Buxton, Derbyshire

When I first had the idea to visit every railway station in Derbyshire, I had completely forgotten that Derbyshire is absolutely massive, and it stretches out towards Manchester and Cheshire in the north.

In the good old days of railways, getting to Buxton from Burton on Trent would have been simple; just a short ride up to Derby, then a direct train from there to the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway’s terminus at Buxton. However, thanks to Doctor Beeching and his axe in the 1960s, it’s a bit more difficult these days. I did look into getting there by train, but it would take four trains to get there and four back, travelling for six and a half hours, and I wouldn’t get much change out of £50. So then I thought about getting a bus instead.

My journey started from Burton on Trent at 7:30am on Thursday 27th April when I caught the train to Derby. I then had an eye-watering 55 minute wait for a train to Matlock. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring my earphones, and I had downloaded a football magazine onto my phone, so I spent the time reading that and listening to some tunes.

Almost two years to the day since my last visit to Matlock, I arrived there and was immediately perplexed by the scene outside the railway station. There is building work going on in the town centre, I believe it’s to do with the flood defences, so I had to find a different route over the Derwent Bridge to find the bus station. I asked Google Maps for directions there, but it led me to the top of a multi-storey car park. It turns out the bus stop I needed was underneath the car park.

The bus arrived, and took just over an hour to get to Buxton from Matlock. The weather was cloudy, but Derbyshire still looked impressive as the bus wound its way through Darley Dale, Bakewell, Taddington, among other places I quite fancy visiting one day.

Upon arrival at Buxton Market Place, I stopped off at a supermarket to buy lunch, then headed down the road to the Pavilion Gardens, with its winding pathways, giant lake and pretty floral displays.

The Pavilion Gardens were created between 1869 and 1871 and were designed by Edward Milner, an apprentice of Joseph Paxton, whose most famous design was the Crystal Palace in London.

Buxton Opera House

The world famous Buxton Opera House was opened in 1903, designed by Frank Matcham, designer of the London Palladium and Coliseum. It opened as a theatre, but soon became a cinema when sound was wired into the building and it could present those new-fangled “talkies” in the 1930s. It fell into decline in the 1970s, and closed in 1976. It re-opened after a refurbishment in 1979, and has played host to the likes of Howard Jones, Peter Kay, Ken Dodd and Leo Sayer.

Just around the corner of the Opera House is the magnificent Buxton Crescent, built between 1780-1789 for the 5th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish.

Almost a full panorama of Buxton Crescent

Buxton Crescent was built as part of William Cavendish’s scheme to establish Buxton as a fashionable spa town. Much like the Opera House, it has had a multitude of uses over the years, including as St Ann’s Hotel (some faded hotel signs are still visible today), council offices and a library. Also like the Opera House, it fell into disrepair and work to refurbish the site began in the 1980s and 1990s, and it re-opened as a spa hotel in 2020.

In front of the Crescent is the old Victorian Pump House, which now houses the Buxton Visitor Centre, where tours of the area can be undertaken. Adjacent to that is St Ann’s Well, which continually pumps out Buxton spring water, the very same which is sold in bottles. The Romans used the well as a water supply to the settlement of Aquae Arnemetiae, the predecessor to modern day Buxton. Several different buildings were built around the well over the years; the current well dates from 1940 and has a brass lion’s head as its spout.

The Slopes is the name of the sloped park and walkways in front of the Crescent, and it is also home to the town’s impressive war memorial. It also provides spectacular views over the town.

At the bottom of the Slopes is Turner’s Memorial, built in memory of Samuel Turner. Mr. Turner (1804–1876) was a local man who did a lot for the town, including helping to bring the railway to the town in the 19th century. His memorial stood from 1886 until 1959, when it was knocked over by a van. It remained in storage until 1994, when it was re-erected in the town.

Although I didn’t catch a train to or from Buxton, I had to go and have a look at the station (I don’t count this as a ‘visited’ station. After ticking off Polesworth and Newark North Gate stations without having got on or off a train there, I thought it would be remiss to have a third one. I’ll be back, though). On the way to the station, I passed the offices of Brooke-Taylor’s solicitors, the family company of the late Goodies star Tim Brooke-Taylor, who was born in Buxton.

Buxton’s only remaining station, the old London & North Western Railway station, was opened in June 1863, exactly two weeks after the Midland Railway’s rival station in the town. The two rival railway companies both wanted to build stations in the town, but the town’s leaders requested that they be built side-by side, and to similar designs in keeping with the town’s architecture. This must have been confusing for visitors to and from Buxton, seeing as the distinctive fan window was incorporated into the design of both stations. The Midland Railway’s station was closed in 1967 and subsequently demolished. A road was built on the site of the station, but some of the line (including the viaduct pictured above) remains to serve local quarries. The roof of the current station was taken down, leaving just the wall with the fan window.

After leaving the station, I headed to the town centre for a look around the shops, then up a hill to the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery for some culture.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The museum building originally opened in 1880 as the as the Peak Hydropathic Hotel. It became the museum in 1928, and houses many artefacts found nearby by archaeologists over the years, as well as an art gallery. I spent about an hour there before I had to head back to the bus stop for another epic journey home.

Just before leaving the town, I had a quick visit to Scrivener’s Books and Bookbinding shop, a charming independent bookshop over five floors, each one stuffed from ceiling to floor with books. I didn’t have time for a proper browse, unfortunately, but if you like books and you’re in Buxton, go and have a visit.

The journey back was the same as the journey there; bus to Matlock, train to Derby and then the train back to Burton on Trent. I was exhausted by the end of it, but I will be back one day to visit the Derbyshire stations on the line from Buxton, including Dove Holes and Whaley Bridge.

Thanks very much for reading.


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