Buxton

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

BUXTON, a market-town and chapelry in the parish of BAKEWELL, hundred of HIGH-PEAK, county of DERBY, 33 miles (N.W.) from Derby, and 159 (N.W.) by N.) from London, on the high road from Derby to Manchester, containing 1036 inhabitants. Antiquaries agree in considering this to have been a Roman station, although they have not been able to ascertain what it was called. The name of the place subsequently was Bawkestanes, supposed, to be a corruption of Bathanstanes, signifying the bath stones; and one of the Roman roads still retains the name Bathom-gate. The Romans, attracted by the temperature of the waters, constructed a bath, the wall of which, covered with red cement, and other parts, are still remaining: several Roman coins have been discovered.

Near this spot was the intersection of two great military roads, one connecting Little Chester with Manchester, and the other leading from Middlewich to Brough, and thence to York and Aldborough, at which places respectively were stations of considerable importance. The town is situated near the source of the small river Wye, in a valley surrounded by bleak elevated tracts of moorland; but several plantations have been formed on the adjacent eminences, which, with other improvements, will materially alter the appearance of the immediate vicinity: the older part, occupying the higher ground, consists chiefly of houses built of limestone, without order, and of mean appearance; the more modern, situated in the vale, comprises elegant lodging-houses and hotels, erected and fitted up with every regard to the comfort of its numerous, visitors.

The old hall, built in the sixteenth century by the Earl of Shrewsbury, for several years afforded temporary accommodation to visitors of rank; and for some time it was the abode of Mary, Queen of Scots, who, while in the custody of the earl, accompanied him and his countess in an excursion to this place. It underwent considerable alteration and enlargement in 1670, and is still the principal hotel: it contains two baths for ladies, and three for gentlemen, with distinct apartments for each; besides a bath for the gratuitous use of poor invalids: there are also warm and shower baths. The spring that supplies the baths in this establishment affords an influx of sixty gallons per minute: the mean temperature of the water is 82° of Fahrenheit.

The crescent, erected in 1781, by the Duke of Devonshire, is a fine range of building in the Grecian style of architecture: it is built of grit-stone obtained near the spot, and fronted with fine freestone brought from a quarry about a mile distant, and consists of three stages; the basement story is a rustic arcade, extending round the whole of the building, and surmounted by a balustrade, above which are fluted pilasters of the Doric order, supporting a richly ornamented architrave and cornice, terminated by another balustrade: in the centre of the range are the arms of the Cavendish family. Among these buildings are several spacious lodging-houses and three hotels, called St. Anne's, the Central, and the Great hotel: the last, exclusively of other apartments, contains a splendid suite of rooms in which assemblies are held three times in the weeks during the season; also a library and news-room.

At the eastern extremity of the crescent, and communicating with the Great hotel, two hot baths have been recently constructed, and are supplied from Bingham's well, of which the temperature is 81° of Fahrenheit, and may be raised by means of steam to any higher degree of temperature required. In the front of the crescent is a rising ground, planted with trees, and disposed in parterres, shrubberies, and walks; and behind it is an extensive range of stabling, corresponding in character, including a spacious covered ride, affording to invalids in unfavourable weather the convenience of equestrian exercise. The new square, nearly adjoining, has an arcade communicating with that of the crescent, and forming a continued promenade of considerable extent: it contains many handsome lodging-houses, and there are also others in various parts of the town, but a preference in the use of the baths is enjoyed by those visitors who inhabit the houses belonging to the Duke of Devonshire.

St. Ann's well, near the crescent, the resort of those who drink the waters, is enclosed within a handsome building in the style of a Grecian temple: the water issues from the spring into a marble basin, and opposite to it is a double pump, by which both hot and cold water are simultaneously raised from springs lying within a few inches of each other: the hot spring has a temperature of 81° of Fahrenheit. The Waters are sulphureous and saline, but neither fœtid nor unpalatable, the sulphur not being united with vitriolic, but slightly with saline, particles; they are efficacious in gout, rheumatism, and indigestion, and in nervous, scorbutic, and nephritic diseases: the season commences early in June, continuing generally 'till October. There is also a chalybeate spring, the water of which is strongly impregnated with iron held in solution by acidulous gas.

The environs abound with picturesque and romantic scenery, and with pleasant walks and rides; of the latter, the Duke's ride, on the Bakewell road, extending over the summit of a rock called the Lover's Leap, is a favourite excursion with equestrians: a pack of harriers is kept by subscription. The principal branch of trade consists in the manufacture and sale of many beautiful ornaments in fluorspar, alabaster, and other mineral productions of the Peak. A great quantity of lime, noted for its strength, is burnt to the west of the town, the workmen and their families living in huts excavated in the limestone rocks, near which passes the Peak Forest railway. The market is on Saturday: fairs are held on February 3rd, April 1st, May 2nd, and September 8th, for cattle. The town is in the honour of Tutbury, duchy of Lancaster, and within the jurisdiction of a court held at Tutbury every third Tuesday, for the recovery of debts under 40s.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, endowed with £200 private benefaction, £600 royal bounty, and £800 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire. A new church, an elegant structure near the town, but without the limits of the chapelry, was erected under an act passed in the 51st of George III. in 1812, at the expense of his Grace. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians. A school, now conducted on Dr. Bell's plan, was founded towards the close of the seventeenth century, and re-opened in 1817, after a suspension of twenty-five years, during which period its affairs were in Chancery: the income, arising from land and property in the funds, is £94 per annum: the school is held in the ancient chapel.

The bath charity, for the benefit of poor invalids coming hither for the use of the waters, is liberally supported by subscription, and is under the superintendence of a president and committee: applicants; on presenting a certificate from the minister of their parish, signed by a medical practitioner, are not only permitted to bathe free of expense, but for one month receive a weekly allowance of money for their support, from a fund raised by a contribution of one shilling from every visitor who remains for more than one day in the town: according to the last annual report, one thousand one hundred persons had received relief of the amount of £450.

About three quarters of a mile to the south-west of the town is Poole's Hole, a dark and dreary cavern, narrow and very low at the entrance, but spacious and lofty within, abounding with stalactites representing various natural forms; near the extremity is a rude mass, called the pillar of Mary, Queen of Scots, beyond which few persons advance: the visitors, are accompanied by guides with candles, the light of which is brilliantly reflected from the various incrustations and chrystals that decorate the sides, and hang from the roof, producing a beautiful, but dazzling, effect. About one mile and a half beyond the cavern is Diamond Hill, so called from the detached chrystals found there in profusion, denominated Buxton diamonds; their form is hexagonal, and their surface and angles well defined, but of bad colour; when first found they are hard, but they soon lose that property.

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