To discover Buxton architecture means finding heritage which was moulded and shaped by wealthy residents, the church and the Dukes of Devonshire. There are only a handful of towns in the north of England which can boast such a varied and diverse architectural landscape, going back through the centuries with history dictating the shapes and styles of houses, public buildings, bars and hotels.
With buildings showing off the grandeur of the 18th century, Victorian opulence, Romanesque and Vernacular styles, there are some amazing early examples of arts and crafts. The unknown architects of their time, have now become nationally recognised, the names of Carr, Paxton and Bryden, are synonymous with the town. But it's the buildings themselves which have stood the test of time, and are also testaments to longevity, to preservation and to being lovingly cared for and admired still today.
Buxton Opera House was built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, one of Britain's finest theatre architects. Touring companies were welcomed until 1927, when the theatre was turned into a cinema and festivals continued during wartime. Through the late 40s, 50s and 60s, it was a cinema predominantly, with only local amateur performances and pantomimes providing any links to live performance. Lovingly restored in the late 1970s following dedicated work by local people, it is now the centre of the remarkable success story and has developed a community theatre catering for a wide range of ages and tastes. Given another boost in the late 1990s, a £1.9 million programme of external and internal restoration was undertaken and the theatre was restored to its original 1903 glory and is sold out nearly every performance.
The Palace hotel was designed by Henry Currey in 1867 and is now the largest hotel in Buxton, one of the largest in the Peak District. The Pavilion Gardens lie on the banks of the Wye and are home to the Spa Swimming Pool. The Pavilion itself is a stunning glass and iron structure and was built in 1874, being carefully restored to maintain its Victorian feel and houses a variety of tropical and native plants.
The Pump Room faces the Crescent and was built in 1894 with thermal water served here until 1981. The public can sample the water now from the drinking fountain next, St Anne's Well, which is decorated at well dressing time. The Serpentine walks have been a feature of Buxton for many years and were originally landscaped by Joseph Paxton in the 19th century. The Devonshire Royal hotel was built in 1790 originally stabling for horses and the 1857 portion stabling block was given over as a hospital once upon a time. The magnificent slate dome was added in 1880 and that the time was the largest supported dome in the world, with the span of 154 feet which has now become part of Derby University.
The Crescent gave Buxton its fame as a spa town filled with pale blue water, bubbling up underneath, from the elusive thermal springs. These are the outlets from a subterranean reservoir, where the water lay for many years before arriving at the surface at a constant temperature of 82°F. Dating back to Roman times, the health spa brought settlers here around 80AD who built the baths, the remains of which were excavated in the 17th and 18th centuries. For hundreds of years later, Buxton became popular with pilgrims wanted to take the waters and Mary Queen of Scots suffered badly from rheumatism and dipped her toe, so it is said.
The fifth Duke of Devonshire made money from his copper mines and in the 18th century developed the town and built the Crescent, including a ballroom and an assembly room, which was completed in 1788. Originally containing a townhouse for the Duke, by 1804 he relinquished his accommodation and it became The Centre Hotel with a hotel on each side, Great Hotel to the East and St Ann's to the West.
There are lots of churches in Buxton, but two worth noting for their architectural splendour is St John the Baptist, built in the Italianiate style with a massive portico and cupola. St Ann's church is the oldest building in Buxton and dates back to at least 1625, towerless and aisleless, it has a chapel like appearance.
The Old Hall was originally Buxton Hall and was built by the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, who was married to Bess of Hardwick in 1550. Situated over a natural spring, the warm mineral waters with the reason for Buxton's origin and it was the site of the Roman Bath thought to be named after the Celtic water goddess, Arnemetiae. Considering the spring a sacred shine, the Celts visited possibly 1000 years or more before the Roman occupation. Close by is the Victorian letterbox, hexagonal in shape and erected in 1867, quite unique to the Peak District.
Buxton architecture is diverse and different spans the ages and is certainly worth admiring.
|Buxton Opera House|
|Buxton Old Town|
|Age of Railways|
|Buxton Well Dressing|