If you have ever wandered the streets of Buxton and wondered how its magnificent streetscape was formed over the centuries, a new book has been published this week which might answer all those questions.
‘Buxton in 50 Buildings’ is part of a series of titles from Amberley Publishing which inviters local writers to dig into the architectural history of towns and cities all over the UK.
The Buxton edition was put together over the course of two years by lifelong resident David Morten, 79.
He said: “As the title suggests, the book is an introduction to the town which ranges from its oldest buildings such as St Anne’s Church, right through to modern developments like Haddon Hall Care Home.
“In between, it takes in the state-of-the-art Nestlé Waters factory, the fire station and many traditionally important sites such as The Crescent.”
One of the things which gives Buxton its unique architectural character are the distinct waves of construction and investment which have swept through the town periodically over the centuries.
The spa waters drew the Romans to an early settlement at Buxton, and the town was still known for its health-giving waters when the Old Hall Hotel was built by the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, in the 1500s.
The Duke of Devonshire developed the town as a fashionable spa in the 18th century and many of its finest buildings were built in this period, most notably the Crescent and what later became known as the Devonshire Royal Hospital, with what was then the world’s largest unsupported dome.
The Victorians continued developing the town through the 19th and early 20th centuries, with additions including the opera house, the pump room and the natural mineral baths which now feature the country’s largest stained glass window in its barrel-vaulted canopy.
David said: “There’s a huge variety of architecture, but a particularly notable Georgian influence, and Buxton has done very well to preserve its heritage.
“The dukes bear much of the responsibility for that , but in more recent years things have progressed with more modern buildings which have blended sympathetically with the more historic ones.”
The book has been a labour of love for David. After retiring from a long career with ICI, he busied himself as a volunteer photographer with English Heritage, documenting listed buildings all over the country.
The decision to turn his lens on his hometown was initially part of a different project.
He said: “I’d always loved photography, but working with English History sparked an interest in buildings too.
“I was working on my own book of 100 buildings and then someone suggested I contact Amberley to see if they would be interested. The biggest challenge has been deciding which 50 buildings to choose.”
He added: “It has taken a couple of years, and been a bit of a struggle, but I managed to get the impetus back, and have had a lot of help from Oliver Gomersal of the Buxton Historical Society and another local writer, Colin Wells.”
The result marries new and archive images of buildings’ interiors and exteriors with detailed histories for which contain a wealth of illuminating anecdotes.
David said: “I think my favourite story is that of The Swan. The pub used to be called something else until around 1800 when a customer was unjustly accused of not paying for his drink.
“The landlord took him outside, tied him to a tree and flogged him. The regulars were so appalled that they boycotted the pub, and so the name was changed to disassociate it from that incident.”
He added: “There are lots of little stories like that, which I think will interest local residents and visitors equally.”
The book is available from amberley-books.com for £14.99 in paperback, Kindle, Kobo and iBook format and will be in local stockists soon.