Tag Archives: Wonders of the Peak

When did They Start Bottling Water in Buxton?

In the light of new research, Derbyshire Museums Manager probes into the history of what the town is most famous for.

Over to you, Ros:

Buxton Mineral Water Company – when did they start bottling water?

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Hamilton bottle from the Buxton Mineral Water Company

The new displays in the Wonders of the Peak gallery contain a section on mineral water bottles from Buxton. Hardly surprising, since Buxton has long been associated with water, both for bathing in and drinking. William Henry Robertson MD, the doctor at the Devonshire Hospital in the 1850s and 60s sets out Rules for Drinking the Water, saying that ‘it is seldom necessary to take more than two half pints of the waters every day’ and that you should ease yourself into the practice of drinking it. ‘The waters are so fully charged with gas…apt to occasion some degree of giddiness of even headache, that it is prudent at first to drink the water by sips…’ (A Handbook to the Peak of Derbyshire and to the use of the Buxton Mineral Waters; or Buxton in 1854).

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What he doesn’t say is run down to the local supermarket or off licence and buy some bottles of it. William Henry Robertson MD is recommending that you need to take this water at the previous pump room at St Anne’s Well, a small Georgian temple near the Crescent. It would be served to you by one of the well women (Martha Norton was the most famous, but she was now dead) who volunteered to do this work and benefitted from the drinkers’ tips.

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St Anne’s Well House

But the evidence suggests that at some point around this time, the Buxton Mineral Water Company with a bottling plant in Fairfield, and one Mr Tebbs, who business location is unclear, where bottling the water.

Their choice of bottle was a Hamilton, shaped like a torpedo. When sealed, it is placed on its side and the effervescence (bubbliness) in the water is retained. Hamiltons were first made in the 1840s.

But when, asked a researcher, was the Buxton Mineral Water Company established? The earliest record the museum has found have is that a trademark was awarded in 1876. These trademarks appear as diamond shapes impressed on the bottles. But this Hamilton is surely a bit earlier that that? By 1876, the Company may well have started to use the newest sort of bottle: a Codd bottle, with a marble sealed in the neck to keep by the bubbliness. It needed a special bottle opener to press the marble down and so release the liquid.

So a challenge: since the reference books are very coy about the appearance of bottled water from the Buxton Mineral Water Company – Does anyone have any evidence of the company before 1876 – can we find out when bottling water started in Buxton. And where was Mr Tebb’s establishment – I don’t think it was the main well in Buxton, but where?

Do let the museum know if you can help with this conundrum.

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Willing Willow

As well as paid staff, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is aided by a small army of volunteers. A young lady with the rather enigmatic name Willow Cottam has been helping out recently. She describes her experience:

I started volunteering at the museum at the end of September 2016, just as the refurbishment work was beginning. This means I’ve been continuously working with the items for the new gallery, so it’s especially exciting for me to see some of the objects I’ve become familiar with in the display.

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The Wonders of the Peak mid-refurb

I decided to volunteer at the museum because I’ve always wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes. I never expected to be allowed to handle objects, on my first afternoon I held a 200,000 year old stone hand axe!

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Hand axe on display in the new Wonders of the Peak

I’ve done a wide variety of things, including adding grid references to the location in old photographs and watching an old BBC documentary to tag all the locations shown. This may sound boring to some, but it allowed me to learn more about the place I grew up in. Where I had the most fun was cataloguing all the objects for the new Wonders of the Peak gallery. Weighing, photographing and measuring the objects made me feel like I was a part of the museum and I enjoyed it immensely.

I would definitely recommend volunteering here at the museum, even if it’s just for an hour, you get to meet some really lovely people, get up close and personal with some amazing historical objects and be a part of something really special.

From Time to Time

Volunteer Ian Gregory gives us a personal account of this week’s official reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:

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Manager Ros Westwood reveals The Wonders of the Peak to The Duke of Devonshire

From time to time, long-lasting establishments have to reassess themselves and make changes. Some of you will know this happened recently at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery when the Wonders of the Peak exhibition was revitalised and updated. On Tuesday 12 September, I was privileged to attend the official reopening ceremony for the display.

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Dave makes last minute adjustments to the Roman soldier

The ceremony took place in the art gallery upstairs, under a plaster ceiling from the days when the building was a hotel. It was very well attended; infact the place was crowded and so many people made the gallery rather hot. As well as staff and volunteers like myself, there were journalists, members of the public, County Councillors and the 12th Duke of Devonshire. One woman fainted but she quickly recovered and didn’t need medical attention.

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The reopening of the museum coincides with the legend that is Emily leaving for a new job

Ros, the manager of the museum, gave a speech. She outlined the history of the building, which was a hotel and then a military hospital before becoming the museum in 1928.

Ros’ speech

Then the leader of Derbyshire County Council spoke, followed by Jonathan Platt from the Heritage Lottery Fund and finally The Duke of Devonshire, who emphasised the importance of community and Buxton Museum belonging to the whole community. He also reminded us that the landscape has always changed and felt the hand of humanity, and he urged us to embrace recent changes in technology. This ties in with an app which we are developing for the museum. The Duke also remarked that he remembered telephones like the one in the first case visitors come to. Ros then spoke again. Some children were present and she told them that the bear is still here, adding that he was hungry.

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Remember these?

It was time to view the new Wonders of the Peak exhibition. We entered the new gallery which is much spacious than its predecessor. It also features videos and touch screens new to our museum. I was impressed and everyone else appeared to be too. The exhibition starts with the Carboniferous Period about 350 million years ago when the limestone which underlies much of the Peak District was formed. It picks up the history about 1.9 million years ago with bones of mastodon and scimitar-toothed cats, then goes on through The Stone Age and Iron Ages into Roman and Saxon times, then through the Blue John and Ashford Black Marble objects from Victorian times and so to the 20th century.

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The reopening is accompanied by music from Amanda Johnson of Kidology

The visitors left and the staff locked up. It had been hard work preparing for all this but it was worth the effort. I’m sure the vast majority of people who came that day would agree with me there.

Ros’ speech

You can plan your own visit here.

Wonderful Wonders?

Since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery reopened on 6 June this year, visitors have had the chance to come in and see the brand new Wonders of the Peak gallery. Though not yet complete, we have found that giving people the opportunity to see the developments in progress and talk to staff has been a welcome one.

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Of course, the old dark and spooky Wonders of the Peak was cherished by a lot of people over its 27 year lifespan and the change has not been valued by everyone. However, the majority of recent visitors have given the new brightly-lit Wonders of the Peak the thumbs up, along with the refurbished foyer, gift shop, toilets and lift to the first floor. Here are some of their comments:

Never realised before that the museum had such a wide variety of objects. New display much better.

Love the changes; it feels much more accessible. So glad you kept the bear!

Absolutely stunning and fascinating! A treasure of a find and such a pleasure to visit this beautiful museum. You can see the care and attention to detail has gone into the renovation – so beautifully done.

The staff are very informative and very pleasant. Well worth the visit.

Excellent restoration, inviting and interesting. Although the quirkiness of what I remember has gone, the eclectic items are still there. A lovely surprise.

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Love accessible lift, light open spaces, excellent for grandchildren.

Great choice in the gift shop.

A beautiful find after just arriving in Buxton.

Wonderful – we are lucky to have this here!

I really enjoyed every minute of this magical place.

Really impressed. Thank you. Lots of interactive things to engage our kids and very varied content.

Brilliant little museum. Great displays and interesting stuff. Thank you for the hard work!

the boss

After years of endeavour, it’s great to have some appreciation and we do listen to the suggestions too. The most common criticisms are that the museum looks closed from the outside, that there’s not enough for children to do and that the bear doesn’t growl. We will take notice of the feedback and work to rectify these grumbles.

You can plan your own visit here.

 

Time for a bit of Spring Cleaning

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With the reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery close on the horizon, the time has come to dust the cobwebs off the collection so that it can match the rest of the new shiny gallery.

 
I have been working closely with the museum’s bone material. In the picture above you can see that some of the pieces – like this hyena jaw bone discovered in Elderbush cave – were in definite need of a little TLC after being displayed for so many years in the old gallery. So, adorned with a set of brushes and little pieces of rubber sponge I began the task of patiently dabbing, wiping and brushing away the years to breathe new life into each of the bone objects.

 
Below you can see the after shot of my work, and evidently
a little bit of spring cleaning really does make all the difference!

 
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Jasmine Barnfather MSci MA, Museum Attendant / Museum Assistant,
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery