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Buxton View From Peakdistrict.jpg
Buxton from Solomon's Temple looking northward
Grid reference: SK059735
Location: 53°15’32"N, 1°54’40"W
Population: 20,836  (2001)
Post town: Buxton
Postcode: SK17
Dialling code: 01298
Local Government
Council: High Peak
High Peak

Buxton is a pretty spa town in the Peak District of Derbyshire. It grew as a spa town in the Victorian period and retains the amenities of a grand resort from that period; an opera house, a theatre and plush hotels, along with shops and a busy market. Buxton, effectively the capital of the Peak District, stands between the lower, pastured hills and the forbidding High Peak.

The main shopping street is pedestrianised, and has an indoor shopping centre.

St Ann's Well in the town is fed by a geothermal spring and allowed the town to blossom as a spa. The water is bottled and sold internationally by Buxton Mineral Water Company.

The town hosts several music and theatre festivals each year in the Buxton Opera House. Other attractions for visitors include two speedway stadia, two golf courses.

Built on the boundary of the lower carboniferous limestone and the upper carboniferous shale, sandstone and gritstone, the original town must largely have been built in local limestone, of which only the parish church of St Anne, built in 1625, remains. The present buildings, of locally quarried sandstone, mostly date from the late18th century.


People filling up bottles with water at St Ann's Well

Built on the River Wye, and overlooked by Axe Edge Moor, Buxton has a long history as a spa town due to its geothermal spring which rises at a constant temperature of 28 °C. The source of the spring is behind Eagle Parade and piped to St Ann's Well opposite the Crescent near the town centre.

Each summer the wells are decorated according to the Derbyshire tradition of well dressing. The well dressing weekend has developed to become something of a town carnival, including live music and funfair.


The Romans developed a settlement at Buxton known as Aquae Arnemetiae (or "the spa of the goddess of the grove"). Findings of coins indicate that the Romans were in Buxton throughout their occupation.[1]

The town largely grew in importance in the late 18th century when it was developed by the Dukes of Devonshire, and had its second resurgence a century later as the Victorians were drawn to the reputed healing properties of the waters.

The Dukes of Devonshire have been closely involved with Buxton since 1780, when the 5th Duke used the profits from his copper mines to develop the town as a spa in the style of Bath. Their ancestor, the redoubtable Bess of Hardwick, had taken one of her four husbands, the Earl of Shrewsbury, to "take the waters" at Buxton shortly after he became the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569, and they took Mary there in 1573, staying in a house where the Old Hall Hotel now stands. The exiled Queen called Buxton "La Fontagne de Bogsby".

Instrumental in the popularity of Buxton was the recommendation by Dr Erasmus Darwin of the waters at Buxton and Matlock to Josiah Wedgwood, whgose family became frequent visitors.

The opening of Buxton railway station in 1863 considerably stimulated its growth; the population of 1,800 in 1861 had grown to over 6,000 by 1881.[2]

Corbar Hill and the Dome

Notable architecture

  • The Crescent (1780–1784) was modelled on Bath's Royal Crescent by John Carr, along with the neighbouring irregular octagon and colonnade of the Great Stables. The Crescent incorporates a grand assembly room with a fine painted ceiling. Nearby stands the elegant and imposing monument to Samuel Turner (1805–1878), treasurer of the Devonshire Hospital and Buxton Bath Charity, built in 1879 and accidentally lost for the latter part of the 20th century during construction work before being found and restored in 1994.
  • The Devonshire Dome (1780–1789) was created from the Great Stables, converted in 1859 by Henry Currey, architect to the 7th Duke of Devonshire. It became the Devonshire Royal Hospital (now the Devonshire Campus of the University of Derby). Later phases of the conversion were by local architect Robert Rippon Duke including his design for what was then the world's largest unsupported dome, with a diameter of 144 feet), beating even the Pantheon in Rome (141 feet). The main building and its surrounding Victorian villas are now part of the University of Derby. Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire was appointed Chancellor of the University in October 2008.
  • Buxton Opera House was designed by Frank Matcham in 1903 and is the highest opera house in the country. He was a prolific theatrical architect and also designed several London theatres, including the London Palladium, the London Coliseum and the Hackney Empire. It is attached to the Pavilion Gardens, Octagonal Hall (built in 1875) and the smaller Pavilion Arts Centre.
Buxton Crescent and St Ann's Well
Buxton Wells
  • Buxton railway station was designed by Joseph Paxton, who also designed the layout of the Park Road circular estate. He is perhaps more famous for his design of the Crystal Palace built in London's Hyde Park.
  • The Pavilion Gardens contain 23 acres of gardens and ponds and were opened in 1871. Opposite is an original Penfold octagonal post box (one of only 101 remaining).
  • The Natural Baths, by Henry Currey, sit on the site of the original Roman baths. The building was opened in 1854 and re-developed as an arcade in 1987, featuring a barrel vaulted stained glass canopy — the largest stained glass window in Britain — designed by Brian Clarke.
  • The Pump Room, also by Currey, was built in 1884 opposite the Crescent. Visitors could 'take the waters' until 1981. Between 1981 and 1995 the building housed the unique Micrarium Exhibition.[3] The building is being refurbished as part of the National Lottery-funded Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa re-development. Beside it, added in 1940, stands St Ann’s Well.
  • The 122-room Palace Hotel, built in 1868, is a prominent feature of the Buxton skyline, situated on the hill above the railway station. It was also designed by Currey.[4]
  • The Old Hall Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Buxton. It was owned by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot. He and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, were the "gaolers" of Mary, Queen of Scots. She came to Buxton several times to take the waters, the last of which was in 1584. The present building dates from 1670 and has a five-bay front with a Tuscan doorway.[5]
  • The town is overlooked by two highly visible landmarks. Atop Grinlow Hill 1,441 feet (439 m) above sea level) is Grinlow Tower (locally also called "Solomon's Temple"), a two-storey granite, crooked, crenelated folly built in 1834 by Solomon Mycock to provide work for the town's unemployed and later restored in 1996 after a lengthy closure to the public.

Poole's Cavern

The Flitch of Bacon

At the southern edge of the town the River Wye has carved an extensive limestone cavern, known as Poole's Cavern, with more than 980 feet of chambers open to the public. Daniel Defoe called it 'another of the wonderless wonders of the Peak'.[6]

The cavern contains Derbyshire's largest stalactite. There are also unique 'poached egg' stalagmites.

Various stories are connected with the cavern, such as that of a notorious local highwayman called Poole, who gives the cavern its name,[7] and who reputedly used the cave as a lair and a base to rob travellers in the fifteenth century.[8][9]

The part open to the public has chambers named the "Roman Chamber", "Great Dome", "Poached Egg Chamber" and "Sculpture Chamber" and includes features with names such as Flitch of Bacon and Mary Queen of Scots' Pillar.


Cultural events in Buxton include the annual Buxton Festival and the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, among other festivals and performances held in the Opera House and other venues. The Buxton Museum & Art Gallery offers year-round exhibitions.

The Opera House

The Buxton Festival, founded in 1979, runs for about three weeks in July at various venues including the Opera House.[10] The programme includes literary events in the mornings, concerts and recitals in the afternoon, and operas, many of them rarely-performed, in the evenings.[11] There has been a noticeable increase in the quality of the operatic programme in recent years.[12][13] Running alongside it is the Buxton Festival Fringe, which is known as a warm-up for the Edinburgh Fringe. The Buxton fringe features drama, music, dance, comedy, music, poetry, art exhibitions and films in various venues around the town. In 2009 there were over 500 events from over 140 entrants.[14]

The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, founded in 1994, runs for over three weeks from the end of July through most of August. It is an adjudicated competition comprising over a dozen amateur G&S societies, and also presents professional performances at weekends in the Opera House. There are dozens of fringe events in the adjoining Pavilion Arts Centre and elsewhere, during the daytime and as an alternative to the evening operas in the Opera House.[15] The week-long Four Four Time music festival is held every February and features a variety of rock, pop, folk, blues, jazz and world music.[16]

Outside the festival period, the Opera House has a year-long program of drama, concerts, comedy and other events.[17] In September 2010, following a £2.5 million reconstruction, the former Playhouse & Hippodrome, which had become the Paxton Suite in the Pavilion Gardens, was re-opened as a performance venue called the Pavilion Arts Centre. The centre, located behind the Opera House, includes a 369-seat main auditorium with retractable seating, and a stage area that can be converted into a separate 93-seat studio theatre.[18][19]

The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has a permanent collection of local artefacts, geological and archaeological samples (including the William Boyd Dawkins collection) and 19th and 20th century paintings, including works by Brangwyn, Chagall, Chahine and their contemporaries. There are also regular exhibitions by local and regional artists and various other events.[20] The Pavilion Gardens hosts regular arts, crafts, antiques and jewellery fairs.[21]

Outside links


  1. About Buxton, History of Buxton, accessed June 2009
  2. Railways of the Peak District, Blakemore & Mosley, 2003 ISBN; 1 902827 09 0
  3. Micrarium Enterprises
  4. Palace Hotel's website
  5. Information about Buxton buildings
  6. A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain
  7. Oldham, T. "History of Poole's Cavern", Showcaves.com (2002)
  8. Richard J. Huggett Fundamentals of Geomorphology
  9. Oldham, T. (2002) History of Poole's Cavern
  10. Buxton Festival 2010 Programme Buxton Festival Website, September 2010
  11. Buxton Festival Buxton Opera House Website, Sept 2010
  12. Rupert Christiansen "The Buxton Festival: aiming for peak performance". Telegraph Online, July 2010
  13. Canning, Hugh. Buxton Festival,Times Online, July 2008
  14. About Us Buxton Festival Fringe
  15. About Us The International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival Website, Sept 2010
  16. "Four four time". Buxton Opera House website, September 2010
  17. What's On Buxton Opera House, Sept 2010
  18. "The Pavilion Arts Centre". Pavilion Gardens website, September 2010
  19. Woolman, Natalie. "Buxton Opera House to open new Pavilion arts venue". The Stage, 7 September 2010
  20. "Buxton Museum and Art Gallery". Derbyshire County Council
  21. "Fairs & Events". Pavilion Gardens website