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Buxton Spa History

Thermal waters that attracted the Romans  

Buxton’s long, yet intermittent, history as a spa resort began when Roman conquerors discovered warm bubbling springs right underneath what is today the Buxton Crescent, the town’s leading spa break destination. As a result, this spa town has been a focus of aristocratic patronage and health pilgrimage for much of its 2,000-year history. 

  • Mary Queen of Scots came to ‘take the water cure’ to treat her rheumatism. 
  • One of England’s richest men, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, commissioned The Buxton Crescent, an exquisite example of Georgian architecture. 
  • Today’s extensive restoration puts the town back on the heritage spa trail. 
  • The thermal waters are now integral to an extensive, holistic spa and wellness programme for visitors.  
Buxton - a spa town as rich in history as healthy minerals

Buxton’s source of warm thermal water caught the attention of Roman explorers and since then has enjoyed a historic reputation for health and wellbeing. Today, thanks to national and international efforts and large scale investment, the spa story of this English market town is proudly restored to the map, making it once again a top attraction for anyone wanting to combine health, culture and outdoor pursuits with unrivalled spa experiences. 

Buxton’s beginnings 

Centuries ago the area’s warm water springs made it one of just two spa destinations in England that Roman rulers developed into a resort settlement, the other being Buxton’s sister spa town at Bath. In AD 80 Buxton was named Aqua Arnemetiae, meaning Goddess of the Grove. 

The jewel in Buxton’s crown: The Buxton Crescent 

This sweeping masterpiece of 18th century architecture is the town’s focal point for visitors. It was commissioned in 1779 by the wealthy, 5th Duke of Devonshire living at nearby Chatsworth House. He wanted Buxton to rival Bath as a spa town of national importance, so he commissioned local architect Sir John Carr of York to create a crescent-shaped suite of buildings to copy the Bath style. 

After 10 years of construction The Buxton Crescent became home to the original springs, in reality a warm water 27C degrees, underground reservoir plus two adjoining hotels, various lodges and the elegant Assembly Rooms, which are best described as a ballroom of gilded pillars and painted ceilings, and home to the town’s glamorous gatherings. 

In the late 1980s parts of the Crescent fell in to disrepair. After many false starts to regenerate the Crescent, Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council  jointly launched the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa project with the backing of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England.  Partners from the private sector were sought leading to the appointment, in 2003 of CP Holdings Ltd, owners of Europe’s largest spa resort operator, Ensana and the  Osborne Group, with a track record of successfully converting historic buildings.  The two organisations then jointly established Buxton Crescent Limited which worked with the Councils to secure the necessary funding and prepared the detailed designs.  
 

Timely transformation

For much of the 20th century Buxton faded into relative obscurity, its gracious buildings being used variously as the public library and tourist office, and at times laying vacant. In recent years, love and attention from several heritage organisations have put Buxton back in the spotlight as Britain’s spa capital.  

Sensitive restoration and huge public and private investment invite visitors to step back in time to enjoy the best of traditional and modern spa breaks in a beautiful, historical setting.  

The Buxton Crescent lies at the very heart of this renaissance, proudly sharing our unrivalled expertise in all forms of hydrotherapy for reducing stress and supporting holistic wellness, with a wide choice from spa days for two to spa breaks for couples. 

St. Anne's Well

The well has been a shrine to St. Anne since medieval times, prior to the Reformation it had been a pilgrim shrine, perhaps the best known in Derbyshire. A chapel then stood at the Holy Well, where pilgrims could pray and offer thanks, so many people believed themselves cured that the shrine was hung with cast-off crutches and sticks. This chapel was disolved on the orders of King Henry VIII in 1538. The shrine was locked and its idol, probably a statue of St Anne - was destroyed.

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire moved the public well to its present position in 1780 when he built the Buxton Crescent opposite to the site. The well that can be seen today is a Grade II listed building and carries the inscription 'A well of living waters', it dates to around 1940.

 

The refurbishment and redevelopment of Buxton Crescent & Natural Baths was made possible with the support of

Enchanting Buxton

In Buxton, healing water isn’t the only thing that’s multi-faceted. The resort town’s enchanting atmosphere, natural beauty, and hospitality will win you over.

Experience an unforgettable spa or wellness holiday.

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