The Crescent, Buxton

Funded by profits from his copper mines, William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire put Buxton on the map with his development of the town in 1780s. The major towns of the area at this time were Bakewell and Wirksworth. Without the Duke's bold investment Buxton may have remained little more than a village.

The centrepiece of the Duke's project was the magnificent Crescent, which he commissioned from Georgian architect John Carr of York (1723-1807) at a cost of £120,000 (the price of a small terraced house today, perhaps, but a staggering sum in the late 1700s). The gracious, curved building, constructed from locally quarried gritstone, is reminiscent of the Royal Crescent at Bath. It was built over the river Wye alongside St Ann's Well and took ten years to complete (1780 - 1789)

Originally the Crescent included two hotels, assembly rooms and six lodging houses - one of which was used by the Duke as a town house. A hotel remained on the western side until the mid 1980s, but closed when its owners were unwilling (unable?) to pay for essential repairs and restoration. The eastern end housed a clinic, a library and council offices but when major structural problems were found in the Assembly Rooms (one more heavy-footed square-dance could have proved catastrophic!), the entire building was closed and vacated by 1992.

And so it remains to this day. At one time it seemed as if the problems of the Grade I listed building would take longer to solve than the 5,000 years it takes for Peak District rain to reappear as mineral water at Buxton's spring. But, in 2003, Europe’s largest spa hotel operator, Danubius, won the opportunity to resurrect the historic thermal spa complex. High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire City Council announced that the Trevor Osborne Property Group would develop the £23 million "Crescent and Spa" project, in partnership with C.P. Holdings - Danubius’ parent company. "We are keen to get work underway so that the Crescent and spa can be restored to its former glory," said Geoff Carlile, chair of a Crescent committee made up of local and county councillors. "[It] will enhance the whole of Buxton and be a credit to Derbyshire." Work was expected to begin in 2005 with completion hoped for some time in 2007 but there have been no signs of activity to-date. "Watch this space", as they say, and I'll keep you informed of any progress. If it happens, the facility will be the first thermal spa hotel built in Britain in more than a century.
Then
Now
An early 19th century engraving
Still looking good 200 years later!

From the vantage point of the town hall (built 100 years later) a click of the shutter captures the magnificent sweep of the Crescent, the Old Hall Hotel to its left, the dome of the Devonshire Hospital, the Palace Hotel and the Pump Room (seen at the foot of the landscaped 'Slopes' in the foreground). You may also be able to make out the now demolished Empire Hotel at the top left of the picture.

(above) The eastern side of the Crescent with the rear of the Pump Room in the foreground. To the right of the picture, one of twelve stone urns carved by Robert Parsons of Bath. The urns pre-date the crescent by about 36 years!
The twin cupola of the Pump Room were removed in 1958 so this rather sombre photograph must date from the late 1940's or early 1950's. A more 'animated' photo from the present day, showing some of the many thousand visitors Buxton plays host to each year.