Museum volunteer Ian Gregory reveals another blast from Buxton’s past:

While scanning postcards at Buxton Museum, I came across a short but poignant message on the back of one. It reads “to Mum with love and kisses. This is one of the hotels we are making into a hospital. Your Tom.”

The postcard in question carries a black and white photograph of the Palace Hotel, one of the largest in Buxton. It stands in the town centre near the railway station. It was constructed from 1864-66 by Henry Curry and its form was influenced by French architecture.105 rooms sit within it.

Tom’s postcard is dated to 1917, so the conversion must be that which occurred in the First World War. During that conflict the Palace was annexed by the Granville Military Hospital. It was initially used for billeting British soldiers then for discharging Canadian troops.

Who was Tom? If he worked on the conversion then he may have been a doctor or was he an architect? Did he work for the Ministry of Health? I wondered if he was a soldier, but then doubted if a fighting man would have worked on converting the Palace. Then again, he could have played more than one of these roles at different times? The reference to his mother suggests that he was young enough to fight, but perhaps it is not conclusive proof.

Today another chapter in our history is being written. Hotels have been closed due to a pandemic. Leaders are vilified by some for their handling of the Covid crisis, just as their predecessors were for their failures during World War One. Who were you Tom? What would you have made of our situation? There’s no telling from such a brief message.