Buxton Crescent & Thermal Spa – A Brief History
Buxton’s source of water has featured throughout the town’s history which extends to Roman times. Known as Aqua Arnemetiae, it was an important settlement and resort, having one of only two sets of warm springs substantially developed by the Romans, the other being at Bath. Although falling into relative obscurity later, it served as a medieval place of pilgrimage due to the thermal springs. The town was developed as a fashionable spa town in the late 18th century. Its biggest expansion coincided with the arrival of the railways in the mid-19th century. By the end of the 19th century it was a significant inland resort and centre for hydrotherapy and other water-related treatments.
The Crescent was erected between 1779 and 1789, to the design of John Carr of York. It was built to provide good quality accommodation in the town and was intended to become the principal attraction and centrepiece of the Fifth Duke of Devonshire’s attempts to make Buxton vie with Bath as a spa of national importance. It was serviced by the Great Stables, also by Carr, situated to the north of the Crescent, which later became the Devonshire Royal Hospital and is now the Buxton campus for the University of Derby. The Crescent was originally conceived as:
- Two purpose built hotels – the Crescent Hotel within the East pavilion and the St Ann’s Hotel in the West Pavilion
- Six lodging houses separating the two hotels
- Assembly Rooms at the East pavilion (as part of the Crescent Hotel)By the mid- 19th century, the two hotels had taken over the lodging houses with the St Ann’s Hotel occupying just over half of the entire complex.The Crescent Hotel closed in the early part of the 20th century. It was used as a geriatric annex to the Devonshire Royal Hospital before being bought by Derbyshire County Council (DCC) in the 1970s. DCC used it as offices and the public library until 1992 when it was closed due to structural defects.The St Ann’s Hotel carried on trading until 1989 but closed pending full refurbishment following the service of public health notices by the local authority.
Probable site of the Roman Baths as it sits over the natural mineral water source. There have been various buildings on the site. The present complex dates from 1853 and the early 20th century. Closed as water treatment baths in the 1960s following which, it was used as the town’s public swimming pool until 1972. Vacant since 1972 apart from approximately one third of the ground floor refurbished as the Tourist Information Centre in 1986. This, in turn, closed about 5 years ago.
Built in the late 19th century and ceased use as a Pump Room in the 1970s. Since then, it has been used as a Tourist Information Centre and a “Micrarium “. This last use closed in 1996 since when it has been empty apart from temporary craft fairs held during the summer months.
Due to its declining state of repair and following action by High Peak Borough Council working in tandem with English Heritage and the (then) Department of National Heritage, the St Ann’s Hotel was eventually bought by the Council in 1992 using funds from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. A £1.5 million programme of urgent works on the Crescent followed during 1994-96 funded by English Heritage. This replaced the roof on the former St Ann’s Hotel, undertook essential stonework and joinery repairs as well as some major internal structural works.
In terms of finding a new use for the buildings, the private market was failing to bring anything forward that would be compatible with the buildings’ listed status whilst being commercially viable. Consequently, High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council decided to promote their own project and, in particular, one that would add to the heritage-led regeneration of Buxton. This led to the launch of the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa project for which the Councils were pleased to enter into a partnership with the Trevor Osborne Property Group and CP Holdings Ltd. CP Holdings Ltd are the outright owners of the Danubius Hotel and Spa Group – Europe’s largest hotel and spa operator.
Since their appointment in 2003, the partners have been working on the present project and seeking funding to offset the enormous conservation deficit – this is the cost of the repairs and restoration works that have no commercial value. Despite a number of setbacks, not least the withdrawal of £5 million of funding following the abolition of the East Midlands Development Agency in 2010, the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa project is now fully funded, has all of the necessary permissions and is soon to start its main construction contract on site.