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Peak District Towns and Villages: Buxton Museum

Villages around Buxton Museum


Buxton lies just outside the National Park boundaries, but is the most important town for most of the western and central Peak. The town is situated in a natural bowl on the boundary between the gritstone and limestone areas and the River Wye has had to carve a gorge through the limestone to find an exit to the South East. At 300m above sea level the town is the highest town of its size in England.

Inside the former Thermal Baths
Inside the former Thermal Baths
The site has been occupied continuously since at least Roman times, when a fort and settlement called Aquae Arnemetiae was established here, probably on the high ground between the market place and the bluff which overlooks the river by the police station. As well as its strategic situation, the Romans were attracted to the site by the warm springs which emerge near the River Wye with a constant temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. They built baths here and for the following centuries these springs have been a major source of importance and income for Buxton.

The spring at St Ann's well was probably a place of pilgrimage as early as the Middle Ages, but certainly by Tudor times it was fairly well established as a spa and in Elizabeth I's time it was visited for this purpose by The Earl of Leicester, Lord Burghley and no less than Mary Queen of Scots, who was being held captive by the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick at nearby Chatsworth.

Buxton Crescent
Buxton Crescent
The great period of Buxton as a spa began when the 5th Duke of Devonshire started the construction of the Crescent in 1780. This magnificent building took ten years to build and was constructed over the river alongside the site of St Ann's well. It cost the huge sum of £38,000. From this time until the early 20th century a series of fine buildings were constructed in Buxton, starting with the Duke's stables in 1785 - this was converted to a hospital in the 1880s and a huge dome erected over the exercise area in the centre. In 1851-3 a new set of thermal baths were built, but in 1863 the railway arrived in Buxton to usher in its golden age.

Buxton Opera House
Buxton Opera House
The town boomed now that access was easy. Large hotels were built, (of which only The Palace now survives), the Opera House was constructed as was the Pavilion Gardens. Fashionable town houses sprang up and the town expanded to almost its present limits. This period is best captured by Vera Brittan's 'Testament of Youth', which recounts her childhood experiences in Buxton.

At the same time limestone quarrying became a major industry in the immediate area and the stone and associated lime products were easily transported by railway from Buxton across the country. Quarrying continues to be a major local industry.

Pavilion Gardens
Pavilion Gardens
After the First World War, the spa industry went into a gradual decline and by the 1950s Buxton was a backwater. Recovery began in the 1980s with the reopening of the Opera House and the establishment of the annual Opera Festival. More recently the University of Derby moved into the former Devonshire Royal Hospital building and an ambitious project has begun to reopen the spa and The Crescent.

The town has a full range of shops, centred around a shopping arcade built over the culverted River Wye, just off Spring Gardens. There is a market every Tuesday and Saturday. The town's tourist information centre is in the Pump House opposie the Crescent. Telephone: 01298 25106, fax: 01298 73153.

Other things to see in Buxton include the Museum and Poole's Cavern and Grin Low Country Park. Buxton has a well-dressing and carnival which starts on the second Sunday in July. The annual Festival is in mid-late July (information on 01298 70395). The Opera House box office: 01298 72190. The Festival also sports and Edinburgh-like Fringe Festival and continues to grow in popularity.Test

Buxton's Edwardian Opera House
0 - Buxton's Edwardian Opera House
Buxton Crescent
1 - Buxton Crescent
Buxton Crescent in snow
2 - Buxton Crescent in snow
Buxton Old Hall Hotel
3 - Buxton Old Hall Hotel
Buxton - St Johns church
4 - Buxton - St Johns church
Buxton - St Anns well
5 - Buxton - St Anns well
Buxton - inside the old Thermal Baths
6 - Buxton - inside the old Thermal Baths
Buxton Museum
7 - Buxton Museum
Pavilion Gardens - The minature train
8 - Pavilion Gardens - The minature train
Pavilion Gardens - View across the gardens
9 - Pavilion Gardens - View across the gardens
Pavilion Gardens - Inside the hot house
10 - Pavilion Gardens - Inside the hot house
Pavilion Gardens - the River Wye and Bandstand
11 - Pavilion Gardens - the River Wye and Bandstand
Pavilion Gardens - View across the boating lake
12 - Pavilion Gardens - View across the boating lake
Pavilion Gardens - The Octagon
13 - Pavilion Gardens - The Octagon
Buxton - Grin Low - Solomons Temple
14 - Buxton - Grin Low - Solomons Temple
Buxton view from Grin Low
15 - Buxton view from Grin Low
Buxton - Pooles Cavern
16 - Buxton - Pooles Cavern
Buxton Palace Hotel
17 - Buxton Palace Hotel
Axe Edge view down the Upper Dove valley
18 - Axe Edge view down the Upper Dove valley
Buxton - the former Devonshire Hospital, now Derby University
19 - Buxton - the former Devonshire Hospital, now Derby University
Pavilion Gardens - the Octagon and the River Wye
20 - Pavilion Gardens - the Octagon and the River Wye


Chelmorton has a real upland feel to it, sitting as it does in a natural bowl surrounded by low hills. It is in fact one of the highest villages of the area. The site is an ancient one, with a spring rising just above the modern village, near the church. This church is the highest in Derbyshire and was built in Norman times - the south arcade still dates from this time while the north arcade and the tower are thirteenth century - the spire was added much later.

Field patterns at Chelmorton
Field patterns at Chelmorton
Chelmorton village still retains a pattern which was probably laid down in Saxon times - a linear village laid out along a single street, with farms at intervals along the street. Uniquely amongst local villages, there have been no significant additions to this layout in recent times.

Another aspect of interest around Chelmorton is the field patterns. Those around the village are in 13 long narrow strips, a system dating from medieval times (and maybe as far back as Saxon times) but only enclosed relatively recently - probably in the 17th century. The larger fields more distant from the village were enclosed as late as 1805, and these are of a completely different shape - larger and usually almost square. This type of field pattern can also be seen near some other local villages, such as Litton. Another echo of the past is the name of the road which runs across the bottom end of the village. This is the old road between Buxton and Bakewell and is called 'The Ditch', a name which may be a relic of an ancient village boundary.

There is a public house, the Church Inn, and good footpaths lead directly from the village into the adjacent hills, particularly Chelmorton Low with the neolithic burial chamber at Five Wells Farm.

Chelmorton view of old field patterns
0 - Chelmorton view of old field patterns
Deepdale (King Sterndale) flowers
1 - Deepdale (King Sterndale) flowers
Deepdale (King Sterndale) - Thirst House cave
2 - Deepdale (King Sterndale) - Thirst House cave
Taddington - Five Wells chambered cairn
3 - Taddington - Five Wells chambered cairn
Chelmorton Church
4 - Chelmorton Church


Combs is a small hamlet off the Chapel-en-le-Frith to Whaley Bridge road. It nestles in a sheltered valley between Ladder Hill and Combs Edge. Once largely a farming community, it is now a popular place for Manchester commuters because of its good road and rail communications.

The village centres around the Beehive Inn, while to the north of the village lies Combs reservoir, which supports a local sailing club. To the east the village is overshadowed by Castle Naze, a gritstone crag at the apex of Combs edge, which provides splendid views across Chapel-en-le-Frith and the surrounding area. This was also one of the crags where rock-climbing was pioneered and it is still popular with local climbers.

Castle Naze was the site of an Iron Age fortress and the ruins of the ramparts are probably the best preserved of any in the area. This and the view make it well worth a visit.

Castle Naze
0 - Castle Naze
Castle Naze ramparts
1 - Castle Naze ramparts
Combs village
2 - Combs village

Dove Holes

Dove Holes is located high up in the limestone heartland of the White Peak, with both dramatic scenery and weather. An active and lively community, it is home to many of the workers from the surrounding quarries and carries a life within it that some of the surrounding dormer and holiday villages often lack. The 'international' beer and jazz festival held annually in early July is not to be missed.

The main historical point of interest here is the Bull Ring, a Stone Age henge monument similar to Arbor Low, and the next best example in the Peak. It is situated behind the school and church and accessed via the track to the Community centre. The bank and ditch, with a raised area in the centre, are clearly visible, but there are no stones. Local tradition has it that the stones were removed to be used as sleepers for the Peak Forest Tramway, a crude early railway constructed in the 1790s to carry stone to the canal at Buxworth. Despite this loss the Bull Ring remains an impressive place and worth visiting.

Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
0 - Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
1 - Dove Holes - Bull Ring view

King Sterndale & Cowdale

King Sterndale and Cowdale are two tiny hamlets perched on the edge of the limestone plateau above Ashwood Dale and the River Wye to the south of Buxton. Both hamlets consist mainly of farms. King Sterndale has a notable Hall, in the grounds of which the foundations of a medieval village have been found. There is also the stump of an ancient cross on the village green.

King Sterndale lies very close to Deepdale, one of the most beautiful of the local dales, and a nature reserve on account of its range of flowers. Excavations have shown that Thirst House cave in Deepdale was occupied at various times by both man and wild animals from the Ice Ages to Roman times.

King Sterndale church
0 - King Sterndale church
Deepdale (King Sterndale) flowers
1 - Deepdale (King Sterndale) flowers
Deepdale (King Sterndale) - Thirst House cave
2 - Deepdale (King Sterndale) - Thirst House cave

Peak Dale

Peak Dale, which is divided almost in two by the former Midland Railway, comprises Upper End on the west side of the railway and Smalldale on the east. Both were built to house quarrymen in the days when the stone was largely hewn from the quarries by hand, and so the settlements are composed mostly of small stone cottages and are surrounded by past, present and future limestone quarries.

Some of the former quarries have been filled in and landscaped, but others have been flooded and are now filled by blue lagoons. Some of the old quarries are used for various sports activities.

Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
0 - Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
Dove Holes - Bull Ring view
1 - Dove Holes - Bull Ring view


Wormhill is a small farming village found to the north of Chee Dale and west of Tideswell. The manor house, Wormhill Hall, was built in 1697 and then heavily restored in the late 19th century. The hamlet was relatively much more important in Norman times than it is today for it was once one of the administrative centres of the Royal Forest of the Peak.

Just to the west, the hamlet of Tunstead was the birthplace of Thomas Brindley who was apprenticed as a millwright but became a famous civil engineer and was responsible for the design and construction of the Bridgewater Canal. In the centre of Wormhill the village well is dedicated to Brindley. The well is 'dressed' each year in late August or early September.

In Great Rocks Dale, to the west of Wormhill, lies Tunstead quarry. Probably the largest quarry in Europe. Quarrying originally took place on the Western side of the Dale, but the owners (ICI at the time, now Buxton Lime Industries) obtained permission in 1978 to begin quarrying on the East side, working towards Wormhill. Vast numbers of trees have been planted to screen the future quarry workings and these can be seen to the west of Wormhill village. The quarrying will eventually completely remove the hamlet of Tunstead, which is already largely deserted and gives some idea of the long-term threat the quarry poses for the environment of this area.

Blackwell Mill cottages
0 - Blackwell Mill cottages
1 - Cheedale
Cheedale - Plum Buttress
2 - Cheedale - Plum Buttress
Cheedale stepping stones
3 - Cheedale stepping stones
Great Rocks Dale
4 - Great Rocks Dale
Miller's Dale
5 - Miller's Dale
Miller's Dale - Raven Tor
6 - Miller's Dale - Raven Tor

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