For a small town, Buxton has a remarkable stock of celebrities; see 20 Facts About Buxton Not Many People Know. Often overlooked is Robert Stevenson who was born in Buxton in 1905 and went on to direct some very famous films including Jane Eyre, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing and Herbie Rides Again. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1964 for Mary Poppins; the only time a director has been nominated for directing a Disney film. The glory went to its star Julie Andrews for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Not to be confused with Robert Stevenson the famous Scottish engineer or Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish writer, Buxton’s Robert Stevenson did direct one of the latter namesake’s stories in 1959 with Kidnapped. How Stevenson progressed from a childhood in a quiet town in the north of England to a glamorous career in Hollywood is largely unknown but he must have worked hard to get his place at Cambridge University which presumably opened a few doors for him. Afterwards, he became a title writer for Paramount Newsreel and rose steadily through the ranks of show business to direct British films such as King Solomon’s Mines. A pacifist, Stevenson left for Hollywood in 1939 to avoid conscription in the Second World War and never looked back. He died in California in 1986, aged 81.
A local man of such accomplishment deserves recognition and there is currently a fledgling campaign to have a blue plaque mounted outside his original residence on Park Road. Oddly enough, there is already one a few doors down to mark the former abode of Vera Brittain. It is likely that they both lived here as children early in the twentieth century, unaware that they were destined for fame. If the campaign is successful, Buxton may enjoy the rarity of having two blue plaques on the same road, although there are two on the same house in London (George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf on 29 Fitzroy Square).
As well as being the cradle of Robert Stevenson and Vera Brittain, there are one or two more historical features of note on Park Road. Snow famously stopped a match on the adjacent cricket ground in June, 1975. At the top, if you turn the corner into Carlisle Road, you will find a pair of disused stone gateposts which are the only trace of the majestic yet short-lived Empire Hotel. These imposing sentinels now mark the entrance to the tenements of Chatsworth Lodge. Regardless of its heritage, Park Road makes for a pleasant walk. If you are a visitor to Buxton, you could even stay here at one of its best hotels: Best Western Lee Wood Hotel.
With thanks to Leslie Oldfield