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The Crescent

In the late 18th century Buxton was developed by the great local landowner, the Duke of Devonshire as a spa town. The Duke, William Cavendish, was keen to follow the status and success that the fashionable Bath and other centres had made for themselves and when he made vast profits from his copper mines at nearby Ecton in the Manifold Valley, he had enough money to pay for all the building work in Buxton.

The Crescent at Buxton was commissioned and built by John Carr, between 1780 and 1784 and was the most famous building of its time. It was blatantly modelled on the building in Bath and made out of locally quarried grit stone. It had shops all along the ground floor, some arcade workshops, including a hair and wig dresser and kitchens were in the basement. It included a magnificent ballroom, incorporated a hotel, had five lodging houses and a fine painted ceiling in the Assembly room, which became the social heart of 18th century Buxton.  There was also a townhouse for the Duke. The facade forms an arc of the circle facing south-east and it was built as a unified structure.

To the west of the crescent, the Duke built a fine circular set of stables and the sixth Duke gave them to charity in 1859. They were converted into the Devonshire Royal Hospital by the architect Henry Curry. He covered the circular exercise area with a huge iron frame, covered it in slate, and until recently, this was to become the largest unsupported dome in the world. It is now the centrepiece of the University of Derby Buxton campus.

The Crescent is a grade 1 listed building and was once described by the Royal institution of British architects as 'more richly decorated and altogether more complex' than the Royal Crescent in Bath. It faces the site of St Anne's well, where warm spring water has flowed free for thousands of years and the public can fill their water bottles for free. The well is at the foot of the slopes, a steep landscaped hillside in the centre of Buxton, where the mineral water flows a mile below ground to emerge at a constant 27.8°C.

The former thermal baths are next door to the Crescent and were built between 1851 and 1853. The Old Hall Hotel was once the townhouse of Bess of Hardwick and her husband the Earl of Shrewsbury. They brought Mary Queen of Scots under their guard when she visited Buxton to relieve her rheumatism. Sadly, this magnificent building has been empty for around 20 years but there are ambitious plans undergoing as we speak to reopen it as part of the spa complex.

In 1993, with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial fund, the High Peak Borough Council purchased the Crescent and they acted as a temporary caretaker of the building, until a suitable buyer could be found. English Heritage donated a further £1.5 million which was used to make the building weather tight. The Crescent, pump rooms and natural Bath buildings were jointly marketed by the borough and county councils and there was a scheme proposed by The Monumental Trust to convert the Crescent into flats. However, no funding was found.

In December 2000 the combined councils applied to the Heritage lottery fund to finance plans to restore the Crescent as a hotel and to build new spa facilities and funding was approved in July 2003. Since then work to develop and manage the hotel and spa has had lots of delays due to funding, technical and legal issues relating to the continued supply of water from springs beneath the buildings to Nestlé, the bottler of Buxton water.

An agreement between the joint councils and the developer to start the first phase of the project was signed in April 2012 and now phase 1 work of the £35 million project for a 79 bedroom, five-star hotel, natural bath, thermal mineral water spa and specialist shops, began in the summer of 2012 with final completion of the project due in the spring of 2015.