"BUXTON, a chapelry, celebrated watering-place, and market town, in the parish of Bakewell, hundred of High Peak, in the county of Derby, 38 miles to the N.W. of Derby, and 160 miles from London by road. An extension of the Midland railway from Rowsley has just been completed, which gives the town the advantage of uninterrupted railway communication both from the south and the north. The High Peak railway, for coals and goods, passes within 1½ mile, and there are coaches during the summer months to all parts.
Buxton is situated in a deep dell, in the midst of a hilly and moorland district, near the head of the small river Wye, a feeder of the Derwent, which flows through a deep ravine nearly parallel with the high road leading to Bakewell. It is 1,020 feet above the sea level, although in a valley, which forms as it were the N.W. margin of the mountain limestone formation, abounding in fossils and geological specimens. It is noted for its mineral waters and the romantic scenery of its environs.
From some remains of walls, existing till 1709, and from the discovery of Roman coins, it appears that the Romans were acquainted with these springs, and had baths here. Two of their great roads crossed each other near this place. Buxton was much resorted to as a watering-place before the Reformation, and had a shrine of St. Anne connected with the baths, at which many devout offerings were made. The baths were closed for a short time after the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII., but were soon re-opened and frequented as before.
Buxton was several times visited by Mary Queen of Scots, while in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The old hall in which she lodged, built by the earl, is still standing, and is now converted into an hotel. There is also a fine column of stalagmite in the great cavern named Poole's Hole, which is called by her name, and extends for nearly three-quarters of a mile in length, the walls being hung with grotesque and beautiful stalactites. The baths have lost none of their old renown, as is shown by the number of visitors, who average from 1,500 to 2,000 at one time during the season, which extends from May to October.
The numerous baths are supplied from St. Anne's Well, a spring enclosed in an elegant Grecian building near the Crescent. This spring rises into a marble basin, and yields 60 gallons a minute. The water is saline and sulphureous, being charged with nitrogen gas and calcareous matter, and has a temperature of 82° Fahrenheit, which never varies at any season of the year. This spring is considered one of the wonders of the Peak, for by means of a double pump both hot and cold water are obtained within a few inches of each other.
The waters are especially of service in cases of gout and rheumatism, diseases of the skin, and nervous disorders. There are numerous baths in the town, and one free for the use of the sick poor, who receive liberal assistance from the Devonshire Hospital. This noble institution has been converted to its present use from the buildings formerly known as the "great stables", which were presented to the charity by the munificence of the late Duke of Devonshire.
It is supported by subscriptions and voluntary contributions, and offers to each of its patients board and lodging, baths and medical advice for three weeks, constituting the usual period for a course of bathing. Attached to the hospital is a resident chaplain. Near the town is a chalybeate spring, now enclosed in a neat building erected by the Duke of Devonshire.
Buxton consists of an upper and lower town; the former being the old, and the latter the new part of the town. The character of the buildings in the modern is far superior to that of those in the old town, and new streets and houses are springing up in all directions. The main street and market-place are wide and well paved, and in the centre are the ruins of an ancient stone cross. The principal range of buildings, however, is the fine Crescent, erected about 1780 by the Duke of Devonshire, from designs by Carr, of York.
It is built of stone, and has a front, including the two wings, of nearly 320 feet in length. The architecture is partly of the Doric order. This stately pile includes three large hotels, a ball-room, library, baths, lodging-houses, &c. Behind the Crescent are the spacious stables, now converted into a hospital, and in front are shrubberies and pleasant walks laid out on a hill. Near the Crescent is the Square, with pleasant promenades and an arcade 280 yards long.
The chief trade of the town is the manufacture of various articles from the beautiful spar and other minerals found in the Peak. The prevailing rock in the district is the mountain limestone, which is quarried to a great extent, and many labourers are employed as lime-burners, residing in dwellings cut in the rooks. In the market-place are the water-works, which were constructed about 1840 by the Duke of Devonshire.
The neighbourhood of Buxton abounds in romantic scenery, steep rocks, wild chasms, wooded hills, with various and wide prospects. The cutting for the new line of railway is a very wonderful work, both on account of its tunnels and the height at which it has to be carried across roads and valleys at several points.
Among the favourite places of resort are Ashwood Dale, in which is the rock called the Lover's Leap; Shirbrook Dale, a fissure in the rock with a small cascade; Diamond Hill, so called from the crystals of quartz, or Buxton diamonds, found there; Chee Tor, a huge limestone rock, rising about 350 feet high, from the bed of the Wye, which washes its base; Axedge, 3 miles to the S.W. of Buxton, rising to the height of about 1,800 feet above the level of the sea, and commanding a prospect of very great extent, embracing the mountains of North Wales to the westward, and Lincoln Cathedral eastward; from the sides of this rock issue four rivers in opposite directions, the Dove and the Wye, which ultimately fall into the Humber, and the Dane and the Goyte, which join the Mersey.
The living is a perpetual curacy* in the diocese of Lichfield, and in the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire. The church, a spacious edifice of the Tuscan order of architecture, was erected by the duke in 1812. It is situated in Fairfield, on the N. side of the Wye, and is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The old church of St. Ann is situated in the higher town, and is only used for evening service. There are chapels for Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians, and an endowed free school, which was formerly held in the church of St. Ann. Both churches are under one incumbency, of the value of about £90 a year, partly from land and partly from money in the funds. The Gisborne Charity amounts to £7 5s. per annum.
There is a racecourse near the town, but the races are discontinued. Two weekly newspapers are published during the season, called the Buxton Herald and the Buxton Advertiser. Buxton is one of the polling places for the county elections. It is within the honour of Tutbury, in the duchy of Lancaster. The market is held on Saturday, and fairs on the 3rd February, the 1st April, the 2nd May, the 8th September, and the 28th October. The last two are cattle fairs."