Buxton is a spa town in Derbyshire, in the East Midlands region of England. It has the highest elevation – about 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level – of any market town in England.[1][nb 1] Close to the county boundary with Cheshire to the west and Staffordshire to the south, Buxton is described as "the gateway to the Peak District National Park".[1] A municipal borough until 1974, Buxton was then merged with other localities lying primarily to the north, including Glossop, to form the local government district and borough of High Peak within the county of Derbyshire. Despite being in the East Midlands, economically Buxton is within the sphere of influence of Greater Manchester. The population of the town was 22,115 at the 2011 Census.


Buxton town centre
Location within Derbyshire
Population22,215 (2011)
OS grid referenceSK059735
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBUXTON
Postcode districtSK17
Dialling code01298
AmbulanceEast Midlands
EU ParliamentEast Midlands
UK Parliament

Buxton landmarks include Poole's Cavern, an extensive limestone cavern open to the public, and St Ann's Well, fed by the geothermal spring bottled and sold internationally by Buxton Mineral Water Company. Also in the town is the Buxton Opera House, which hosts several music and theatre festivals each year. The Devonshire Campus of the University of Derby is housed in one of the town's historic buildings.

Buxton is twinned with two towns: Oignies in France and Bad Nauheim in Germany.[2]


Roman settlement

The Romans developed a settlement known as Aquae Arnemetiae[1] (or the baths of the goddess of the grove). The discovery of coins indicates that the Romans were in Buxton throughout their occupation.[3] The origins of the town's name are uncertain. It may be derived from the Old English for Buck Stone or for Rocking Stone.[4] The town grew in importance in the late 18th century when it was developed by the Dukes of Devonshire, with a resurgence a century later as the Victorians were drawn to the reputed healing properties of the waters.

Spa town boom

Built on the River Wye, and overlooked by Axe Edge Moor, Buxton has a history as a spa town due to its geothermal spring[5] which rises at a constant temperature of 28 °C. The spring waters are piped to St Ann's Well (a shrine to St. Anne since medieval times) opposite the Crescent near the town centre.[6]

The Dukes of Devonshire have been closely involved with Buxton since 1780, when the 5th Duke used the profits from his copper mines to develop the town as a spa in the style of Bath. Their ancestor Bess of Hardwick had taken one of her four husbands, the Earl of Shrewsbury, to "take the waters" at Buxton shortly after he became the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569, and they took Mary there in 1573. She called Buxton "La Fontagne de Bogsby", and stayed at the site of the Old Hall Hotel. The area features in the poetry of W. H. Auden and the novels of Jane Austen and Emily Brontë.[5]

Instrumental in the popularity of Buxton was the recommendation by Erasmus Darwin of the waters at Buxton and Matlock to Josiah Wedgwood I. The Wedgwood family often went to Buxton on holiday and recommended the area to their friends. Two of Charles Darwin's half-cousins, Edward Levett Darwin and Reginald Darwin, settled there.[7] The arrival of the railway in 1863 stimulated the town's growth: the population of 1,800 in 1861 had grown to over 6,000 by 1881.[8]

Geography and geology

Although outside the National Park boundary, Buxton is geologically in the Peak District and built between the Lower Carboniferous limestone of the White Peak and the Upper Carboniferous shale, sandstone and gritstone of the Dark Peak.[9] The early settlement (of which only the parish church of St Anne, built in 1625, remains) was largely of limestone construction while the present buildings, of locally quarried sandstone, mostly date from the late 18th century.

At the southern edge of the town the River Wye has carved an extensive limestone cavern, known as Poole's Cavern. More than 330 yards (300 metres) of its chambers are open to the public. The cavern contains Derbyshire's largest stalactite and there are unique 'poached egg' stalagmites. A notorious local highwayman called Poole gave the cavern its name.[10]


At about 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level,[11] Buxton is the highest market town in England.[nb 1] Due to this relatively high elevation, Buxton tends to be cooler and much wetter than surrounding towns, with daytime temperature typically around 2 °C lower than Manchester. A Met Office weather station has collected climate data for the town since 1867, with digitised data from 1959 available online.[12] In June 1975, the town was hit by a freak snowstorm that stopped play during a cricket match.[13]

Climate data for Buxton, elevation: 299 m (981 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1959–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.0
Average high °C (°F) 5.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.9
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Record low °C (°F) −14.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 136.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 17.0 13.6 15.5 12.6 11.9 12.6 12.7 13.5 12.7 16.2 16.3 16.4 171.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 41.2 63.1 93.8 140.2 180.2 166.4 178.5 167.6 123.8 91.4 51.0 37.7 1,334.8
Source #1: Met Office[14]
Source #2: KNMI[15]


In the 2011 census, Buxton was 98.3% White, 0.6% Asian, 0.2% Black, 0.8% Mixed/multiple.[16]

Notable architecture

With the increasing popularity of Buxton's thermal waters in the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of buildings were commissioned to provide for the hospitality of tourists retreating to the town.

The Old Hall Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Buxton. It was owned by George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. He and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, were the "gaolers" of Mary, Queen of Scots. She came to Buxton several times to take the waters, the last time in 1584. The present building dates from 1670 and has a five-bay front with a Tuscan doorway.[17]

The Crescent was built between 1780 and 1784, modelled on Bath's Royal Crescent by John Carr along with the neighbouring irregular octagon and colonnade of the Great Stables. The Crescent features a grand assembly room with a fine painted ceiling. Nearby stands the elegant and imposing monument to Samuel Turner (1805–1878), treasurer of the Devonshire Hospital and Buxton Bath Charity, built in 1879 and accidentally lost for the latter part of the 20th century during construction work before being found and restored in 1994. The Crescent has been unoccupied for many years, but plans were in place in 2012 for it to be converted into a hotel.[18]

The neighbouring Great Stables were completed in 1789, but in 1859 were largely converted to a charity hospital for the 'sick poor' by Henry Currey, architect to William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire and previously of St Thomas' Hospital in London. It became known as the Devonshire Royal Hospital in 1934. Later phases of the conversion following 1881 were by local architect Robert Rippon Duke including his design for The Devonshire Dome, which was the world's largest unsupported dome with a diameter of 144 feet (44 m), larger than the Pantheon at 141 feet (43 m), St Peter's Basilica at 138 feet (42 m) in Rome, and St Paul's Cathedral at 112 feet (34 m). The record was surpassed by space frame domes such as the Georgia Dome (840 feet (260 m)). The building and its surrounding Victorian villas are now part of the University of Derby.

Currey also designed The Natural Mineral Baths, opened in 1854 on the site of the original Roman baths, and The Pump Room, built in 1884 opposite The Crescent. The Natural Baths feature a barrel-vaulted stained glass canopy — the largest stained glass window in Britain — designed by the artist Brian Clarke, and were re-developed as an arcade in 1987.[19] Visitors could 'take the waters' at The Pump Room until 1981. Between 1981 and 1995 the building housed the unique Micrarium Exhibition.[20] The building is being refurbished as part of the National Lottery-funded Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa re-development. Beside it, added in 1940, is St Ann's Well.

When the railways arrived in Buxton in 1863, Buxton railway station was opened under the design of Joseph Paxton, previously gardener and architect to William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. Paxton also designed the layout of the Park Road circular estate; he is perhaps most famous for his design of the Crystal Palace in London.

Other architecture

Buxton Opera House was designed by Frank Matcham in 1903 and is the highest opera house in the country. Matcham was a prolific theatrical architect who designed several London theatres, including the London Palladium, the London Coliseum and the Hackney Empire. The opera house is attached to the Pavilion Gardens, Octagonal Hall (built in 1875) and the smaller Pavilion Arts Centre. The Pavilion Gardens, designed by Edward Milner, contain 93,000 m² of gardens and ponds and were opened in 1871. Opposite is an original Penfold octagonal post box.

The 122-room Palace Hotel, built in 1868, is a prominent feature of the Buxton skyline on the hill above the railway station. It was also designed by Currey.[21]

The town is overlooked by two landmarks. Atop Grinlow Hill, 1,441 feet (439 m) above sea level, is Grinlow Tower (locally also called "Solomon's Temple"), a two-storey granite, crooked, crenelated folly built in 1834 by Solomon Mycock to provide work for the town's unemployed and restored in 1996 after a lengthy closure to the public. In the other direction, on Corbar Hill, 1,433 feet (437 m) above sea level, is Corbar Cross, a tall, wooden cross. Originally given to the Roman Catholic Church by the Duke of Devonshire in 1950 to commemorate Holy Year, it was replaced in the 1980s. In 2010, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK, it was cut down as a protest against a long history of child abuse at the Catholic St Williams School in Market Weighton, Yorkshire.[23] The Buxton ecumenical group Churches Together organised several benefactors who replaced the cross with a smaller cross in May 2011.[22]


Cultural events include the annual Buxton Festival, among other festivals and performances held in the Buxton Opera House, with shows running at other venues alongside this. Buxton Museum & Art Gallery offers year-round exhibitions.

Buxton Festival

The Buxton Festival, founded in 1979, is an opera and arts festival that runs for about three weeks in July at various venues including the Opera House.[24] The programme includes literary events in the mornings, concerts and recitals in the afternoon, and operas, many of them rarely performed, in the evenings.[25] There has been an increase in the quality of the operatic programme in recent years, after decades when, according to critic Rupert Christiansen, the festival featured "work of such mediocre quality that I just longed for someone to put it out of its misery."[26][27] Running alongside it is the Buxton Festival Fringe, known as a warm-up for the Edinburgh Fringe. The Buxton Fringe features drama, music, dance, comedy, poetry, art exhibitions and films in various venues around the town.[28] In 2018, 181 entrants signed up and comedy and theatre categories were at their largest.[29]

Other festivals

The week-long Four Four Time music festival is held every February and features a variety of rock, pop, folk, blues, jazz and world music.[30] The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, a three-week theatre festival from the end of July through most of August, was held in Buxton from 1994 to 2013; it moved to Harrogate in 2014.[31]

The Opera House has a year-long programme of drama, concerts, comedy and other events.[32] In September 2010, following a £2.5 million reconstruction, the former Paxton Suite in the Pavilion Gardens re-opened as a performance venue called the Pavilion Arts Centre. The centre, located behind the Opera House, includes a 369-seat auditorium. The stage area can be converted into a separate 93-seat studio theatre.[33][34]

Buxton Museum & Art Gallery has a permanent collection of local artefacts, geological and archaeological samples (including the William Boyd Dawkins collection) and 19th- and 20th-century paintings, including works by Brangwyn, Chagall, Chahine and their contemporaries. There are also regular exhibitions by local and regional artists and various other events.[35] The Pavilion Gardens hosts regular arts, crafts, antiques and jewellery fairs.[36]

Buxton's Well Dressing Festival takes place in the week running up to the second Saturday in July. The festival, in its current form, has been running since 1840 to celebrate the provision of fresh water to the high-point of the town's market place. As well as the dressing of the wells, the Festival involves a carnival procession and a funfair on the Market Place.[37] Well dressing is an ancient custom unique to the Peak District and Derbyshire, and is thought to date back to Roman and Celtic times, when communities would dress wells to give thanks for fresh water supplies.


Buxton's economy includes tourism, retail, quarrying, scientific research, light industry and mineral water bottling. The University of Derby is a significant employer. The town is surrounded by the Peak District National Park and offers a range of cultural events; tourism is a major industry, with more than a million visitors to Buxton each year. Buxton is the main centre for overnight accommodation within the Peak District, with more than 64% of the park's visitor bed space.[38]

The Buxton Mineral Water Company (owned by Nestlé) extracts and bottles mineral waters in Buxton.[39] A local newspaper, the Buxton Advertiser, is published weekly.

Potters of Buxton is the oldest department store in the town and surrounding area, established in 1860.[40]


Several limestone quarries are located close to Buxton,[41] including the "Tunstead Superquarry", the largest producer of high-purity industrial limestone in Europe, which employs 400 people.[42] The quarrying sector also provides employment in limestone processing[43] and distribution.[44] Other industrial employers include the Health & Safety Laboratory, which engages in health and safety research and incident investigations and maintains over 350 staff locally.[38][45][46]


The town hosts a University of Derby campus at the site of the former Devonshire Royal Hospital, as well as the Buxton & Leek College formed by the August 2012 merger of the university with Leek College.

Secondary schools in the town include Buxton Community School (at the former College Road site of Buxton College) and St. Thomas More Catholic School.[47] Other nearby schools include Buxton Junior School,[48] St. Anne's Catholic Primary School,[49] Harpur Hill Primary School,[50] Buxton Infant School,[51] John Duncan School, Fairfield Infant & Nursery School, Burbage Primary School, Dove Holes C. E. Primary School, Fairfield Endowed Junior School, Peak Dale Primary School, Leek College, Old Sams Farm Independent School, Hollinsclough C.E Primary School, Flash C.E. Primary School, Earl Sterndale C of E Primary School, Peak Forest C of E Primary School and Combs Infant School.[52]

Sport and civic organisations

In the high land above the town there are two small speedway stadiums. Buxton Raceway (formerly High Edge Raceway), off the A53 Buxton to Leek road, is a motor sports circuit established in 1974, hosting banger and stock car racing, as well as drifting events.[53] It was the original home of the speedway team Buxton High Edge Hitmen in the mid-1990s before the team moved to the custom-built track immediately to the north of the original circuit. The original track at High Edge Raceway[54] was amongst the longest and trickiest tracks in the UK. The new track is of a more conventional shape and length with regular improvements to the venue being made. Buxton have been regular competitors in the Conference League.[55][56] With the recent addition of flood lighting, Buxton Raceway is due to hold the 2019 BriSCA F2 World Final at night which is expected to see large crowds.[57]

Buxton has a football club, Buxton F.C., who play at the Silverlands; a cricket club, Buxton Cricket Club;[58] a Buxton Rugby Union club;[59] and a hockey club, Buxton Hockey Club.[60] In addition, four Hope Valley League football clubs are based in Buxton: Buxton Town, Peak Dale and Buxton Christians play at the Fairfield Centre, with Blazing Rag playing at the Kents Bank Recreation Ground.

There are two 18-hole golf courses in Buxton. In the eastern suburb of Fairfield is the Buxton & High Peak club. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest in Derbyshire.[61] On the western edge of the town is the Cavendish Club (1925), designed by the renowned course architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie.[62]

The hillside around Solomon's Temple is a popular local bouldering venue with many small outcrops giving problems mainly in the lower grades. These are described in the 2003 guidebook High over Buxton: A Boulderer's Guide.[63] Hoffman Quarry at Harpur Hill, sitting prominently above Buxton, is a local venue for sport climbing.[64]

Youth groups include the Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre at the Pavilion Arts Centre,[65] Buxton Squadron Air Cadets,[66] Derbyshire Army Cadet Force and the Sea Cadet Corps, in addition to units from the Scouts & Guide Association.

Buxton is home to three Masonic Lodges, and one Royal Arch Chapter, which meet at the Masonic Hall in George Street. Phoenix Lodge of Saint Ann No.1235 was consecrated in 1865; Buxton Lodge No.1688 was consecrated in 1877 and High Peak Lodge No.1952 was consecrated in 1881. The Royal Arch Chapter is attached to Phoenix Lodge of Saint Ann, and bears the same name and number, it being consecrated in 1872.[67]


Regional TV news is provided by Salford-based BBC North West and ITV Granada. Local radio stations are High Peak Radio on 106.4FM, and BBC Radio Derby on 96.0FM.

Public transport

Buxton railway station is served by Northern. It has frequent trains to Stockport and the city of Manchester. The journey from Buxton to Manchester Piccadilly takes just under an hour.[68] Buxton had three railway stations, two under the LNWR (Buxton and Higher Buxton; the latter was next to Clifton Road and closed in 1951) plus the Buxton railway station (Midland Railway) next to the LNWR terminus. The Midland Railway station was closed on 6 March 1967, later becoming the site for the Spring Gardens shopping centre. The trackbed of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway has in part been used as a walk and cycleway called the Monsal Trail. Peak Rail, a heritage railway group, have restored the section from Rowsley to Matlock, with the long-term objective of re-opening it back to Buxton.

The town's buses include services into the Peak District National Park. Other buses run to the nearby towns of Whaley Bridge, Chapel en le Frith, New Mills, Glossop and Ashbourne, and the High Peak 'Transpeak' service offers an hourly link southwards to Taddington, Bakewell, Matlock, Belper and Derby. There is also a High Peak bus directly from Manchester Airport to Buxton.[69] Other[70] services link Buxton with Macclesfield, Leek, Stoke-on-Trent,[71] Sheffield, Chesterfield and Meadowhall. [72]

The nearest airports are Manchester Airport (22 miles), Liverpool John Lennon Airport (48 miles), and East Midlands Airport (52 miles).

There are also taxi services based in the town.

Famous Buxtonians

19th c.

20th c.


See also



  1. Alston, Cumbria also makes this claim but lacks a regular market.
  2. This is a photo of the cross before it was cut down in 2010. It has since been restored.


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Further reading

  • W. Bemrose. Guide to Buxton and Neighbourhood, Bemrose & Sons (London, 1869).
  • Black's Guide to Buxton and the Peak country of Derbyshire, A. and C. Black, 1898
  • Aitken, Tom. One Hundred & One Beautiful Towns in Great Britain, Rizzoli, 2008
  • Gifford-Bennet, Robert Ottiwell (2009) [1892]. Buxton and its Medicinal Waters. London: John Heywood.
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