A Pictorial and Descriptive
Guide to Buxton, The Peak, Dovedale, Etc.

Ward, Lock & Co.'s

Illustrated Guide Books
Series 1939-40

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013



BUXTON has the distinction of being the highest market town in Britain, yet it is built in a valley. As has already been mentioned, the greater part stands more than 1,000 feet above sea-level and almost surrounding the town are hills with an elevation of 1,500 feet or more. These serve a double purpose. They temper the severity of the winds, and their wooded and more or less steep declivities greatly enrich the landscape.

The eighteenth-century writer who described the situation of Buxton as “inhospitable to mankind, and indulgent to wolves and beasts of prey”, would have to alter his opinion if he could see it to-day.

The place is divided into two parts, differing in elevation and general characteristics. Lower Buxton is the modern town, wherein are the Baths, St. Ann's Well, the Pavilion and its gardens, the chief hotels, hydros, and the two principal railway stations. Higher Buxton is the old-world village - a village no longer - built upon a site about 70 feet higher than the modern town.

Between Higher and Lower Buxton stands-

St. Ann's Cliff, or The Slopes,

a grassy mound 70 feet high, laid out with flower-beds and terraces, and forming a pleasant and popular lounge. It commands a bird's-eye view of Buxton and the surrounding hills, and the visitor will do well to take an early opportunity of ascending it, for the sake of becoming acquainted with the relative positions of the principal buildings, and being able to find his or her way about the town. On the Slopes is the Buxton War Memorial.

Taking our stand at the top beside the prominent rain gauge and facing Lower Buxton, we have in the immediate foreground at the foot of the Slopes the building covering-



St. Ann's Well,

which gained its name in pre-Reformation days, when the springs and fountains were dedicated to St. Ann by reason of the medicinal effect-

That cures the palsied members of the old, And cherishes the nerves grown stiff and cold.

St. Ann's Well is closed daily from 1.15 to 2.30 p.m. With this exception the following are the hours during which it is open on-

January, February, March8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
May7.45 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
June, July, August, September7.45 a.m. to 6.45 p.m.
October8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
November, December 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
January, February, March12 to 1 p.m.
April, May8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June, July, August, September8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
3.30 to 4.30 p m.
October8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
November and December12 to 1 p.m.


3d. single admission; 6d. day ticket; 2s. 6d. weekly.
These charges include as many glasses of water as may be required.

The thermal water wells up naturally from a spring, at the rate of 50 gallons a minute, into a massive white marble basin. Those undergoing a “cure” can see for themselves the gaseous character of the water, and are able to “take the waters” from the actually flowing spring, with consequently stronger curative effects. The water is slightly warm (constant 82° F.).

Here also is the chalybeate spring.

A public pump outside the west end of the building is supplied by the overflow from the thermal spring.

St. Ann's Well is in front of-

The Crescent,

a stately structure erected in 1780-4 by the fifth Duke of Devonshire. It is the finest building of the kind in England, and the principal architectural feature of Buxton. It was designed by Carr of York. The magnificent dining-room is one of the few of his masterpieces still extant, and nowhere else in Britain can be seen such fine Adam decorative work. The Crescent has a curve of 200 feet, with wings extending


58 feet farther. The lowest storey opens on to a promenade, covered by an arcade, and raised above the roadway. The wings of the Crescent contain-

The Baths,

which are supplied with water from the thermal springs. In the Natural Baths, at the western end of the Crescent, the baths are administered at the natural temperature (82° Fah.) of the warm spring water which flows continuously through the Baths; in the Thermal Baths, in the eastern wing, the water is raised to the temperature prescribed by the bathers' medical attendants.

The Baths are the property of the town, which purchased them from the late Duke of Devonshire in 1902. They were then reconstructed, and the Natural Baths were again rebuilt in 1923, so that now Buxton is not only in line with the leading Continental spas in the treatments which it offers, but rivals the best in the comfort and luxurious surroundings of the Baths. The exterior gives no idea of the extent, completeness and beauty of the establishment which lies behind, and a visitor to Buxton, if only on pleasure bent, will be well advised to obtain an admission order from the Spa Manager, whose office is at the Information Bureau.

There are separate suites of swimming and private baths and cooling rooms for ladies and gentlemen. Inhalation rooms, for treatment of the throat, nose, eyes and ears, contain appliances specially designed for the Buxton mineral water. The establishment especially prides itself upon the institution of the bath to which the name of the town has been given - the Buxton Douche Massage Bath - said to be the finest of its kind in Europe. Every kind of douche is administered under conditions which allow the force and temperature to be regulated with the greatest accuracy. Then, of course, there are vapour baths of many kinds and with various combinations; needle baths, and the Plombières treatment, in repute as a remedy for colitis and many other disorders. The Buxton water, by the way, closely resembles that of Plombières in composition. Moor baths (mud baths) and chalybeate baths are extensively given, and it is worthy of note that the Buxton Moor baths and “Packs” are commented upon in terms of the highest praise by Dr. Guy Winsdale, in his standard work, Hydro-Therapy.


In addition to the special local baths and treatments the establishment is equipped for all the most recent supplementary forms of treatment. The “cure” guests may have Electro-water baths and Schnee Four-cell baths; the d' Arsonval High Frequency and Diathermy; the Dowsing Radiant Heat treatments; Electric-light bath, and electro-vibratory massage. The electric current can be combined with the various mineral waters, and is also available for Cataphoresis and Ionization, many thousands of cases of which are treated during the year.

Then there are Special Oxygen and Nauheim baths and Carbonic Acid baths.

To sum up all in few words, every recognized form of hydrotherapy is practised, and no fewer than one hundred treatments are administered by specialists.

The Baths are open all the year round. During winter an even temperature is maintained in the dressing-rooms and corridors, and the waters may be safely used and are as efficacious then as at any other time.

As a general rule the duration of a bathing “cure” is three weeks. In considering this it should be borne in mind that by reason of the bracing and exhilarating climate of Buxton no after-cure is required, as is the rule in Continental spas. It is also in Buxton's favour that its treatment is far less exacting than that of Continental spas. An hour or two a day is all that need be devoted to the baths and drinking the waters. The remainder of the daylight hours may be spent, and very pleasantly spent, in the Gardens, or in the beautiful country around the town.

Lists of the baths, giving the prices and bathing hours, can be obtained at the Ticket Offices at the Thermal Baths, the Natural Baths, and St. Ann's Well, but mention may here be made of the very popular three-guinea course of treatment, lasting three weeks.

In 1935 a Clinic was opened in connection with the Baths. The Clinic occupies half the Crescent and provides facilities for the cure of rheumatism at a moderate cost, covering board and residence, medical attendance and nursing, X-ray and pathological examination where necessary, treatment at the Thermal and Natural Baths, etc. Minimum stay, three weeks.

The Old Hall Hotel, westward of the Natural Baths, occupies


the site of a house erected by the Earl of Shrewsbury in the sixteenth century, and pulled down by the Duke of Devon shire in 1670. Mary Queen of Scots, while in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury, was lodged in the original old Hall during her visits to Buxton for the sake of its healing water, and she is credited with having scratched upon a pane of glass, now preserved in the Museum at Poole's Cavern, an adaptation of Caesar's lines upon Feltria. They have been translated:-

“Buxton, whose fame thy milk-warm waters tell,
Whom I, perhaps, no more shall see, farewell!”

At the back of the Old Hall Hotel is the Square, to the left of which are entrances to the Opera House and the Union Club. Up the hill is the Devonshire Royal Hospital, and another road leads to the chief Post Office.

In our bird's-eye view of the town a huge dome, two small domes and a clock tower lying behind the Crescent mark the position of-

The Devonshire Royal Hospital,

an institution intended for poor patients, and supported by voluntary contributions. Closer inspection reveals the fact that it is of unusual shape. This is due to the original. portion having been a range of stables surrounding a circular area in which the horses were exercised. The buildings and site were granted by the sixth Duke of Devonshire to the Hospital for ever on payment of the nominal rent of five shillings per annum.

The Hospital was opened in 1859. During the Cotton Famine 100 destitute female operatives were received into the Hospital;: and when the governors of the Cotton Districts Convalescent Fund divided the balance left in their hands after the famine was over, they handed to the authorities a sum of £24,000 to enable them to extend and improve the building. In 1914 sixteen beds were added, raising the total number to 316, and there was erected a new mineral-water bathing establishment. In 1921 H.R.H the Princess Royal (then Princess Mary) laid the commemoration stone of a new wing, containing dining-rooms for patients and staff, also stores and kitchen.

The great dome is the widest roof of its kind in Europe, its diameter being 150 feet. The area covered by it is half an acre, sufficient to hold 6,000 persons. Nearly the whole of the space is unoccupied, and is available to the patients for exercise and


amusement, thus rendering them independent of the weather. Immediately under the lantern of the dome a very remarkable echo may be heard.

The patients are admitted to the Hospital on the recommendation of subscribers. During the last 77 years no fewer than 220,565 have been treated, and of those 181,936 have been either wholly or partially cured, a result eloquent as to the efficacy of the Buxton waters in cases of rheumatism and allied diseases.

(Visitors may inspect the Hospital every weekday from 10.30 to 11.30, and from 3 to 4.)

The trees and high ground behind the Hospital as we look on it from the Slopes are-

The Corbar Crags and Wood,

threaded by numerous paths of easy gradients, that wind through plantations and traverse the picturesque inequalities of old quarries, covered with trees, shrubs, ferns and wild flowers, and afford charming views of the town and the surrounding hills. The entrance to the walks is about half a mile from the Crescent.

The district immediately below the Manchester Road is The Park. Here are many charming residences, and in the centre is a well-kept Cricket and Bowling Ground, with a pavilion. County Cricket matches are played here. Westward of the Park, and between St. John's Road and Manchester Road, is the Cavendish Golf Course (see p. 32). Close to the foot of the Slopes and adjoining the Devonshire Hospital is a cupola-crowned building, the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, with some good modern mosaics and glass.

To the left of St. John's Church and nearer our view-point are the Opera House, used for theatrical and cinema performances, and the Playhouse, in turn a variety house and a cinema.

The adjoining Pavilion is a prominent feature of the Gardens. It is, in fact, a provincial Crystal Palace, comprising a concert hall, a conservatory and a large lounge, and serves as a promenade when the weather is unfavourable for outdoor exercise. Badminton and dancing may be enjoyed in the Pavilion during winter and good music is provided all the year round, either in the Pavilion or in the Gardens. During the summer season there are daily concerts.


The Gardens.

Admission.- 4d up to 6 p.m., is. afterwards; weekly, Ss. 6d.; fortnightly, 9s. 6d.; three-weekly, 12s. 6d.; monthly, 15s.

The Gardens are the property of the Buxton Corporation. They cover 23 acres and are beautifully laid out and admirably maintained. These delightful gardens have a southern aspect, and the infant Wye, “which has just emerged from its limestone cradle, is tortured and twisted, and made to meander all about them, and to fall over several artificial cascades, before it is allowed to enter the tunnel which carries it beneath the adjoining Crescent and other parts of the town”.

There are lakes, stocked with fish for the delight of juvenile anglers, and on one of the lakes boating can be enjoyed. A bridge across the Wye leads to a central band-stand, whence another bridge and broad walks lead to the tennis courts, croquet lawn, bowling greens, etc. The chief charm of the Gardens, however, is the stretch of smooth-shaven green, forming with the trees and the distant hills a lovely landscape. Westward of Burlington Road the Wye flows between pleasantly wooded banks, forming a kind of extension of the Gardens, known as the Serpentine Walks. The Walks are open free of charge.

From the southern end of Burlington Road, Temple Road leads to-

Poole's Cavern.

Admission.- Sixpence.

This is a large cave in a hill called Grin Low, half a mile from the Crescent. It is said to be named after an outlaw who lived in the reign of Henry IV. But he was not its first inhabitant, for even in prehistoric times the cavern was a human residence, as was demonstrated by the discovery of the kitchen-midden, or refuse food heap, of the primitive cave-dwellers.

Outside the cavern is a Museum, with a miscellaneous assortment of objects, including relics of early ages, some engravings and paintings, a “Treacle” Bible, a “Breeches” Bible, a copy of Cotton's Wonders of the Peak, furniture, a copy of the Plain Man's Path to Heaven, from which John Bunyan is said to have derived the idea of his immortal work; and the pane of glass referred to on p. 41.


The cavern extends for some 600 yards, and visitors are conducted for about two-thirds of that distance. The portion shown is lighted by gas (one would like to see the cave equipped with efficient modern lighting) and is traversed by a broad path. The roofings and arches are of imposing extent and character, the loftiest chamber being 90 feet high. There are numerous stalactites and stalagmites. Some of these are exceptionally fine, and have been given more or less fanciful names, such as the Flitch of Bacon, the Chair, the Font, the Lion, etc. There is also Mary Queen of Scots' Pillar, so called because that unfortunate queen is said to have leant against it.

The Wye enters the cavern soon after leaving its head springs.

Breaking the eastern skyline as we continue our survey of Buxton from above St. Ann's Well is the tower of the parish church of-


approached by a steep ascent, presenting on the left: a good view of the whole valley of Buxton, backed by Axe Edge, Grin Edge, and Black Edge, while Lower Buxton and the adjacent park occupy the centre of the scene. Beyond lies an extensive Common - once the Buxton Racecourse. On the Common - or the Barms as the tract is locally called - are the Golf Links and club-house of the Buxton and High Peak Golf Club (see p. 32). A portion of the Common is laid out as a Recreation Ground.

Fairfield Church is dedicated to St. Peter. It was built. in 1839; on the site of a chapel dating from the time of Queen Elizabeth. A memorial tablet within attracts attention by the singular motto of the Dakin family: “Strike, Dakin; the Devil's in the Hemp”.

William Dakin was a native of the village, and a descendant of a family connected for generations with the parish. Like Dick Whittington and many another, he went to London in search of wealth. He was successful in his quest, and founded the celebrated tea and coffee firm for years located at No. 1 St. Paul's Churchyard.

The silver chalice in use in the Church is dated 1595. In the churchyard is a sundial on a pedestal which is believed to be a fragment of an ancient cross.


Now from our vantage-point on St. Ann's Cliff we may turn about. The building at the top of the hill and immediately in front of us is-

The Town Hall,

a classic edifice containing the Council Chamber and Municipal Offices. The principal front of the Hall faces the Old Market Square in Higher Buxton, the terminus of most of the bus services. In the Square is the restored Market Cross of the town.

On the south side of the Market Place is the High Street. Towards the farther end this thoroughfare narrows, and to the right, at the point where the broader portion ceases, is the approach to-

St. Ann's Church.

Open to visitors, between services, from 8.30 to 5 (Thursdays, 10.30 to 5). Per. mission to photograph the interior can be obtained from the Priest in charge or from the Sacristan. There is no fee, but an offering is invited.

This Anglican place of worship is, with the exception of the Old Hall (now used as an hotel), the oldest public edifice in the town. It is a small, primitive building, erected in 1625, and is the direct descendant of the “Well-chapel” which stood on the site of the present Town Hall. At the Reformation both the chapel and the statue of the patron saint with which it was ornamented fell victims to the iconoclastic zeal of the times. For nearly a hundred years Buxton was without a church, and when the present edifice was erected it was dedicated to St. John, in order to counteract the veneration which was attached to the saint to whose influence the medicinal virtues of the waters were attributed. But it was only known by its new name for a short time, and the convenience of its original one became apparent on the restoration of the Church.

The general line of the High Street is continued by the London Road, which about ½ mile south of Higher Buxton is joined by the Duke's Drive (see p. 46).

From St. Ann's Cliff Spring Gardens runs eastward. This is Buxton's principal business thoroughfare. At the far end, below the lofty railway viaduct, is a large Motor Park; just beyond the viaduct the road forks: to the left is the way to


Fairfield (see p. 44), Doveholes, Castleton, etc.; the right-hand road is that for Bakewell, etc., by way of-

Ashwood Dale,

a charming valley. On one side are the river Wye and the railway embankment, the latter so covered with foliage as to be practically unnoticed except when a train is passing; and the rising ground on the other side is thick with trees. The rocks which form the sides of the valley are very varied; some bare and sombre, others tree-covered, others clad with ivy, ferns, and evergreens. At the Buxton end of the valley is Ashwood Park, with a restaurant and cafe, bowling greens (Crown type), tennis courts, walks and gardens. Bands play in the Park and special provision is made for children's amusements.

This corner of Buxton is the rendezvous of the numerous visiting motor-coaches, where passengers can be set down and taken up clear of the traffic.

A few hundred yards from the viaduct the Dale bears to the left, and for a moment the beauty of the scene is interrupted by the gas and electricity works. These necessary adjuncts (though the use of such a site is surely not necessary?) are soon passed, however, and soon on the right is the entrance to Sherbrook Dell, a beautiful nook. Here is the Lovers' Leap, a huge natural cleft in the limestone rock rising steeply from Ashwood Dale, of which it commands a splendid view.

The ascent from the other side is more gradual. The name is traditionally traced to a desperate leap of two runaway lovers riding one horse, who by that means evaded the pursuit of the lady's parents.

The upper end of Sherbrook Dell adjoins the road known as the Duke's Drive. It was constructed in 1795 by the then Duke of Devonshire. The Drive may be entered either at the corner by the Gas Works or near the Hospital on the London Road at Higher Buxton. The circuit (about 3 miles), makes a pleasant round giving good views.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in November 2013.

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