The Serpentine Walk in Buxton is a secluded extension of the Pavilion Gardens. Crossing Burlington Road, the path follows the same River Wye and snakes back round again to rejoin the larger expanse of public park. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has some old views of The Serpentine Walk that show how the trail has changed dramatically over the years.
The children posing in the foreground of this black and white postcard are dressed in Victorian fashion, giving us a clue to its age. The background reveals a Serpentine that looks so wild and untamed, it is almost unrecognisable. Only the characteristic bending of the river betrays its location. Over a hundred years ago, this part of Buxton would have been on the fringe of town, decades before the encroachment of an urban sprawl. It must have been wonderful to be a child with all that wilderness to explore.
We fast forward to 1935 for this next image by J.R. Board who ran a photography shop on The Quadrant not too far away. Again, the way the people are dressed confirms its age. We can see clearly that The Serpentine has been trimmed and tidied and supplied with ample seating, probably to suit the more refined expectations of the age. It looks slightly bigger than the park does today, though the house in the background is still there.
There are several prints in Buxton Museum’s collection depicting this view of The Serpentine. The Rustic Bridge must have been an attractive feature at one time but there is no trace of it now. Only the presence of the spire on St. John’s Church in the background is familiar.
The far end of the Serpentine was captured in watercolour by J.W. Keightley in 1962. The painting is currently on display on the landing of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, along with an assortment of rarely-seen artworks from Derbyshire’s collection until Easter. You can plan your visit here.
For those interested in the history of Buxton, adjacent to The Serpentine Walk is the oldest settlement in Buxton; Lismore Fields. My colleague, Joe Perry, has already written about this and it even has its own dedicated website here.
Derbyshire County Council retains copyright for all images in the collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery so please drop us a line at [email protected] if you wish to use them.
Ben Jones, Buxton Museum & Art Gallery for Explore Buxton.