‘Buxton is a destination’ says hotel chain – as Crescent opens this week
Buxton’s long-awaited Crescent Hotel - closed for nearly 30 years - opens its doors on Thursday.
The £70 million attraction - the result of a collaboration between High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council - has now been 17 years in the making.
Buxton Advertiser took a sneak preview of the newly-revived hotel’s interior this week.
Centuries-old materials used to build the 1780s Grade 1-listed Georgian building have been painstakingly restored - including tiles from the 1920s, original gritstone and wood beams.
Staggering attention to detail in the venue’s reception, bar, dining room, thermal bath and bedrooms acknowledges the history of the building and the town.
In the Assembly Rooms - used as a public library until the building closed in the 1990s - newly-made tiles match the remaining original ones on its ceiling.
The wallpaper in the bar lounge area has been specially-designed with extinct animals as a homage to Charles Darwin’s grandfather - who once visited Buxton to take its thermal mineral waters.
While walls housing spa reception spaces are hand-painted with a stunning, marine-coloured mermaid mural.
Europe’s largest health spa operator Ensana - who run the hotel - hope to ‘remind people’ that Buxton is not the Bath of the north but ‘a destination’ in it’s own right.
Susan Dickson, director of sales and marketing for Ensana, said: “It’s not so much about putting Buxton on the map because it’s already on the map.
“It’s about saying to the rest of the country Bath has the thermal water but so does Buxton - it’s about reminding people that Buxton is here.”
Marketing director Sue told how she had the national media booked ‘back-to-back’ for a look at the Crescent - with tours including Devonshire Dome, the opera house, Pump Rooms, Cavendish Arcade, Pavilion Gardens and the Pudding Emporium.
She said: “They go ‘oh so Buxton is a destination’ - it’s not just about a hotel. The people of Buxton know there are impressive things here but I’m sharing that with everyone else.”
“This is not just about the hotel but the destination.”
The Crescent has created over 100 new jobs and employed people from the town and surrounding areas - many of whom have never worked in a five-star hotel.
Sue says the chain hopes to set a ‘non-stuffy’, ‘friendly but efficient’ tone with its service at the Crescent - while local food and drink are used to stock the kitchen and bar.
Though prices at the impressive location range from £215 to £335 a night for two adults Sue added its unique selling point was that use of its 20,000 sq ft spa is included in the cost.
It contains the stunningly-restored thermal pool, relaxation pool, indoor/outdoor rooftop pool, a dizzyingly complex number of atmospheric saunas and steam rooms and even a salt cave designed to restore the respiratory system along with more health-giving treatments.
Work began on the Crescent in 2003 - with an initial completion date of 2007 – however this was gradually pushed back to 2019 and then early 2020.
In June this year hoardings surrounding the 81-room hotel were removed then it began taking bookings last month.
The 17-year-long restoration is the result of a collaboration between Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council - backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NHLF) and Historic England.
The majority of funding came from NHLF - with a £23.8 million grant - while the county council gave £13.4 million and loaned Buxton Crescent Limited - who are covering extra costs - a further £11.3 million.
Since the launch of the project to restore the 1780s Grade 1-listed Georgian building its budget has nearly trebled - with criticism heaped on its spiralling cost and missed deadlines.
However In 2017 developer Trevor Osbourne - who jointly owns the building along with CP Holdings - told how the project had faced huge problems.
He described how a lot of the building had rotted so it was being reinforced with steel and new timbers.
The Duke of Devonshire said his ancestral family tried to emulate Bath’s famous crescent however ‘it was not built to a very high standard’ and developers had to put it right.
Ensana’s marketing director Sue told how the building’s Assembly Rooms - used as a public library until the Crescent closed - had to be reinforced with steel.
A huge hole in it’s ornate ceiling was also repaired and 300-year-old chandeliers were restored.
While the original period-steel framework supporting the roof of the famous thermal bath - used as the town’s swimming pool until 1972 - had to be propped up with scaffolding as mud and trees were excavated from the decaying room.
Sue said: “The time and effort that’s gone into restoring all of this is phenomenal - the Victorians would just shove in a fireplace while everything around it was falling apart.
“So they’ve had to reinforce huge swathes of the building because it was just left to fall down.
“People just don’t realise and say ‘why’s it taking so long?’ but that’s the reason why.
“It’s the amount of work that you won’t see - that’s hidden - that’s been the problem.”
Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust - who ensure the ongoing conservation of the buildings - begin Buxton Crescent Visitor Experience tours next month.
The Experience - located in eight rooms inside the Crescent will tell the stories of Buxton, its famous water and the Crescent.
The Trust says the ‘boutique’ attraction - which it helped become a reality by raising £600,000 - will give visitors a taste of the Buxton story - providing a starting point for visitors to learn about the town.