of meal and have a loaf baked no bigger than the palm of your hand, having kneaded it with milk and holy water, and lay it under the first turned furrow. The hermitage here would have been the ideal place to obtain holy water for the yearly ceremony.

Say these words:

'Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth,

Hail to thee, Earth, mother of men,

Be fruitful in God's embrace,

Filled with food for the use of men.'

Pagan Rituals at St Ann’s Well

3683025_f520Anglo-Saxon paganism can be traced back to the 5th and 7th centuries when pagan tribes dominated England, although it has to be said very little is known about this early period of paganism. Bob Trubshaw in his paper published in "At the Edge No.3 1996," gives a reason for this, referring to Hutton, `The English Reformation and the evidence of folklore' op. cit.:

"The modem era is much better documented regarding folk customs. Superficially, this might be thought that our society became more self-conscious of the need to preserve itself in writing. But this is somewhat inaccurate. Plenty of records exist in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but the popular customs were so commonplace that they were rarely considered worthy of mention, except when unusual rowdiness or other irregularities entered the annals. Only in the late eighteenth century did educated observers become sufficiently separated from the common people that they began to record popular customs, rather in the manner that early explorers were systematically documenting foreign cultures. "

med_pagan_belarus_traditions_1-jpgWe can only imagine the goings on at the site of St Anne’s Well during this period that was the cause of such unruly behaviour, when Rob Trusaw informs us —

"By the late nineteenth century the fairly copious written records reveal that popular customs were again undergoing wide-spread changes. Victorian moral standards disfavoured drunkenness, brawling, and any suggestions of lewdness. And, as court records reveal, the former two were inextricably linked to village festivities, and the latter is frequently alleged by detractors (although parish records of births do not provide evidence for a surfeit of milkmaids defoliated at May tide). There is more than a little to suggest that such holidays were traditionally a time for local lads to visit a neighbouring village, not just for a few beers, but an inevitable punch-up with the 'home team.'"

Nottingham historian Dr Robert Morrell indicates in his own paper published in 'Mercian Mysteries No.21 November 1994,' the customs of pagan practices that occurred at the site of the farmhouse tavern, by the side of St Anne’s Well —

"In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the house at the well site became the centre of activities for what appears on the surface to have been a strange group of Robin Hood devotees known as the Brotherhood of the Chair. The 'rites` of this group involved the use of several relics said to be associated with Robin Hood, which were preserved at the house. Visitors would be seated in Robin Hood's Chair then capped with his iron cap. Secretive features of the rites were hinted at but, if the historian, John Blackner, is to be believed, these consisted of nothing more than the consumption of 'large quantities of Woodward's nut-brown ale. "

66787-pagan-alter-j3lhyIt seems strange that the hermitage should still be in use at this time by the monks who held regular religious services, and it seems reasonable to assume that the building was demolished at the time of John Clark's murder in 1741 or soon afterwards, leaving widow Blee's farmhouse intact.

The only excavation work carried out at the location of the actual St Anne’s Well took place when the main house and well were demolished to make way for the Great Northern Railway line. Some bones, a half-crown of the date 1685, and a ring showing 'devices' and a motto' dating from the time of King Henry-IV, were uncovered their.

The Origin of St Anne’s

anne5-2aThe original name of St Ann’s Well of spring water was 'Oswell' and the waters originating from here are always referred to as the `Beck' which was in fact a brook or stream that flowed down what had became known as `The Wells Road' by the hundreds of Nottingham town folk who visited the site over hundreds of years. However, the specific title of 'Anne' was not explicit to this area of Nottingham.

This is by no means an unusual occurrence since today there is known to be four 'Holy springs’ in the United Kingdom that are all named `St Ann’s Well.' The nearest of these is that situated in the Derbyshire town of Buxton that is of Roman origin, while there is also a local church in the town which bears the name of 'St. Anne's Church.' There is a St Ann’s Well at Stanwell a short distance from the main church their that is dedicated as `St Mary.' In St Helens, we find yet another St Ann’s Well In Berkshire, and there is a St. Anne's Well at Caversham.

Therefore a picture begins to emerge that these are all 'holy wells' or `sacred springs.' In fact, we also find such religious sites throughout Europe, especially in France, many of whom are dedicated to Saint Anne. This places us on the correct path for the origin of our own St Ann’s Well since it is also a religious site sanctified by the monks and their hermitage that existed here through the 15th & 17th centuries. In the bible the Saint herself is the mother of the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus Christ at the dawn of Christianity.

St Anne enjoyed a renaissance during the 16th century throughout Europe and had risen to great popularity during the period of time that the `Oswell hermitage' was in regular use around the turn of the 16th century. It was therefore a step away from a form of dedication ceremony during which 'Oswell' became St Ann’s Well. The same occurrence that may have taken place a number of times throughout Britain over the years, if there was indeed such a ceremony.

130330-050-805D7063In my first St Ann’s book published in 1998 I suggested that King Henry-IV (1366-1413), shown here on the left, had performed the dedication, however, my historian colleagues have demonstrated to me that there are so few records that exist detailing the King's visits to Nottingham, let alone treks to Oswell situated upon his own land at The Coppice east of Nottingham Castle. There are records that do indeed show that King Henry-IV did visit Nottingham on a number of occasions, although none that are credible which state clearly the King dedicated 'Oswell' to that of Saint Anne. In addition this period of history was before the time of the Oswell hermitage itself, and our famous Well.

However, we do have Nottingham Corporation Records dating back to 1513, a century on from the eventual death of King Henry-IV. These refer to "Le [The] Hermitage," "Hermitage Wong," and "Hermitage Close." The early Nottingham Historian the Reverend John Orange referring to the period 1543-4 in which The Corporation Records were written, states —

"It is recorded that the sum of 3s 6d was paid to William Rose and his fellow for workmanship at Sainte An' Chappell."

The Rev. John Orange also gives another example —

"And a further sum of 2s to Deonyse Cowper for workmanship at Sainte An' Chappell. "

The Nottingham Mickleton Jury proceedings of 1577 give this account —

"Master Mayor, we desire you and your brethren that their may be a cover made at Sent Anne Well, as you and your brethren may desire as concerning, either at the chapel end or at some place convenient where you shall think good."

6187,Queen AnneThere is a real Queen Anne of course, Queen Anne (Of England, Ireland, and Scotland) who reigned 1702 - ­1714. Here there is a link between Queen Anne and Saint Anne since Saint Anne was the patron of pregnancy among others titles, and we know that the Queen herself had many problems in baring any children. There is also evidence of Queen Anne's visits to Nottingham Castle. The book `Through England on a Side Saddle in the time of William and Mary,' written by Celia Fiennes & published in 1888, has this passage —

“All the Streets are of a good size all about ye town and well pitch'd, there are several good houses in the town. There are 3 or 4 Large houses of the Duke of New-Castles with the Castle which is a fine thing-stands very high on a hill- and when you Come to the Castle you ascend 40 Steps to the Court and hall. The rooms are very Lofty and Large, 6 or 7 state rooms and a long gallery hung with fine Pictures of the family; the wanscoate is most of Cedar. Some Rooms are hung with good tapestry. The Chamber of State is hung with very Rich tapestry so much silver and gold in it that the 3 pieces that hung the Rome Cost 1500? : the bed was railed in as ye presence Chamber used to be, ye bed was damask. The floor of the room was inlayed with Cyphers and the Coronet: here ye Princess Ann Lay when she fled in King James's time when the prince of orange was Coming over.”

What is of great interest here is that Queen Anne, although persecuted at the latter half of her life, existed in the period of the St Anne hermitage, and the events that took place their when the site had transformed to become Blee's Farm (including the murder of Mrs Blee's farmhand John Clarke). However, the sacred spring was already being referred to as St Ann’s Well, and even Robin Hood's Well during the short period that pagan rituals were being performed here, usually on the annual Saint Anne's Day, 26 July.

Now let us return to the subject of Saint Anne herself, and to be honest not a lot is known about her within the pages of the bible. She is not mentioned in the New Testament, and we must depend on apocryphal literature, chiefly the Protoevangelium of James, which dates back only to the second century.

In the document we are told that, Anne, wife of Joachim, was advanced in years and that her prayers for a child had not been answered. Once, as she prayed beneath a laurel tree near her home in Galilee, an angel appeared and said to her, "Anne, the Lord hath heard thy prayer and thou shall conceive and bring forth, and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world." Anne replied, "As the Lord my God giveth, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life." Thus, Anne became the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The devotion of St. Anne was known in the East in the fifth century, but it was not diffused in the West until the thirteenth. A shrine at Douai, in northern France, was one of the early centres of the devotion. In 1382, her feast was extended to the whole Western Church, and she became very popular, especially in France. Her two most famous shrines are at St. Anne d'Auray in Brittany and at St. Anne-de Beaupre in the province of Quebec.

She is patroness of `Lace workers,' among other things, a fact I found of great interest in relation to Nottingham, and our inner city area of St Ann’s itself. Her emblem is a door. St. Anne has been frequently represented in art, and the lovely face depicted by Leonardo da Vinci comes first to mind in this connection. The name Anne derives from the Hebrew Hannah, meaning "grace."

Probably the best internet site that describes Saint Anne is 'The Patron Saints Index', this describes Saint Anne in these terms—

"Mother of Our Lady. Grandmother of Jesus Christ. Wife of Saint Joachim. Probably well off Tradition says that Anne was quite elderly when Mary was born, and that she was their only child. The Vatican condemned the belief that Anne remained a virgin in the conception and birth of Mary in 1677. Believed to have given Mary to the service of the Temple when the girl was three years old. Devotion to her has been popular in the East from the very early days of the Church; widespread devotion in the West began in the 16th century, but many shrines have developed since.

"Canonized cult extended to the whole Church in 1584; Name Meaning gracious one; grace (Anne).

"Patronage: Adjuntas, Puerto Rico; against poverty; Brittany; broom makers; cabinet makers; Canada; carpenters childless people; archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan; equestrians; France; grandmothers; grandparents; homemakers; horse men; horse women; housewives lace makers; lace workers; lost articles; miners; mothers; diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, old-clothes dealers; poverty,, pregnancy, pregnant women; Quebec; Santa Ana Indian Pueblo, riders; seamstresses; stablemen; sterility; Taos New Mexico; turners; women in labour."

Saint-Ann-by-DaVinciIn conclusion our inner city area of Nottingham, St Ann’s originates from the religious dedication of the Monastery or Hermitage to Saint Anne from about the year 1540. With the spring attracting many visitors, and therefore increasing the popularity of the monastery grounds, it made good sense for the monks or hermits their to refer to it as a holy well or sacred spring, and they adopted it along with their religious monastery, and from this point onward it soon became known as Saint Anne's Well. The name of our inner city area of Nottingham soon followed - St. Anne's.


10044367Not very far from my home in St Ann’s is situated Plantagenet Street, nothing unusual about that, except its name commemorates a point in History. The Romans departed from Britain in AD407 to be replaced by the Anglo-Saxon empire up to 1066, the battle of Hastings. In this period of history we have the Angevines, often known to historians as The Plantagenet's. The significance here lies in a great battle between the Plantagenet's and the Danes that took place in an area quite close to Sneinton Market, which the Danes won. The first inhabitants that settled in the Clay fields were therefore almost certainly Anglo Danes, while Anglo paganism lay behind local customs for more than five centuries.

This marked the beginning in Britain of Danish rules known as the Dane law that lasted during the 11th - 12th centuries. It was customary during this period to buy peace from the Danes by paying a tax known as the geld that was based on the number of hides of livestock, and land owned by individuals. Plantagenet Street is therefore of singular importance in the history of St. Anne's.

King_William_I_('The_Conqueror')_from_NPGWe owe our earliest knowledge about the King's realm known as the Coppice, on which is located St Ann’s Well, to the two volume Doomsday book of 1066-86 set up on the orders of William the Conqueror (William-I), shown here on the left.

The Doomsday book records geld assessments on about 45,000 land holdings in 14,000 named places. The book tells us that in King Edward's time (1042-46) he owned "1 meadow and Underwood, six furlongs in length and five in breadth." Described as 'The Coppice,' "it was divided among 38 burgesses, and rendered 75 shillings & 7 old pennies from the rent of the land, the services of the Burgesses, and 40 shillings from two moneyers."

The book also tells us that apart from the King another landowner of The Coppice was Berenger de Tosny, Second son of Robert de Tosny, who had Holdings in Lincs. Oxon., and Yorkshire as well as Nottingham. Tosney had one carucate (15 acres) of land of which the King use to have the 2 pennies and Tosney himself the third.

domesday-bookThe Doomsday book, shown here on the right, records that "Hugh, the son of Baldric, the Sheriff [of Nottingham], found 136 men dwellings, now there are sixteen less." The final account records that "Hugh built 13 houses that were not before."

Documents remain scarce for this period of history and the next three centuries, until we are able to read the book of Nottingham Historian Dr Charles Deering "Nottingham Vetus Et Nova," published in 1781. Deering informs us that in the 'Forest Records' "William Chaundeler of Nottingham, keeper of St Leonard's (1357-58), made an encroachment of half acre of ground in the King's domain, within the court of the town of Nottingham, in the hermitage that is called Oswell."

This provides us with a connection between the disability illness of leprosy and the hermitage at what was then known as Oswell. Nottingham had five hospitals or alms-houses, between the 12th - 15th centuries, two of which, that of St Leonard's and St Mary's, were for the lepers of the town.

Dr Charles Deering continues "William of Copole, clerk that is now dead, held an assert of old time, that is called hermitage Wong, within the covert of the King's wood [The Coppice], of 20 acres of ground."

As I have briefly mentioned, King Henry-IV may have visited the site of St Ann’s Well on a number of occasions during his reign, and of great interest here is that the King did suffer leprosy during the last few years of his life; he died in 1514.

The Borough Records of Nottingham dated 1552 also contain an interesting account concerning The Coppice, that in 1875 it was the Council's chosen site for an "astronomical observatory." However, nothing became of this as their public subscription and application to parliament failed to secure the necessary funds. A careful look at the 1881 ordnance survey map does show the site of an observatory at the bottom of Thyra Grove, Mapperley, built by the late Thomas Bush in 1877. No connection here with St Ann’s along with its famous holy well, however, upon investigating the life of Bush it proved to be a fascinating history.

148We have already read about the Borough Records in the time of Queen Anne (1702-14). One account in the Records, and given by Dr. Charles Deering, notes the story of the first introduction of the potato crop in St Ann’s. Historically it was Captain Cook in the 1590s who introduced the potato to England. The English celebrated by introducing the Poor Relief Act and performing the plays of Shakespeare —

"Robert Purcell, a native of Ireland, came to Nottingham to cultivate wastelands and to grow the field potato. Before that time, this root had only been grown in the garden. He took up his abode at the farmhouse kept by a Mrs Blee. Robert Purcell was here given permission to clear away the Underwood of a piece of land, which he planted with potatoes, his crop was abundant and he realised great profits."

SA_Page_061_Image_0001On the ‘Picture the Past' website, there is a woodcut illustration showing the hermitage attached to the side of the main house dated 1820 (Image Reference NTGM007625). The account of Robert Purcell given here by Deering seems to suggest that the date of this woodcut may be in error by about a century, unless this is nothing more than the actual date of the publication of the drawing. However, we have confirmation of Mrs Blee running the farmhouse in 1741 due to the published account of a murder of one of Mrs Blee's young servants.

On the morning of 22 September 1741, just after midnight, John Clark, a young servant with "widow Blee," heard a noise among his mistress's poultry in the "farmyard." He got up and went down stairs into the "little farmyard," which he had scarcely entered, when a gun was fired at him killing him instantly, but the murderers escaped detection, and nothing further was known or heard of the dreadful catastrophe until late 1796.

In 1767, a framework knitter of the town, John Shore, gave information to the magistrates that to his knowledge the murder was committed by John Wilkins, James Cuff, and two brothers, all soldiers in "General Churchill's" regiment of Dragoons, then quartered in the town. He knew that they had been out deer stealing, but having been unsuccessful, they determined to have some of "Mrs Blee's" geese on their return, in this they were disappointed by the appearance of the servant, the unfortunate John Clark.

Wilkins & Cuff were immediately arrested in the neighbourhood of London, being then out patients of Chelsea Hospital, and were brought back to Nottingham and lodged in the town jail [Which was then a dungeon below the original Guildhall in the Lace Market].

154However, as the other parties were dead who might have witnessed against them, sufficient evidence was not obtained to convict, and soon after, on his deathbed, one of them confessed his "own" guilt and that of his "three companions."

Between about 1796 to exactly 1824, Mrs Blee's farmhouse had become a venue for socialising with beer and alcohol being readily sold. However, a number of brawls along side unruly behaviour took place at the big house, and the Borough Records record that the venue lost its victualler's licence in 1824 for disorderly behaviour.

The St Ann’s Well Monument


Marriott Ogle Tarbotton was born in Leeds on 6 December 1834 and died in Nottingham on 6 March 1887. He was the Borough Engineer for Nottingham from 1859. He culverted the River Leen, a source of disease outbreaks. He also planned and oversaw the construction of the underground sewerage system for the city, the first outside of London. Tarbotton was responsible for the design of Trent Bridge and Papplewick Pumping Station, and he was the engineer to the Nottingham Gas Company.

When Mr. Tarbotton realised that Mrs. Blee’s house and St Ann’s Well would need to be demolished as part of the redevelopment of the area,  in 1856 he designed a significant brick monument so that the centuries old St Ann’s well would not be lost from memories. It was not possible to build this over the actual holy Well itself due to its significant size; the Well itself was still housed inside the lean-to of the main house at this time. Therefore, Mr Tarbotton built the monument at a cost of £100 on a prominent location and enclosed it within iron railings, the entrance being on the Wells Road. To gain an idea of the monument’s size the lady dressed in dark clothing on the photograph shown below standing directly in front of the supporting pillar and the camera, would be about 5 ½ feet tall making the monument about 6 meters in height.

The second photograph of the monument from a slightly different angle, shows a big house in the background. The house and gardens shown below are quite considerable in size, and was still being put to much use by growing many varieties vegetables. I made an extensive search of Wright's Trade Directories in an attempt to trace the people who lived here. The only significant house at the top of the Wells Road was number 368 on the list of St Ann’s street names in the 1883 Wrights Directory which was occupied by Mrs. Sarah Man, a greengrocer & shopkeeper. This information is listed under The Wells Road [East side], and the house numbers were descending as if you are walking down the road towards Nottingham town centre. The large house in this photograph is indeed on the left hand side of the road. It is quite possible that the “Man family’ were the very last occupants of the property before demolition took place to make way for the new railway.

stannswellIn 1887, the site of the monument was demolished to make way for an embankment and viaduct to carry the Nottingham Suburban Railway, which was completed in 1899 and remained in use until 1954. The viaduct was dismantled in 1961 and map evidence shows the present Gardeners Public House (now derelict) to have been constructed by 1962. This photograph shows St Ann’s Station some distance away from the viaduct.





Excavation to take place ~~By Caroline Lowbridge




All photographs by Richard Pearson