Pavilion Gardens

Discover 'the finest public gardens of any health resort in Europe'.

By Derbyshire Record Office

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Concert Hall and Pavilion in the Buxton Gardens (1876) by Newman & Co., 69 Southwalk Bridge Road, LondonDerbyshire Record Office

The Pavilion Gardens, Buxton

In the heart of the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire are the Pavilion Gardens. 

These Victorian, Grade II listed gardens, are loved by locals and visitors alike. 

Watercolour of the Crescent, Buxton (1850) by William CowenDerbyshire Record Office

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

Edward Milner

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

The Opening

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.Derbyshire Record Office

The Pavilion

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.

Season tickets for entry into Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, The Buxton Gardens Company Limited, 1884, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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Season ticket for entry into Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, Borough of Buxton, 1951, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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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.

The Buxton illuminations, J. R. Board, 1930, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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Large Concert Hall, Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, J. R. Board, 1930, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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The Sun Lounge in Pavilion Gardens, J. R. Board, c. 1930, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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And the Gardens paid for themselves and the band, and even the shareholders!

Today

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. 

Credits: Story

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery 

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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