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Buxton in 1836

BUXTON, a market town and chapelry, in the parish of Bakewell, and in the county of Derby, with 1,211 inhabitants, is situated in that part of Derbyshire called the High Peak, in the hundred of High Peak, on the high road from Derby to Manchester, 33 miles N.W. from Derby, 20 miles S. from Manchester, 22 miles N.W. from Matlock, and 159 miles N.W. by N. from London. Its baths have been celebrated from the time of the Romans.

The town is situated in a deep valley or basin, surrounded by bleak hills and extensive tracts of moorland. It would be entirely environed with mountains but for the narrow ravine down which the river Wye flows on its way to the Derwent, parallel with the high road which leads to Bakewell.

Axe Edge, on the Leek road, 3 miles from Buxton, is next to Kinder-scout, the highest mountain in the N.W. of Derbyshire, being 1,000 feet above the valley in which Buxton Crescent stands, and 2,100 feet higher than the town of Derby.

From this mountain four rivers issue in opposite directions - the Wye, the Dove, the Goyte, and the Dean. Chee Tor, a perpendicular and stupendous rock of limestone, 360 feet high, is situated near the village of Wormhill, about 5 miles from Buxton. A few miles farther is Mam Tor, 1,300 feet above the valley in which it stands ; and a little E., the still higher peaks of Win-hill and Loschill, which may be distinguished by their form from all the mountains in the county.

The sterility which once formed the chief feature in the scenery round Buxton is fast disappearing. Extensive woods and plantations now clothe the sides and summits of many of the neighbouring hills.

Buxton consists of two parts, the old and the new town. The former stands upon much higher ground than the latter, and has still the remains of a cross in the centre of the market-place. The main street is wide, and contains a few good inns and lodging-houses, but the buildings in general are old and low.

This was formerly the only entrance from the W. into Buxton, until a new road was made a few years ago, which avoids the old town and joins the London Road at the church. The new part of the town may be said to begin at the Crescent and to stretch along the Bakewell road, the buildings of which form a handsome entrance to the town on that side, and afford many pleasant residences to those who seek more privacy than can be had at the public hotels.

The Crescent at Buxton is in the form of a segment of circle. The basement story is a rustic arcade, forming a piazza 7 feet wide within. Over the arches a balustrade runs along the whole building. Above the piers are Doric pilasters that support an ornamental architrave and cornice, which is terminated by another balustrade, in the centre of which, cut out of stone, are placed the arms of the Cavendish family. This extensive and elegant structure is three stories high, and contains 378 windows. It comprises two hotels, a library, an assembly-room 75 feet long, and a news-room, besides the baths and a few private residences.

The stables, as complete and extensive as the Crescent itself, occupy a large site of ground on the hill behind the chief structure, but divided from it by the main road. They are built in a circular form, and have a covered ride 160 yards round. This immense pile of building was erected by the late duke of Devonshire, in 1781, at a cost of £120,000. The stone employed in the foundations and inner walls was found near the spot ; and the fine freestone, used in the front and sides of the building, was dug out of a quarry not a mile distant.

At the W. end of the Crescent, and nearly adjoining it is the old hall, the most ancient building in the lower part of Buxton, having been erected in the reign of Elizabeth, by the earl of Shrewsbury, in whose custody Mary, queen of Scots, was placed. In one of her visits to Buxton, the queen occupied apartments in this building which are still shown as hers, on one of the windows of which are scratched the lines said to have been written by her on her departure.

Buxtona, quae calidae celebrabere nomine lymphae,
Forte mihi posthac non adeunda, vale.

Buxton, farewell! no more perhaps my feet
Thy famous tepid streams shall ever greet.

This house was considerably enlarged in 1670, and though inferior to the more fashionable hotels in the Crescent, is preferred by many families on account of its having baths for both ladies and gentlemen fitted up within its walls. There are also warm and shower baths, besides a bath for the gratuitous use of the poor.

The public baths at Buxton are very numerous, and are fitted up with every attention to the convenience of the visiters. The common tepid baths all lie together at the W. end of the Crescent, forming a part of the lower story. Besides a public bath, around two sides of which are numerous dressing-rooms, there are two private baths for gentlemen, and the same number for ladies. At the opposite end of the Crescent, adjoining the piazzas, are two hot baths, and vapour and shower baths, all heated by steam, which are supplied from what is called Bingham’s well. Most of these are lined with white marble, and the temperature of the hot baths is most accurately adjusted by an ingenious contrivance for the introduction of cold and hot water.

At the extreme end of the town, on the Macclesfield road, is a cold bath, said to be of the same temperature as the waters at Matlock (66 Fahrenheit).

The well at which the water is supplied to those who resort to it is in a small building, in the style of a Grecian temple, in front of the W. wing of the Crescent. In the centre of this tasteful building, called St. Ann’s Well, is a white marble basin, into which the water issues from the spring. By the side of this basin is a double pump, from which either hot or cold water may be procured within a few inches of each other. The spring flows at the rate of 60 gallons a minute, the water being somewhat colder than the waters at Bath, but warmer than those of Matlock and Bristol.

Besides what is properly called the Buxton water, there is a chalybeate spring of a rough strong taste, issuing from a chalky stratum on the N. side of the river Wye, at the side of the turnpike-road behind the Crescent, over which a neat stone structure has been erected by the duke of Devonshire, to preserve it for the use of visiters. Mixed with the other, this water proves purgative.

The public walks at Buxton, of which there is great variety, are laid out with much taste, and ornamented with shrubs and plantations.

The environs of Buxton abound with natural curiosities and romantic scenery. The high perpendicular crags on the Bakewell road, bordering the valley of the Wye, make it the most interesting, as it is the most accessible of all the scenery in the immediate vicinity of Buxton. At the distance of about half a mile, in a different direction, are the limestone quarries and Pool’s hole. The latter is a cavern of considerable dimensions in a limestone rock, contracted in its entrance, but spacious in the interior. Its roof and sides are covered with stalactites, one of which, more remarkable than the rest, about the middle of the cave, is called ‘the flitch of bacon.’

Here the cave again contracts, but beyond it becomes wide and lofty as far as a large massy column of stalagmite denominated ‘the Queen of Scots’ pillar,’ from a tradition that she stopped at this point. The further end of the cavern, comprising about 100 yards, is not very accessible. The whole length is 560 yards. The sides of the mountain are partly occupied with dwellings, not built, but excavated out of the ashes which have been thrown here from the lime-kilns. A considerable quantity of lime is burnt here, and sent into distant parts by the Peak Forest railway, which is near. At a little distance from the mountain beneath which is Pool’s hole, is a place called ‘Diamond Hill,’ from its furnishing specimens of quartz of an hexagonal shape, which are known by the name of Buxton diamonds, the whitest of which have the property of cutting glass.

About 5 miles from Buxton, at Barmour Clough, by the side of the road leading to Castleton, is an intermittent spring, called ‘the ebbing and flowing well.’ The water issues in different quantities, and at irregular intervals, out of several openings by the side of a small pool or basin. In dry seasons several weeks elapse without any flow into the well ; whilst at other times the water flows once in twelve hours, sometimes every hour, and occasionally three times in an hour. A gurgling noise is heard when it flows, which continues for 4 minutes. In the space of one minute 23 hogsheads have been discharged. This curious phenomenon is supposed to be occasioned by there being a reservoir of water in the hill above, from the lower part of which a duct rises to some height, but not so high as the reservoir, and afterwards descending to the well at the foot of the hill, acts on the principle of the siphon.

The rocks about Buxton consist of beds of limestone and of lava or toadstone, which lie alternately one upon the other. In many parts of the county there are three beds of each, which are many yards thick. There are many shops in the place for the sale of the mineral productions of the Peak, manufactured into various articles of ornament and use, besides fossils and specimens of natural curiosities. Among these is a beautiful spar, denominated ‘Blue John,’ formerly used in repairing the roads, but now worked into the most elegant vases, and purchased at the expense of forty guineas a ton. This spar is found near the Shivering Mountain, in the neighbourhood of Castleton.

The church in Buxton is an elegant modern edifice, built in 1812 by the duke of Devonshire, its patron, adjoining to which is a large burial-ground. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Lichfield. The building formerly used as a church is now converted into a school upon Dr. Bell’s plan, having endowments which amount to £94 per annum. There are places of worship in Buxton for Presbyterians, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists.

The market is held on Saturday; and the fairs on Feb. 3rd, April 1st, and May 2nd, besides a cattle-fair on the 8th of Sept. 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 40 shillings.

The number of visiters at Buxton varies from 12,000 to 14,000 annually. There are accommodations for 1,500 at one time. The season commences in June, and ends in October.