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Buxton
Buxton scene, autumn (geograph 3191760).jpg
Buxton town centre
Buxton is located in Derbyshire
Buxton
Buxton
Population 22,215 (2011)
OS grid reference SK059735
District
  • High Peak
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BUXTON
Postcode district SK17
Dialling code 01298
Police Derbyshire
Fire Derbyshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament
  • High Peak
List of places
UK
England
Derbyshire
53°15′32″N 1°54′40″W / 53.259°N 1.911°W / 53.259; -1.911Coordinates: 53°15′32″N 1°54′40″W / 53.259°N 1.911°W / 53.259; -1.911

Buxton is a spa town in the Borough of High Peak in Derbyshire, England. It is England's highest market town at some 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level. It lies close to Cheshire to the west and Staffordshire to the south on the edge of the Peak District National Park. The municipal borough merged in 1974 with places that included Glossop to form the local government district and borough of High Peak. The town population was 22,115 at the 2011 Census. Sights include Poole's Cavern, a limestone cavern, St Ann's Well, fed by a geothermal spring bottled by Buxton Mineral Water Company, and Georgian buildings round John Carr's restored Buxton Crescent, including Buxton Baths. Also notable is Frank Matcham's Buxton Opera House. The Devonshire Campus of the University of Derby occupies historic premises. Buxton is twinned with Oignies, France, and Bad Nauheim, Germany.

History

Roman settlement

The Romans developed a settlement known as Aquae Arnemetiae (or the spa of the goddess of the grove). The discovery of coins indicates that the Romans were in Buxton throughout their occupation. The origins of the town's name are uncertain. It may be derived from the Old English for Buck Stone or for Rocking Stone. The town grew in importance in the late 18th century when it was developed by the Dukes of Devonshire, with a resurgence a century later as the Victorians were drawn to the reputed healing properties of the waters.

Spa town boom

055383 st anns well
People filling up bottles with water at St Ann's Well
Buxton wells
Buxton Wells, from a 1610 map

Built on the River Wye, and overlooked by Axe Edge Moor, Buxton has a history as a spa town due to its geothermal spring which rises at a constant temperature of 28 °C. The spring waters are piped to St Ann's Well (a shrine to St. Anne since medieval times) opposite the Crescent near the town centre.

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", and stayed at the site of the Old Hall Hotel. The area features in the poetry of W. H. Auden and the novels of Jane Austen and Emily Brontë.

Instrumental in the popularity of Buxton was the recommendation by Erasmus Darwin of the waters at Buxton and Matlock to Josiah Wedgwood I. The Wedgwood family often went to Buxton on holiday and recommended the area to their friends. Two of Charles Darwin's half-cousins, Edward Levett Darwin and Reginald Darwin, settled there. The arrival of the railway in 1863 stimulated the town's growth: the population of 1,800 in 1861 had grown to over 6,000 by 1881.

Each summer the wells are decorated according to the local tradition of well dressing. The well dressing weekend has developed into a town carnival with live music and funfair. In 2013, the Academy of Urbanism named Buxton as one of the three most attractive towns in Britain.

Buxton Spring Gardens, 1965
A thriving Buxton in 1965 with shoppers and tourists filling Spring Gardens

Geography and geology

Built on the boundary of the Lower Carboniferous limestone and the Upper Carboniferous shale, sandstone and gritstone, the early settlement (of which only the parish church of St Anne, built in 1625, remains) was largely of limestone construction

At the southern edge of the town the River Wye has carved an extensive limestone cavern, known as Poole's Cavern. More than 330 yards (300 metres) of its chambers are open to the public. The cavern contains Derbyshire's largest stalactite and there are unique 'poached egg' stalagmites. A notorious local highwayman called Poole gave the cavern its name.

Climate

At about 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, Buxton is the highest market town in England. Due to this relatively high elevation, Buxton tends to be cooler than surrounding towns, with daytime temperature typically around 2 °C lower than Manchester. A Met Office weather station has collected climate date for the town since 1908, with digitized data from 1959 available online. In June 1975, the town was hit by a freak snowstorm that stopped play during a cricket match.

Climate data for Buxton, elevation: 289m (1981-2010) Extremes (1959 - present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.0
(55.4)
15.3
(59.5)
20.0
(68)
23.9
(75)
25.2
(77.4)
29.0
(84.2)
31.0
(87.8)
32.7
(90.9)
25.5
(77.9)
21.1
(70)
15.7
(60.3)
13.7
(56.7)
32.7
(90.9)
Average high °C (°F) 5.2
(41.4)
5.3
(41.5)
7.7
(45.9)
10.5
(50.9)
14.2
(57.6)
16.8
(62.2)
18.9
(66)
18.5
(65.3)
15.5
(59.9)
11.6
(52.9)
8.0
(46.4)
5.5
(41.9)
11.5
(52.7)
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.9
(37.2)
2.8
(37)
4.7
(40.5)
6.9
(44.4)
10.1
(50.2)
12.9
(55.2)
15.0
(59)
14.6
(58.3)
12.1
(53.8)
8.8
(47.8)
5.6
(42.1)
3.2
(37.8)
8.3
(46.9)
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
(32.9)
0.2
(32.4)
1.7
(35.1)
3.2
(37.8)
5.9
(42.6)
8.9
(48)
11.0
(51.8)
10.7
(51.3)
8.7
(47.7)
5.9
(42.6)
3.1
(37.6)
0.8
(33.4)
5.1
(41.2)
Record low °C (°F) -14.4
(6.1)
-13.3
(8.1)
-11.1
(12)
-8.0
(17.6)
-2.9
(26.8)
-0.4
(31.3)
2.2
(36)
2.5
(36.5)
-0.6
(30.9)
-6.2
(20.8)
-9.3
(15.3)
-14.0
(6.8)
−14.4
(6.1)
Precipitation mm (inches) 136.5
(5.374)
100.4
(3.953)
113.7
(4.476)
89.9
(3.539)
77.1
(3.035)
90.4
(3.559)
87.8
(3.457)
100.1
(3.941)
107.3
(4.224)
147.1
(5.791)
133.4
(5.252)
145.7
(5.736)
1,329.4
(52.339)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 17.0 13.6 15.5 12.6 11.9 12.6 12.7 13.5 12.7 16.2 16.3 16.4 171.0
Sunshine hours 41.2 63.1 93.8 140.2 180.2 166.4 178.5 167.6 123.8 91.4 51.0 37.7 1,334.8
Source #1: Met Office
Source #2: KNMI

Notable architecture

With the increasing popularity of Buxton's thermal waters in the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of buildings were commissioned to provide for the hospitality of tourists retreating to the town.

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 time in 1584. The present building dates from 1670 and has a five-bay front with a Tuscan doorway.

Buxtoncres1
Buxton Crescent and St Ann's Well

The Crescent was built between 1780 and 1784, modelled on Bath's Royal Crescent by John Carr along with the neighbouring irregular octagon and colonnade of the Great Stables. The Crescent features 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 Crescent has been unoccupied for many years, but plans are in place for it to be converted into a hotel.

View from Hall Bank to Corbar
Corbar Hill and the Dome

The neighbouring Great Stables were completed in 1789, but in 1859 were largely converted to a charity hospital for the 'sick poor' by Henry Currey, architect to the 7th Duke of Devonshire and previously of St Thomas' Hospital in London. It became known as the Devonshire Royal Hospital in 1934. Later phases of the conversion following 1881 were by local architect Robert Rippon Duke including his design for The Devonshire Dome, which was the world's largest unsupported dome with a diameter of 144 feet (44 m), larger than the Pantheon at 141 feet (43 m), St Peter's Basilica at 138 feet (42 m) in Rome, and St Paul's Cathedral at 112 feet (34 m). The record was surpassed by space frame domes such as the Georgia Dome (840 feet (260 m)). The building and its surrounding Victorian villas are now part of the University of Derby.

Currey also designed The Natural Mineral Baths, opened in 1854 on the site of the original Roman baths, and The Pump Room, built in 1884 opposite The Crescent. The Natural Baths feature a barrel vaulted stained glass canopy — the largest stained glass window in Britain — designed by Brian Clarke, and were re-developed as an arcade in 1987. Visitors could 'take the waters' at The Pump Room 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, is St Ann's Well.

When the railways arrived in Buxton in 1863, Buxton railway station was opened under the design of Joseph Paxton, previously gardener and architect to William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. Paxton also designed the layout of the Park Road circular estate; he is perhaps most famous for his design of the Crystal Palace in London.

Other architecture

  • Buxton Opera House was designed by Frank Matcham in 1903 and is the highest opera house in the country. Matcham was a prolific theatrical architect who designed several London theatres, including the London Palladium, the London Coliseum and the Hackney Empire. The opera house 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.
  • The Pavilion Gardens, by Jeffry Wyattville.
  • The 122-room Palace Hotel, built in 1868, is a prominent feature of the Buxton skyline on the hill above the railway station. It was also designed by Currey.
Corbar Cross Buxton 2008
Corbar Cross
  • The town is overlooked by two 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 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, is Corbar Cross, a tall, 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. The Buxton ecumenical group Churches Together organised several benefactors who replaced the cross with a smaller cross in May 2011.

Culture

BuxtonOperaHouse
Opera House, Buxton

Cultural events include the annual Buxton Festival, among other festivals and performances held in the Buxton Opera House, with shows running at other venues alongside this. Buxton Museum & Art Gallery offers year-round exhibitions.

Buxton Festival

The Buxton Festival, founded in 1979, is an opera and arts festival that 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 an 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, known as a warm-up for the Edinburgh Fringe. The Buxton fringe features drama, music, dance, comedy, poetry, art exhibitions and films in various venues around the town. In 2014 there were nearly 600 events from over 150 entrants.

Other festivals

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. The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, a three-week theatre festival from the end of July through most of August, was held in Buxton from 1994 to 2013; it moved to Harrogate in 2014. By June 2013, 25,000 tickets had been sold for the 2013 events.

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 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.

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.

Folklore

According to local folklore, a farm three miles to the north-east of Buxton possesses a screaming skull called Dickie.

Public transport

Buxton railway station is served by the former L&NWR and LMS line via Whaley Bridge. It has frequent trains to Stockport and the nearby city of Manchester. The journey from Buxton to Manchester Piccadilly takes just under an hour. Buxton had three railway stations, Two under the LNWR, Buxton and High Buxton, located next to Clifton Road which closed in 1951 and the Midland Railway station situated next door to the LNWR terminus, The Midland Railway station was closed on 6 March 1967, later becoming the site for the Spring Gardens shopping centre. The trackbed of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway has in part been used as a walk and cycleway called the Monsal Trail. Peak Rail, a heritage railway group, have restored the section from Rowsley to Matlock, with the long-term objective of re-opening it back to Buxton.

The town's buses include services into the Peak District National Park. Other buses run to the nearby towns of Whaley Bridge, Chapel en le Frith, New Mills and Glossop, and the High Peak 'Transpeak' service offers an hourly link southwards to Taddington, Matlock, Derby and Nottingham and northwards to Stockport and Manchester. There is also a High Peak bus directly from Manchester Airport to Buxton. Other buses provide roughly two-hourly services linking Buxton with Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent and Sheffield.

There are also taxi services based in the town.

Demographics

In the 2011 census, Buxton was 98.3% white, 0.6% Asian, 0.2% black, and 0.8% mixed/multiple.

Economy

Buxton's economy includes 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 more than 64 per cent of the park's visitor bed space.

The Buxton Mineral Water Company, owned by Nestlé, extracts and bottles mineral waters in Buxton. A local newspaper, the Buxton Advertiser, is published weekly. Potters of Buxton is the oldest department store in the town, founded in 1860.

Quarrying

The Buxton lime industry has shaped the town's development and landscape since its 17th-century beginnings. Buxton Lime Firms (BLF) was formed by 13 quarry owners in 1891. BLF became part of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1926 and Buxton was the headquarters for I.C.I. Lime Division until the 1970s. Several limestone quarries lie close, including the "Tunstead Superquarry", the largest producer of high-purity industrial limestone in Europe, employing 400. The quarrying sector also provides jobs 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.

Education

The town hosts a University of Derby campus at the site of the former Devonshire Royal Hospital, as well as the Buxton & Leek College formed by the August 2012 merger of the university with Leek College.

Secondary schools include Buxton Community School, at the former College Road site of Buxton College, and St. Thomas More Catholic School. Others include Buxton Junior School, St Anne's Catholic Primary, Harpur Hill Primary School, Buxton Infant School, John Duncan School, Fairfield Infant & Nursery , Burbage Primary, Dove Holes CE Primary, Fairfield Endowed Junior, Peak Dale Primary, Leek College, Old Sams Farm Independent School, Hollinsclough CE Primary, Flash CE Primary, Earl Sterndale CE Primary, Peak Forest CE Primary and Combs Infant School.

Sport and civic organisations

Buxton Raceway in Derbyshire, August 2021
Buxton Raceway

In the land above the town are two small speedway stadiums. Buxton Raceway (formerly High Edge Raceway), off the A53 Buxton to Leek road, is a motor sports circuit established in 1974, hosting banger and stock car racing, as well as drifting events. It was home to the speedway team Buxton High Edge Hitmen in the mid-1990s before the team moved to a custom-built track to the north of the original one. The original track at High Edge Raceway was among the longest and trickiest in the UK. The new track is more conventional, with regular improvements being made. Buxton have been competitors in the Conference League. Buxton Raceway was due to hold a flood-lit 2019 BriSCA F2 World Final.

Buxton's football club, Buxton F.C., plays at the Silverlands, and Buxton Cricket Club at the Park Road ground. Other team clubs are Buxton Rugby Union and Buxton Hockey Club. In addition there are four Hope Valley League football clubs: Buxton Town, Peak Dale and Buxton Christians play at the Fairfield Centre and Blazing Rag at the Kents Bank Recreation Ground.

Buxton has two 18-hole golf courses. On the western edge is Cavendish Golf Club, ranked among the top 100 in England. It was designed by the renowned course architect Alister MacKenzie and dates from 1925. In the eastern suburb of Fairfield is Buxton & High Peak Golf Club. Founded in 1887 on the site of the old Buxton Racecourse, it is the oldest in Derbyshire.

Buxton View From Peakdistrict
View of Buxton from Solomon's Temple

The hillside around Solomon's Temple is a popular local bouldering venue with many small outcrops giving problems mainly in the lower grades. These are described in the 2003 guidebook High over Buxton: A Boulderer's Guide. Hoffman Quarry at Harpur Hill, sitting prominently above Buxton, is a local venue for sport climbing.

Youth groups include the Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre at the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton Squadron Air Cadets, Derbyshire Army Cadet Force and the Sea Cadet Corps, in addition to units from the Scouts & Guide Association.

Buxton has three Masonic Lodges and one Royal Arch Chapter, which meets at the Masonic Hall, George Street. Phoenix Lodge of Saint Ann No. 1235 was consecrated in 1865, Buxton Lodge No. 1688 in 1877, and High Peak Lodge No. 1952 in 1881. The Royal Arch Chapter is attached to Phoenix Lodge of Saint Ann, and bears the same name and number, it being consecrated in 1872.

Famous Buxtonians

Public service

Charles Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, Vanity Fair, 1903-07-30
Charles Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, Vanity Fair, 1903
Herbert Eisner
Herbert Eisner
  • Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury (1860–1921), styled Viscount Ingestre, ran in the early 1880s a daily Greyhound (fast) coach service for the 20 miles from Buxton Spa to his house at Alton Towers.
  • Henry Guppy CBE (1861–1948), Librarian of the John Rylands Library in Manchester from 1899 to 1948, lived in Buxton.
  • Rear Admiral Leonard Warren Murray, CB, CBE (1896–1971 in Buxton), senior officer of the Royal Canadian Navy who played a significant role in the Battle of the Atlantic
  • John Pilkington Hudson (1910 in Buxton – 2007), horticultural scientist and bomb disposal expert
  • Herbert Eisner (1921–2011), British-German scientist high-expansion fire fighting foam, playwright, schooled and lived in Buxton
  • Tony Marchington (1955 in Buxworth – 2011), biotechnology entrepreneur and owner of the Flying Scotsman

Politics

  • Hugh Molson, Baron Molson, PC (1903–1991), Conservative MP for High Peak 1939–1961
  • Sir Spencer Le Marchant (1931–1986), Conservative MP for High Peak 1970 to 1983
  • Christopher Hawkins (born 1937), Conservative MP for High Peak 1983–1992
  • Tom Levitt (born 1954), Labour MP High Peak 1997–2010
  • Andrew Bingham (born 1962 in Buxton), Conservative MP for High Peak 2010–2017

The Arts

Vera Brittain
Vera Brittain
Lloyd Cole live in Münster (sept 2010)
Lloyd Cole, 2010
  • Orlando Jewitt (1799–1869), architectural wood-engraver
  • Vera Brittain (1893–1970), Buxton-born author of Testament of Youth and mother of Shirley Williams, went to school in Buxton.
  • Robert Stevenson, (1905–1986), Buxton-born director of Disney films including Mary Poppins
  • Angela Flanders (1927–2016), Buxton-born perfumer
  • Marjorie Lynette Sigley (1928–1997), Buxton-born artist, writer and actress, teacher, choreographer, theatre director and TV producer
  • Elizabeth Spriggs, (1929–2008), Buxton-born character actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Tim Brooke-Taylor OBE (1940–2020), comic actor in The Goodies
  • David Fallows (born 1945 in Buxton), musicologist specializing in music of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  • Dave Lee Travis (born 1945 in Buxton), former disc jockey, radio and TV presenter
  • Lloyd Cole (born 1961 in Buxton), musician, songwriter, frontman of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
  • Dan Rhodes (born 1972), writer, awarded the E. M. Forster Award in 2010, lives in Buxton.
  • Bruno Langley (born 1983), actor, who played Adam Mitchell in Doctor Who and Todd Grimshaw in Coronation Street, was brought up in Buxton.
  • Lucy Spraggan (born 1991), musician (folk, acoustic, hip hop pop), went to school in Buxton.

Sport

Mick Andrews Yamaah 1976
Mick Andrews, 1976
  • William Shipton (1861 in Buxton – 1941 in Buxton), cricketer, later a solicitor in Buxton
  • Fred Smith (1887 in Buxton – 1957), footballer before WWI, mainly for Macclesfield
  • Bobby Blood (1894 in Harpur Hill – 1988), footballer for Port Vale, West Brom and Stockport
  • George Bailey (1906 in Buxton – 2000), steeplechaser, competed at the 1932 Summer Olympics
  • Frank Soo (1914 in Buxton – 1991), Stoke City F.C. footballer (173 pro appearances) and first mixed-race professional to represent England
  • John Tarrant (1932–1975), long-distance runner, "The Ghost Runner", lived in Buxton.
  • Mick Andrews (born 1944 in Buxton), former international motorcycle trials rider
  • Les Bradd (born 1947 in Buxton), former footballer, over 580 pro appearances, all-time leading goalscorer for Notts County
  • Carl Mason (born 1953 in Buxton), professional golfer
  • Mark Higgins (born 1958 in Buxton), former Everton, Bury and Stoke footballer, 265 pro appearances
  • Lorraine Winstanley (born 1975) and Dean Winstanley (born 1981), BDO darts players, live in Buxton.
  • Ben Burgess (born 1981 in Buxton), Irish footballer, played for Hull City F.C. and Blackpool F.C.
  • Abbie Wood (born 1999 in Buxton) swam in two finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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