Archivist Ian Gregory has stumbled upon another local image from the museum collection that raises questions:

Buildings don’t have to be spectacular in appearance to have a story to tell.  One of many photos that I’ve catalogued shows a building on St Johns Road, Buxton. It is known as The Bedford and has seen many residents and changes of use in its history.

DERSB 58411

Like the Museum that I’m writing in, The Bedford was built in late Victorian times as a hotel for visitors to Buxton Spa. I know little about its builders but they must have felt confident about their future to erect such a large hotel.  What would they have made of subsequent developments? The hotel didn’t survive. By World War II, The Bedford served as a convalescent home for railway workers.

In 1964, The Bedford became a residential home for people with cerebral palsy. It was run by Scope, which was then known as The Spastics Society.  In those early days, there was a workroom where clients made small metal objects and sewed or knitted textiles. Was this purely therapeutic or were the occupants paid for doing it? Details are hard to come by. Perhaps someone reading this could tell us. Later on, the practice was stopped, though who made that decision and why I do not know. Did the residents get any say in it?  Given the attitudes of those times, perhaps not. Studies of the disabled in history are in their infancy so there are gaps in our knowledge.

In 2008, the care home at The Bedford was closed down. Social policy now favours integration of disabled people into mainstream society, not confinement in institutions. To the best of my knowledge, the building has lain empty ever since. It has been described as ‘neglected’ and ‘creepy’. As I view images of The Bedford in better times, I wonder what would those who first built it – and also those who once made homes there – think if they could see it now?

You can see more bygone views of Buxton on Picture the Past or by visiting us; plan your visit here.