If you’ve ever wanted to visit the lofty spa town of Buxton and its museum, 2019 would a good time. We have two exhibitions focusing on aspects of local life: As we look forward to the re-opening of The Crescent as a spa hotel and visitor experience, our summer exhibition will focus on this iconic Buxton building with art works and artefacts from our collection.
On May 31st 1999, media in the High Peak changed forever. Radio Buxton took to the airwaves for the first time and five years later High Peak Radio was launched. 20 years on, the two brothers who founded both stations curate an exhibition featuring reconstructions of the original Radio Buxton studio. They’ll also be a ‘pirate’ studio including items of memorabilia, equipment and original recordings.
This year we are excited to be hosting Hoards: The Hidden History of Ancient Britain. Discover buried treasure and find out the various reasons why people put precious objects into the ground and why they did not retrieve them. The exhibition brings together finds from the British Museum and Salisbury Museum, including spectacular Iron Age gold torcs and recent discoveries from Wessex. We’ll also be displaying hoards from Derbyshire and the Peak District including additional material from Beeston Tor.
As usual, there is also a changing programme of art exhibitions and events. Download your 2019 What’s On below and plan your visit here.
Buxton Museum Whats On 2019_A5 brochure_WEB
The team of Heritage Lottery funded project Collections in the Landscape have been blogging about their work for a few years now. Like the museum where they are based, the project focuses on the heritage of the surrounding Peak District, rather than just Buxton. However, they have thrown a spotlight on the town a few notable times recently; in case you missed any of them, here is a handy round up:
Back in June 2016, Assistant Collections Officer Joe Perry revealed The Oldest Building in Buxton.
In the following month, appropriately named Laura Waters shared some images from the museum collection of the curious local tradition of well dressing.
Flowing with the water theme, Visitor Services officer and Buxton resident Ben Jones was delighted with an old letter from the town’s spa heyday.
He also delved deep into the past to find 7 buildings in Buxton that no longer exist.
And, unless you’ve been stuck down Poole’s Cavern for the last few months, you can’t have failed to have heard about the museum’s latest acquisition. Just in case you did, here it is.
Buxton Museum is grateful to Derek Brown for donating this letter written by his grandfather James. The letter is undated but it concerns taking the spa treatments of Buxton so we estimate its age to be somewhere between 1880 and 1920.
It is a sincere and charming message that permits an insight into a time when people came to sample the air and water of Buxton to improve their health and cure a variety of ailments.
The handwriting is a little faded and hard to read in places but we think it reads:
3 Leyland Cottages
Dear Mamma, Richard, Will, James, Alice and Grandma
I am here alright as you will see and have got beautiful lodgings with a very nice family, and I think I shall be very comfortable. It is a bonny place and a lovely ride to it after you leave Manchester district. I have seen John in the hospital, he is not very much better yet. I shall go and see the doctor tonight or in the morning to see what baths I ought to take. This will cost me five shillings but I think it will be best and then I shall make no mistake. Give kind regards to all enquiring friends and a kiss for all my own.
With best love
Hoping the lads will be very good while I am away and that I shall derive much good from my visit.
The letter is addressed Hardwick Square which still stands today just around the corner from Buxton Museum which was The Peak Hydropathic Hotel at the time of writing. It is likely that James Brown was treated on these very premises. The “baths” that he refers to were varied therapies. These days, some of them look like methods of torture!
This week I was planning to write about some of the pictures of Martha Norton that I’ve recently discovered in the museum collection. However, I see now that she has been a popular subject for my colleagues in previous years – you can read what they said about her on this blog here and on our Enlightenment blog here.
Martha Norton, Aged 88, Upwards of Fifty Years the attendant at the Buxton Well. Herself a proof of its salubrious spring (engraved by James Bottomley)
Miniature of Martha Norton (artist unknown)
Martha Norton, upwards of 50 years the attendant at Buxton Well. Aged 90 Oct 1820. (D. Orme, engraved by Henry Robertson)
Martha Norton, the Well Woman at Buxton (John Nixon)
As an attendant, or well woman, at St Ann’s Well, Martha must have been a familiar sight for residents of and visitors to Buxton during the fifty or so years that she worked there. She must have become something of a local celebrity as otherwise it would be unusual for her to have had her portrait made.
Like spas, sea bathing also became fashionable in the late 1700s/early 1800s and another favourite Martha of mine is Martha Gunn. This much loved ‘dipper’ from Brighton was apparently friendly with the Prince Regent (later George IV) and her portrait can still be seen in the Royal Pavilion.
Both the Martha’s worked with water for much of their long lives, leading observers to suggest that this was further proof of its health-giving properties. Now this is an exhibition I’d like to organise! What do you think?