Buxton

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Buxton is a spa town in Derbyshire, England. It has the highest elevation of any market town in England. Located close to the county boundary with Cheshire to the west and Staffordshire to the south, Buxton is described as “the gateway to the Peak District National Park”. A municipal borough until 1974, Buxton was then merged with other localities including Glossop, lying primarily to the north, to form the local government district and borough of High Peak within the county of Derbyshire. Buxton is within the sphere of influence of Greater Manchester due to its close proximity to the area.

Buxton is home to Poole’s Cavern, an extensive limestone cavern open to the public, and St Ann’s Well, fed by the geothermal spring bottled and sold internationally by Buxton Mineral Water Company. Also in the town is the Buxton Opera House, which hosts several music and theatre festivals each year. The Devonshire Campus of the University of Derby is housed in one of the town’s historic buildings.

Buxton is twinned with two other towns: Oignies in France and Bad Nauheim in Germany.

Built on the boundary of the Lower Carboniferous limestone and the Upper Carboniferous shale, sandstone and gritstone, the original settlement was largely of limestone construction, of which only the parish church of St Anne, built in 1625, remains. The present buildings, of locally quarried sandstone, mostly date from the late 18th century.

At the southern edge of the town the River Wye has carved an extensive limestone cavern, known as Poole’s Cavern, whose more than 300 metres of chambers are open to the public. The cavern contains Derbyshire’s largest stalactite. There are also unique ‘poached egg’ stalagmites. There are various stories connected with the cavern, such as that of a notorious local highwayman called Poole, who gives the cavern its name. Daniel Defoe called the cavern one of the wonders of the Peaks.

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 Paradeand piped to St Ann’s Well (often mistaken for the source) opposite the Crescent near the town centre. Each summer the wells are decorated according to the local 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 the settlement when it was 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. The town largely grew in importance in the late 18th century when it was developed by the Dukes of Devonshire, with a 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 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.She called Buxton “La Fontagne de Bogsby“, but stayed at the site of the Old Hall Hotel. The area figures in the poetry of W. H. Auden and the novels of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte.

Instrumental in the popularity of Buxton was the recommendation by Dr. Erasmus Darwin of the waters at Buxton and Matlock to Josiah Wedgwood I. The Wedgwood family subsequently often journeyed to Buxton on holiday and recommended the area to their friends.Two of Charles Darwin’s half-cousins, Edward Levett Darwin and Reginald Darwin also decided to settle there.

The introduction of the railway to the town in 1863 considerably stimulated its growth; the population of 1,800 in 1861 had grown to over 6,000 by 1881.he 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 the world’s largest unsupported dome with a diameter of 44 m (144.356 ft), beating the Pantheon (43 metres (141 ft)) and St Peter’s Basilica 42 m (137.794 ft) in Rome, and St Paul’s Cathedral (34 metres (112 ft)). However, this record is now routinely surpassed by space frame domes such as the Georgia Dome (256 metres (840 ft)). 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, a five-year appointment.

  • 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 (see below). The Pavilion Gardens, designed by Edward Milner, contain 93,000 m² of gardens and ponds and were opened in 1871. Opposite is an original Penfold octagonal post box.
  • 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 in London.
  • The Pavilion Gardens, by Jeffry Wyattville.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. In the other direction, on Corbar Hill, 1,433 feet (437 m) above sea level, stands Corbar Cross, a tall, simple, wooden cross. Originally given to the Roman Catholic Church by the Duke of Devonshire in 1950 to commemorate Holy Year, it was replaced in the 1980s but cut down in 2010 during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK as a protest against a long history of child abuse at the Catholic St Williams School, Market Weighton, Yorkshire. The Buxton ecumenical group Churches Together organised several benefactors to replace the cross in May 2011.

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 Buxton Festival, founded in 1979, runs for about three weeks in July at various venues including the Opera House. The programme includes literary events in the mornings, concerts and recitals in the afternoon, and operas, many of them rarely-performed, in the evenings. There has been a noticeable increase in the quality of the operatic programme in recent years, after decades when, according to critic Rupert Christiansen, the festival featured “work of such mediocre quality that I just longed for someone to put it out of its misery.” 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.

The Opera House has a year-long programme of drama, concerts, comedy and other events. In September 2010, following a £2.5 million reconstruction, the former 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 auditorium. The stage area can be converted into a separate 93-seat studio theatre.

The Buxton Museum & 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. The Pavilion Gardens hosts regular arts, crafts, antiques and jewellery fairs.

Buxton has a mixed economy including tourism, retail, quarrying, scientific research, light industry and mineral water bottling. The University of Derby is a significant employer.The town is surrounded by the Peak District National Park and offers a range of cultural events; tourism is a major industry, with more than a million visitors to Buxton each year. Buxton is the main centre for overnight accommodation within the Peak District, with over 64% of the Park’s visitor bed space.

Several Limestone quarries are located close to Buxton, including the “Tunstead Superquarry”, the largest producer of high-purity industrial limestone in Europe, which employs 400 people. The quarrying sector also provides employment in limestone processing and distribution. Other industrial employers include the Health & Safety Laboratory, which engages in health and safety research and incident investigations and maintains over 350 staff locally.

The Buxton Mineral Water Company (owned by Nestle) and Buxton Spring Ltd extract and bottle mineral waters in Buxton.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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