Tag Archives: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

7 Buildings in Buxton That No Longer Exist

It is natural for people to affectionately remember places that were once part of their daily lives. A town the size and age of Buxton has seen many changes. Businesses have changed hands countless times and shop fronts have transformed with the fashions of the age. These seven buildings are just a selection of notable structures that have vanished from the landscape altogether.


Cavendish Girl’s School, Corbar Road

For nearly 300 years, Buxton had segregated comprehensive schools. The boys went to Buxton College on College Road, now the co-educational Community School. No longer required, the girl’s school was flattened in the 1990s and swiftly replaced by a housing estate. I did the first year of my English A Level here and I recall that having to cross the playground as a shy teenager through a swarm of young ladies was a minor test of courage. There was a well-established belief that the place was a psychiatric hospital before it was a school but I’ve never come across any evidence to back up this claim.

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Buxton Youth Hostel, Harpur Hill Road

Considering Buxton’s proximity to the Peak National Park, it seems peculiar that it doesn’t have a youth hostel. For many years, there was one at the bottom of Harpur Hill Road. The impressive Victorian building closed in 2002 and was demolished not long afterwards so I assume that it needed repairs beyond the means of the YHA.


Empire Hotel, Park Road

The Empire Hotel was essentially a failed business. There was nothing wrong with the original turn-of-the-century vision; a majestic palace for 300 wealthy guests to stay in the heart of one of England’s most beloved spa towns. In 1901, however, no one could foresee the advent of two world wars and the Empire never got its anticipated amount of clients. It became a depot for Canadian soldiers after the First World War and was wiped off the face of the map after falling into disrepair in 1964.

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High Peak College, Harpur Hill

This windswept fortress of higher education opened in 1966 and was demolished only forty years later when it was replaced by the University of Derby which occupies the undeniably prettier Devonshire Dome. Despite its short lifespan, High Peak College is fondly remembered by its former students who came here to study subjects as diverse as welding, catering, hairdressing and Judo. The decision to put a college on the remotest edge of Buxton at the top of the enormous summit of Harpur Hill was an interesting one and its students faced a challenge just to get there, although it did offer residency for the hardcore few.


The Picture House, Spring Gardens

Films are shown regularly at the Arts Centre in the Pavilion Gardens but it seems a pity that a town the size of Buxton doesn’t have a full-time cinema. A few have come and gone, most notably the Picture House at the end of Spring Gardens, which was condemned in the 1980s. I recall queueing up to see Ghostbusters when I was a teenager, hardly able to contain my excitement but generations before me will also have fond memories of this place all the way back to the early 1900s.


Market Hall, Market Place

The Market Hall is the only location on this list to have been unintentionally lost. Some modern day residents have questioned the logic of running an outdoor market in the one of the coldest and wettest place in the UK. Many years ago, they enjoyed the luxury of an indoor version until it burnt down in 1885. This rare photograph is a sombre vision of the traders whose livelihood went up in smoke. It’s curious to modern eyes that the photographer, B.W. Bentley, has gathered them all together to pose amongst the ruin but it remains a powerful testimony to the human cost of a tragic event.


Milligans, Spring Gardens

After working at Buxton Museum for nearly twenty years, it seems that the most affectionately remembered of all local shops was Milligans, founded in 1846, demolished in the 1970s and later rebuilt: Argos currently occupies the spot. E.C. Milligan’s Drapery and Milliner’s (hat-making) shop, to give its full title, is remembered by older residents who tearfully recount tales of how magical it was to visit, often compared to Grace Bros. in 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? Apparently, there was a gentleman “floor walker” in charge of the shop and money was sent upstairs to the accounts department in an air tube! This photo was taken around 1940 and it is interesting to note the colonnades that once protected visitors from the elements for the entire length of Spring Gardens.

These black and white photographs are from the collection of J.R. Board who had a photography shop in The Quadrant in Buxton from the 1920s to the 1970s. Buxton Museum cares for some of the collection, which provides an invaluable insight into the history of the town. If you wish to reproduce any of the images, please contact buxton.museum@derbyshire.gov.uk. There are many more to see on www.picturethepast.org.uk


A Fascination with the Victorians

Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory often finds meaning in a an object and sparks a discussion which, at the end of the day, is what museums are all about! Over to you, Ian:

Today at Buxton Museum, I’m cataloguing photographs of objects in the collection. I have come to an image of a thermometer made from Ashford Black Marble with inlaid decoration and a pointed top.


This object reminds me that there is currently much interest in the nineteenth century; it is the subject of television shows like Victoria, Ripper Street, Victorian Railways and The Victorian Show. The visual arts and furniture of that age are not so popular but stories and documentaries about it are all over the schedules.

Why a surge of interest in this particular epoch? It’s easy enough to talk of nostalgia but can we go deeper?

Today, we are often being told, rightly or wrongly, that society is increasingly divided between rich and poor, between immigrants and locals, between men and women, etc. Technology is developing at a rate which many find bewildering. Is there a parallel with the age of Victoria? Her culture was divided between rich and poor, there was a high rate of immigration, women had the right to own property and go to university but not until later in the reign. The black marble thermometer reminds us that science was moving fast. Even though the Victorians didn’t invent the thermometer, their technology was advancing quickly with free-thinking pioneers such as Charles Darwin, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Alexander Graham Bell.

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Buxton Market Place 1849, oil by Godfrey Sykes, copyright: Derbyshire County Council

I can see why Victorian Arts and Crafts are less desirable to modern buyers. They took a lot of cleaning and most people today don’t have servants to do it for them. Their fashionable colour; black is associated with mourning.

When it comes to stories about that era, whether fact, fiction or a blend of both, do we find it only too easy to relate to that socially-divided, rapidly-changing society that considered itself egalitarian? Perhaps we do, more than say.


Buxton Museum wins Award for Young People in Heritage

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery was thrilled to receive recognition for its work with young people at the Derbyshire Heritage Awards last Friday. Blue John – Uniquely Derbyshire is a project that provides the opportunity for young people to participate in making three commissions relating to a unique local mineral called Blue John. A window and a turned chalice made of Blue John and a film about making the chalice will be unveiled in Buxton Museum’s new galleries in May 2017 when it reopens after extensive refurbishment. Participants worked with the museum collections and at Treak Cliff Cavern in Castleton; the only place on Earth where the stone can be found.

Highly Commended were the  Creswell Heritage Trust for Joel Pemberton and the Portland College Volunteers  which recognised the contribution of a dedicated group of young volunteers with disabilities and their work at Creswell Crags. Plus the Midland Railway Trust for Getting into Training; a volunteer programme that has particularly benefited an individual with learning difficulties.


The project that won the Young People in Heritage Award is part of the Made in Derbyshire programme with additional funding from the Friends of Buxton Museum.

The Blue John window is being made with the help of young artists from Buxton Artbox Artclubs. The museum has a window made by John Tym of Castleton, owner of Treak Cliff Cavern in the 19th century but the new version is the first to be made for over 150 years!

The turned chalice is being made by Jack Mosley, who is 23 years old. Jack has been making ornaments for 3 years and will make the chalice from the Ridley Vein identified in 2015 allowing him the rare opportunity to have his work in the museum collection.

Jimmy Hyland, 25 years old, is an innovative and exciting film maker with a love of the Derbyshire landscape. His film about working Blue John at Treak Cliff Cavern will be featured in the new galleries alongside the chalice and window.


The Awards are run by the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum and were held this year at Crich Tramway Village with 70 guests celebrating all the work taking place in museums, historic houses and heritage sites across the county.  Entries are welcomed from any organisations that have undertaken heritage related projects during the past year, including arts activities and work with natural heritage. The Awards were funded by the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum and a grant from Museum Development East Midlands.

This year’s Awards were judged by Joy Hales (Editor, Derbyshire Life Magazine) and Pete Brown (Museum Education & Interpretation Consultant) whilst the ceremony was compered by Radio Derby’s Andy Potter. Award winners received a plaque, whilst Highly Commended projects were awarded a framed certificate.  There were 35 entries from 16 different organisations this year, so the judges were forced to make some very difficult decisions when choosing the winners.

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Well done to our friends …

Heage Windmill Society: Trouble at Mill Appeal for winning Best Volunteer Project which fundraised £75,000 to repair Heage Windmill, the only operational windmill in Derbyshire.

Joint Highly Commended: Dronfield Heritage Trust: Restoring Dronfield Barn – a project to restore a derelict historic building and bring it into community use and Crich Tramway Village: Loan of LCC 106 – where volunteers organised the transportation and loan of a tram car to East Anglia Transport Museum.

Midland Railway Trust: Keeping Time for winning Best Project on a Limited Budget which recognised their efforts to restore a railway clock system at Butterley.

Highly Commended: Erewash Museum: International Women’s Day Project – celebrations included a series of blogs and a mini-exhibition.

Derbyshire Record Office: Mining the Archives project  for claiming the Behind the Scenes at the Museum Award for the repair and digitisation of two historic lead mining account books and highlighting them to the public through online blogs and an exhibition.

Highly Commended: Derby Museums Trust: Wright Revealed: Uncovering two lost paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby – a project enabling staff and visitors to learn about two Wright paintings though exploring the conservation and investigation process.

Belper North Mill Trust: Creative Craft Activities for winning the Reaching New Audiences Award; a project to involve the local community through group artwork and workshops, resulting in an exhibition in the museum.

Highly Commended: Erewash Museum: Foster Family Project – encouraging local foster families to visit the museum and attend art workshops together as part of the ‘Festival of Light’ celebrations in the community.

EDA: The Enlightenment Comes Alive for winning the Inspiration Award for telling the story of Derby Silk Mill and its important place in history through animation projected onto the building.

Highly Commended: Belper North Mill Trust & Fleet Arts: Part of the Fabric – a massive art installation using threads woven around Strutt’s North Mill supporting structure with 500 miniature mill workers hidden within, along with textile skill workshops for visitors.

The Judges’ Special Award went to Friends of Cromford Canal to recognise their contribution in restoring the Cromford Canal and providing events so that visitors can enjoy this historic and scenic area.

Erewash Museum for winning An Award in Excellence for their endeavours in a broad range of categories.

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The Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum is a friendly, informal network chaired by Ros Westwood, Derbyshire Museums Manager. The Forum meets quarterly at different sites across the county to share information, discuss current issues, take part in training and listen to invited speakers.  Anyone who is involved with a museum, heritage organisation, historic house or local history group in Derbyshire is welcome to join the Forum (a membership fee applies). For further information please contact Forum Secretary Kate Watts via email: westshed6233@btconnect.com

While the Museum is Closed …

It’s been two weeks since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closed for refurbishment and there have already been dramatic changes to the building. The staff room has been emptied to make way for a lift and the builders have ripped out the old toilets. This means the museum staff are temporarily having lunch in an empty art gallery and visiting a portable lavatory. We are happy to endure these provisional measures to improve the facilities for you, dear public.


Closure has given us the opportunity to take stock of the museum shop and pack everything away. This entails counting hundreds of imitation Roman coins, gemstones and Woolly Mammoths. The retail is actually part of the redevelopment. Arts Council England are kindly funding Buxton Museum to help improve both the shop and the merchandise. Some of the items on sale when we re-open next Spring are based on the collections and they will help the museum to establish a stronger identity. Click here for more information about our funding.


Goyt’s Bridge over the River Goyt by G.M. Brown. Copyrighted.

Some of the front-of-house staff are mucking in and have begun to write content for the new gallery. I’m working on a digital trail around the Goyt Valley. We aim to supplement a walk around the heritage-rich location by revealing items from the museum. It is based on an old blog of mine but we hope to build on this with the help of the Peak National Park rangers who care for the Goyt.


Empress cinema, Chapel-en-le-Frith 1935 Board collection. Copyrighted.

Jasmine is busy with a similar assignment on Chapel-en-le-Frith, a small town in the Peak District. Her granddad once lived there and Jasmine is applying the family knowledge to form a picture of the town’s fascinating and little-known history. Our goal is to do this with a lot of places in the Peak District. Buxton itself is ready to explore with a fledgling trail; see pocket.wonders.co.uk

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The museum’s temporary closure doesn’t mean we have stopped running events. Our pop-up museum was previewed outside Buxton Opera House on Heritage Day two weeks ago and it will be making more appearances over the next few months. Watch this space.


Sooty was putting on a show too!

For more Buxton Museum and Art Gallery events, check our website.

Buxton’s Orchestra Days

Ian Gregory, volunteer archivist at Buxton Museum, gives us some insight into another of the lesser-known collections he’s been working on:

For the last two weeks, I have been editing images of programmes for The Spa Orchestra of Buxton. These date from the 1940s and include summer seasons (May to September) and winter and Christmas concerts.


There are, unsurprisingly, differences between live entertainment then and now but also parallels. The programmes are overwhelmingly Classical apart from a little Rodgers and Hammerstein and Irving Berlin. Many end with the National Anthem. There are names of composers now forgotten although many are still familiar.


Nevertheless, there is a general parallel between then and now; present day Buxton has a thriving arts festival and fringe festival. The festival began in 1979 and has gone from strength to strength. The Buxton Fringe is now a good size with young people involved in live productions.


Buxton Opera House was a bingo hall in the 1970s. Today it is a popular theatre hosting a variety of shows and talks all year round. Could it be that after a decline in the mid-20th century, live entertainment made a comeback? Styles and tastes may have changed but the idea that even small towns can have live theatre is alive and well.