The Serpentine Walk in Buxton

The Serpentine Walk in Buxton is a secluded extension of the Pavilion Gardens. Crossing Burlington Road, the path follows the same River Wye and snakes back round again to rejoin the larger expanse of public park. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has some old views of The Serpentine Walk that show how the trail has changed dramatically over the years.

DERSB 2009.4.11.15 front

The children posing in the foreground of this black and white postcard are dressed in Victorian fashion, giving us a clue to its age. The background reveals a Serpentine that looks so wild and untamed, it is almost unrecognisable. Only the characteristic bending of the river betrays its location. Over a hundred years ago, this part of Buxton would have been on the fringe of town, decades before the encroachment of an urban sprawl. It must have been wonderful to be a child with all that wilderness to explore.

DERSB 59907

We fast forward to 1935 for this next image by J.R. Board who ran a photography shop on The Quadrant not too far away. Again, the way the people are dressed confirms its age. We can see clearly that The Serpentine has been trimmed and tidied and supplied with ample seating, probably to suit the more refined expectations of the age. It looks slightly bigger than the park does today, though the house in the background is still there.

TN 2006 A139

There are several prints in Buxton Museum’s collection depicting this view of The Serpentine. The Rustic Bridge must have been an attractive feature at one time but there is no trace of it now. Only the presence of the spire on St. John’s Church in the background is familiar.


The far end of the Serpentine was captured in watercolour by J.W. Keightley in 1962. The painting is currently on display on the landing of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, along with an assortment of rarely-seen artworks from Derbyshire’s collection until Easter. You can plan your visit here.

For those interested in the history of the town, adjacent to The Serpentine Walk is the oldest settlement in Buxton; Lismore Fields. My colleague, Joe Perry, has already written about this and it even has its own dedicated website.

Derbyshire County Council retains copyright for all images in the collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery so please drop us a line at if you wish to use them.

Scenes of summer

While we enjoy the last days – and rays – of summer, it seems like as good a time as any to share some images of the season from the museum collection. There are certainly plenty to choose from, even though you’d be forgiven for thinking that Buxton is better known for its somewhat wintry reputation!

W 292 front
Postcard sent from Buxton, postmarked July 11th 1908

These pictures, reproduced on postcards, demonstrate the variety of activities available to residents and visitors in Buxton during the warmer months of the year.

W 440 front
Ashwood Park was built in the early 1920s on the grounds of the Ashwood Park Hotel. 

As well as sporting activities like tennis, bowls, boating and golf, visitors and residents could enjoy strolls in landscaped areas around the town and walks in the countryside.

DERSB 2009.4.11.15 front
The Serpentine Walks extend along the River Wye to the west of Pavilion Gardens

The more adventurous could explore further afield with trips by horse-drawn carriage and charabanc to scenic destinations including Dovedale, Ashford-in-the-Water, the Cat and Fiddle public house and the Goyt Valley.


PC 252 front
Passengers leaving Buxton with their driver J Wilkinson and guard A Gallinson, pulled by the horses Black Jack and Little Arthur. Early 20th century.

While adults enjoyed promenading through Pavilion Gardens, there was also plenty of entertainment for children. We love this postcard of a Punch & Judy show by the Crescent:

PC 0066 front
Postcard dated 1896

Lest we forget that the sun doesn’t always shine in Buxton in the summer, we have two postcards showing a flood in Pavilion Gardens, which (while it may not have been the result of heavy rain?) certainly must have put a dampener on the usual summer pursuits.

PC 181 front

Enjoy the rest of the summer – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! Remember Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closes for redevelopment on 5 September so you only have until the weekend to pay us a visit.


Curiosity of the Month

September’s Curiosity of the Month is a photograph from the J.R. Board collection. It captures a view of the tennis lawns in Pavilion Gardens in Buxton in 1939. However, there appears to be a pair of ghostly infants in the foreground. This rather creepy photo was noticed by my colleague, Jess, who sent it to Anna and I because we like strange things. Jess commented that it reminded her of Joseph Stalin’s attempts to erase people he didn’t like from photographs during his reign of the Soviet Union. It reminded me of numerous “visions of the paranormal” that I’ve seen in my other life as a writer of horror stories. I suspect that an accidental double-exposure from Mr Board is a more mundane explanation but the image is fun nonetheless.

Collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Archaeology of Buxton

On Saturday 26 July, one of our intrepid volunteers, Ian Gregory, joined a group on a walking tour of Buxton, exploring the town’s archaeology. The tour was led by Dr Catherine Parker Heath who specialises in educating people about archaeology. You can find out more about her work at her website Enrichment Through Archaeology. It’s over to you, Ian:

On Saturday 27 July, I joined a guided walk around Buxton which was organised by the Museum and Art Gallery. Our guide started by explaining how the museum itself had changed functions, having been built as a hotel in 1880 and becoming a museum in 1928.

Collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Our party included several children, who were encouraged to look at buildings for signs of aging, differences in styles and signs of changes in use. They were asked to imagine what sounds from contemporary life would already have been in the air during the Neolithic era. At the end of our walk, the children dressed up as Roman-Britons and enacted a scene where news of a Saxon invasion arrived in Buxton.

Our guide paused at Lismore Fields, the site of one of the few Neolithic settlements to have been excavated in Britain. She distributed stone tools from the period amongst our group, also pictures of reconstructions of life 6,000 years ago. We also walked around the Pavilion Gardens where we learned when buildings like the Octagon and Opera House were constructed.

After two hours, our walk came to an end on The Slopes. Strangers to Buxton had been given a good introduction to the town, while local people had been stimulated to look at familiar things from a fresh perspective.

Catherine Parker Heath