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Buxton History

The History of Buxton is an old market and spa town, nestling amongst the surrounding Derbyshire hills in The Peak District at a height of over 1000ft, making it the highest town in England. It grew in fame as a spa town because of the pale blue water which bubbles up from thermal springs beneath The Cresent. These are the outlets from a subterreanean resevoir, where the water lies for many years before coming to the surface at a constant temperature of 82 degrees fahrenheit.

It's fame as a healh spa dates back to Roman times, who were thought to have settled here around AD80 and built baths, the remains of which were excavated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Over the years Buxton became popular with pilgrims wanting to take the waters and one famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots who suffered badly from rheumatism.

The 18th century saw much development of the town with the building of The Cresent by the 5th Duke of Devonshire with money made from his copper mines. The building included a ball room and an assembly room and was completed in 1788. Originally it contained a town house for the Duke but by 1804 he had relinquished his accommodation and it became the Centre Hotel with a hotel on each side, St Ann's to the west and the Great Hotel to the east. Hotel guests were able to use private entrances to the baths.

The Devonshire Royal Hospital was built in 1790 as stabling for horses.

In 1857 a portion of the stabling block was given over as a hospital. The magnificent slate dome was added in 1880 and at that time was the largest unsupported dome in the world with a span of 154 feet. The hospital is now part of Derby University.

The Palace Hotel was designed by Henry Currey in 1867 and is now the largest hotel in Buxton and one of the largest in The Peak District. It was built to accommodate the growing number of visitors anticipated with the coming of the railway to Buxton.

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The Serpentine Walks have been a feature of Buxton for many years. They were originally landscaped by Joseph Paxton in the 19th century.

The Pavillion gardens lie on the banks of the River Wye and are the home of the spa water swimming pool. The pavillion itself, a glass and iron structure was built in 1871. It has been carefully restored to maintain its Victorian feel, It houses a variety of native and tropical plants.

The Pump Room which faces The Cresent was built in 1894 and thermal water was served here until 1981. Now the public can sample the water from the drinking fountain next to it, known as St Ann's Well, which is decorated at Well Dressing time.

The Opera House, completed around the turn of the 20th century acts as a focal point for the annual Buxton Festival.

The Festival is held in the last week of July and first week of August. It seats almost 1000 people in a magnificently decorative auditorium.

There are a couple of churches of note. St John the Baptist Church was built in the Italianate style with a cupola and a massive portico. It contains some very fine mosaics and stained glass. St Annes Church is probably the oldest building in Buxton dating back to at least 1625. It is towerless and aisleless and has a chapel like appearence.

The Old Hall Hotel was originally Buxton Hall. It was built by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, whose wife was Bess of Hardwick, in 1550, replacing an earlier building. It is situated over a natural spring, the warm mineral waters of which were the reason for Buxton's origin. This was the site of the Roman Baths ("Aqua Arnemetiae") thought to have been named after the Celtic water Goddess Arnemetiae. The Celts considered this Spring as a sacred shrine, possibly a thousand years or more before the Roman occupation. Close to the hall is a Victorian letter box, hexagonal in shape and erected in 1867. It is quite unique in The Peak District.

A major attraction to the west of the town is Pooles Cavern, a natural limestone cave, known to have been inhabited by primitive man. Adjoining the site is a country park. Footpaths lead to Solomon's Temple on Grin Low, half a mile away, providing extensive views over Buxton.