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Buxton, in the High Peak of Derbyshire, sits in a bowl at about one thousand feet above sea level surrounded by mountains and is itself a mountain spa. The natural mineral water of Buxton emerges from a group of springs at a constant temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and is, thus, a thermal water. There are also cold springs and a supply of chalybeate (iron bearing) water.

Whilst the history of this inland resort can be traced as far back as the Mesolithic (middle Stone age) period of early man, one of the most significant periods in the development of the town was the 70 years from 1840 to 1910 - the Victorian/Edwardian age of industry and innovation. This period of phenomenal growth should he set in the context of its earlier history to give some feel for the growth of settlement, village and town and to see how and why Buxton should have become such an important Victorian spa.

The evidence of Mesolithic man suggests a settlement dating to about 5000 BC and archaeological finds in the Peak District around the settlement show habitation through the Neolithic Bronze and Iron Ages to the time of the Romans. Buxton in Roman times was known as Aquae Arnemetia, which translates as the waters of the Goddess, of the Grove and the term aqua' is used by the Romans for one other town only, that of Bath which was called Aquae Sulis. From the historical evidence we can say that Buxton was a civilian settlement of some importance, situated on the intersection of several roads and providing bathing facilities in warm mineral waters. In short, it was a Roman spa. An important find of coins, near the site of the Roman bath, in 1975 indicates that the Romans inhabited Buxton for most of the time they occupied Britain.

Place-names in and around Buxton and Anglo-Saxon finds in burial mound excavations suggest a continuing inhabitation of the area and probable use of the warm mineral waters. Buxton is not mentioned in the Domesday Book though, at the time, it was primarily a cattle p pasturing place and may not have been of sufficient interest, in revenue terms, to King William commissioners. The name Buxton can be dated to about 1100 when Bucstones or Buckestones is first recorded on a foundation charter for land given by William Peveril to found Lenton Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Later medieval records show the existence of a holy well at Buxton and the valuation taken for King, Henry VIII in 1536 showed the well to be worth 40 marks (about 26), a not inconsiderable sum. The well and chapel did not escape the attentions of Thomas Cromwell, the Chief Minister to King Henry, and on his orders it was plundered and closed down by Sir William Bassett of Langley in 1538.

The well was not closed for long, however, and in the Elizabethan era Buxton enjoyed considerable fame as a spa. Mary Queen of Scots visited to take the waters on several occasions during the time she was a prisoner in England. Her custodian, the earl of Shrewsbury, who was married to Bess of Hardwick, built the hall over the bath in Buxton to provide accommodation. It is likely that Buxton was a centre of some intrigue at this time; plots were hatched in support of the Scottish Queen and there were many notable visitors from the Elizabethan court including Lord Burghey, the Earl of Sussex, and the EarI of Leicester, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. In 1572 Dr John Jones wrote the first medical book on Buxton waters entitled The Benefit of the Auncient Bathes of Buckstones. From that time many others wrote on the curative value of the warm waters and from these accounts it can be seen how Buxton continued to develop as a spa through the seventeenth century.



The eighteenth century was to see an upsurge of interest in bathing and water treatment with both inland and coastal towns becoming fashionable resorts. Buxton did not rival Bath in these terms, however, until the 5th Duke of Devonshire decided to provide greatly enhanced facilities in the shape of the Crescent, which offered hotels, lodging houses and an assembly room. This magnificent building was designed by the York architect, John Carr, and built between 1780 and 1784. The Great Stables, now the Devonshire Royal Hospital, were completed in 1789. By 1820, with a population of under one thousand, Buxton could still be described as a village and facilities were still modest. Hall Bank, built largely in the 1790s, provided lodging houses and the Square, built 1806, offered more substantial town houses. In addition to the Hall and those in the Crescent, there were other hotels including the Grove, the George, the Eagle and the Shakespeare, together with a number of inns and ordinary lodging houses. The baths offered good facilities, three gentlemen's, two ladies' and a charity bath and there were also hot baths, built in about 1818 and, on the Macclesfield road, a cold plunging or tonic bath.