By Derbyshire Record Office
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Now, let's travel back in time
It was the 1860s and Buxton was expanding fast. The railway had just arrived and during the summer season, 1000s of people visited the town to take the waters. They soaked their aching joints in its thermal baths and drank the mineral water from St Ann’s Well.
Watercolour of the Crescent, Buxton (1850) by William CowenDerbyshire Record Office
In want of rainy day diversion...
They wanted entertainment. Although the Duke of Devonshire's band played twice a day, Buxton was lacking in things to do, especially during wet weather. The band cost the Duke a lot of money, he hoped the town would one day be able to pay for the musicians itself.
Buxton from Pooles Cavern (1868-02-01) by Rock and Co, LondonDerbyshire Record Office
A gift to Buxton
"What is needed is a large building, where music, exercise and social converse can be easily enjoyed"- so proclaimed J. C Bates, one of the founders of the Buxton Improvements Company. In 1870, the Duke gave 15 acres of the Old Hall Hotel’s gardens to the town.
Exh Bait (London) 1852 Or (Crystal Palace Only - After Great Exhibition)LIFE Photo Collection
The Buxton Improvements Company employed Edward Milner to design the buildings and gardens. He was a well-regarded landscape gardener who had recently assisted Joseph Paxton on the Crystal Palace project.
The opening of the new Gardens & Pavilion at Buxton (1871-08-12) by Buxton AdvertiserDerbyshire Record Office
In less than a year, the project was complete. The Duke of Devonshire officially opened the Gardens on 10th August 1871. He hoped it would generate enough income to pay for the band.
The Lake in the Buxton Gardens (1870/1880) by Newman & Co. and J. C BatesDerbyshire Record Office
The Pavilion contained a central hall flanked on both sides by conservatories. It was built from cast-iron, lit by gas lights and heated with hot water pipes. Buxton finally had a comfortable place to listen to the band and promenade under cover.
Finally, a bandstand
When the sun shone, visitors could listen to the band outdoors. They now had their own bandstand!
Promenading for health and leisure
It had 12 acres of pleasure grounds to explore. 5 bridges were built, 2 miles of paths laid out, 2 cascades created on the river Wye and 5000 trees and shrubs were planted.
Sheltering from a shower (1879) by William Giles BaxterDerbyshire Record Office
Sheltering from a shower
The project was a success. Within three years it became necessary to extend the buildings.
The Concert Hall and Pavilion in the Buxton Gardens (1876) by Newman & Co., 69 Southwalk Bridge Road, LondonDerbyshire Record Office
The Concert Hall, opened on 30th August 1876
The Concert Hall, now known as the Octagon, was designed by Robert Ripon Duke. It was built on the site of the Dutch Gardens.
Detail from a hand coloured map of Buxton (1898) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
The gardens were also extended and improved.
The skating rink opened in 1876. In summer, it was used for roller skating and in the winter for curling. The boating lake was designed so the water level could be lowered to around 40cm. This made it safe for ice skating.
The Lake, Buxton Gardens (c. 1910) by unknownDerbyshire Record Office
Summer fun in the Gardens
Ice skating on the boating lake in Pavilion Gardens, Buxton (1900) by R. F. HunterDerbyshire Record Office
Winter fun in the Gardens
Pavilion Orchestra (1897) by unknownDerbyshire Record Office
To raise income, the band played… and played…
Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, plus often a third recital in the afternoon. However, the admission charge priced out most locals. Many were in uproar over the loss of their free riverside walks.
The entry charge wasn't abolished until the 1960s
The Oriental Tea Kiosk in Pavilion Gardens, Buxton (1914) by unknownDerbyshire Record Office
And picnics where banned!
In 1899 the Oriental Tea Kiosk was built. It initially served afternoon teas in the continental manner. It lasted less than a century, being dismantled in 1977 before it fell into the river.
The reverse of this postcard, dated 1914, talks of the of arrival of soldiers.
Soldiers in the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton (1915-07) by unknownDerbyshire Record Office
World War One - the soldiers arrive
Over 10,000 soldiers were billeted to the town, with troops staying in all the large hotels and camping on Fairfield Common. The Royal Engineers were granted the use of Pavilion Gardens. They practiced building bridges and pontoons and used the buildings for lectures and drills.
Pavilion Gardens, Buxton (1936) by J. R. BoardDerbyshire Record Office
With the war over, Buxton was on the up
Buxton was once again booming and thousands of visitors were arriving to take the waters. The Pavilion hosted dances, concerts, comedy nights and conferences. In the Gardens, there were croquet and tennis tournaments, roller skating and boating.
And the Gardens paid for themselves and the band, and even the shareholders!
Much of the Victorian gardens are still recognisable today. You can go boating on the lake, visit the Pavilion for refreshments and attend events in the Octagon.
The gardens have expanded further and now contain sculptures, playgrounds and a minatare railway.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery