The Crescent, Opera House and former Devonshire Hospital, Buxton, Derbyshire.
Buxton Crescent in the Derbyshire Peak District, is one of the finest Georgian buildings in England. The nearby Buxton Opera House is Frank Matcham's masterpiece and the former Devonshire Hospital has the largest unsupported dome in Europe.
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|In the late 18th century Buxton followed the fashion of Bath and other centres and was developed as a spa by the great local landowner, the 5th Duke of Devonshire. At the time, he was making vast profits from his copper mines at nearby Ecton in the Manifold valley, and these are reputed to have paid for his building work in Buxton. |
The most famous building of the time is The Crescent, consciously modelled on that of Bath. It was built for the Duke between 1780 and 1784 by John Carr, out of locally quarried gritstone, and included a ballroom and an Assembly Room as well as a town house for the Duke and shops along the ground floor. Sadly this magnificent building has now been empty for around 20 years. There are ambitious plans to reopen it as part of a spa complex, but so far these have not come to fruition.
Above it, on the west side, the Duke built a fine circular set of stables, which the 6th Duke gave to charity in 1859 to be converted into the Devonshire Royal Hospital. The architect, Henry Curry, covered the circular exercise area in the centre of the stables with a huge iron-framed dome covered in slate. Until recently this was the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The hospital closed about 2000 and the building has converted by the University of Derby, as the centrepiece of their Buxton campus.
Next door to The Crescent are the former Thermal Baths (built 1851-3 and currently closed to visitors), and then the Old Hall Hotel - once the town house of Bess of Hardwick and her husband the Earl of Shrewsbury, the jailers of Mary Queen of Scots. This is where she stayed when she visited Buxton, though the building has been much altered since.
Around the corner is Buxton Opera House, built by Frank Matcham in 1903, the period of Buxton's heyday as a spa. It is an exquisite building with beautiful decoration and superb acoustics. Fortunately it was rescued from near ruin in 1980 and restored. It has since formed the centre for an annual festival of opera, which takes place from mid July to early August, and a Gilbert and Sullivan festival which takes place in late August.
Buxton Crescent Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
How to get there
Buxton lies on the A6 Manchester - Derby road. From Leek take the A53 and from Macclesfield the A537. From Chesterfield, the A623 Chesterfield - Stockport road joins the A6 a few km north of Buxton. From Sheffield, take the A621 and A619 roads to Bakewell, then follow the A6.
By Bus: the Trans-Peak bus runs from Derby to Manchester via Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton.
By Train: trains run from Manchester to Buxton approximately hourly.
When is it open?
The Crescent is currently (2004) closed, as it has been for several years, and awaits renovation. The Devonshire Hospital is currently undergoing renovation and hopefully will be open (as part of the University of Derby) in 2005.
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