It is natural for people to affectionately remember places that were once part of their daily lives. A town the size and age of Buxton has seen many changes. Businesses have changed hands countless times and shop fronts have transformed with the fashions of the age. These seven buildings are just a selection of notable structures that have vanished from the landscape altogether.
Cavendish Girl’s School, Corbar Road
For nearly 300 years, Buxton had segregated comprehensive schools. The boys went to Buxton College on College Road, now the co-educational Community School. No longer required, the girl’s school was flattened in the 1990s and swiftly replaced by a housing estate. I did the first year of my English A Level here and I recall that having to cross the playground as a shy teenager through a swarm of young ladies was a minor test of courage. There was a well-established belief that the place was a psychiatric hospital before it was a school but I’ve never come across any evidence to back up this claim.
Buxton Youth Hostel, Harpur Hill Road
Considering Buxton’s proximity to the Peak National Park, it seems peculiar that it doesn’t have a youth hostel. For many years, there was one at the bottom of Harpur Hill Road. The impressive Victorian building closed in 2002 and was demolished not long afterwards so I assume that it needed repairs beyond the means of the YHA.
Empire Hotel, Park Road
The Empire Hotel was essentially a failed business. There was nothing wrong with the original turn-of-the-century vision; a majestic palace for 300 wealthy guests to stay in the heart of one of England’s most beloved spa towns. In 1901, however, no one could foresee the advent of two world wars and the Empire never got its anticipated amount of clients. It became a depot for Canadian soldiers after the First World War and was wiped off the face of the map after falling into disrepair in 1964.
High Peak College, Harpur Hill
This windswept fortress of higher education opened in 1966 and was demolished only forty years later when it was replaced by the University of Derby which occupies the undeniably prettier Devonshire Dome. Despite its short lifespan, High Peak College is fondly remembered by its former students who came here to study subjects as diverse as welding, catering, hairdressing and Judo. The decision to put a college on the remotest edge of Buxton at the top of the enormous summit of Harpur Hill was an interesting one and its students faced a challenge just to get there, although it did offer residency for the hardcore few.
Films are shown regularly at the Arts Centre in the Pavilion Gardens but it seems a pity that a town the size of Buxton doesn’t have a full-time cinema. A few have come and gone, most notably the Picture House at the end of Spring Gardens, which was condemned in the 1980s. I recall queueing up to see Ghostbusters when I was a teenager, hardly able to contain my excitement but generations before me will also have fond memories of this place all the way back to the early 1900s.
Market Hall, Market Place
The Market Hall is the only location on this list to have been unintentionally lost. Some modern day residents have questioned the logic of running an outdoor market in the one of the coldest and wettest place in the UK. Many years ago, they enjoyed the luxury of an indoor version until it burnt down in 1885. This rare photograph is a sombre vision of the traders whose livelihood went up in smoke. It’s curious to modern eyes that the photographer, B.W. Bentley, has gathered them all together to pose amongst the ruin but it remains a powerful testimony to the human cost of a tragic event.
Milligans, Spring Gardens
After working at Buxton Museum for nearly twenty years, it seems that the most affectionately remembered of all local shops was Milligans, founded in 1846, demolished in the 1970s and later rebuilt: Argos currently occupies the spot. E.C. Milligan’s Drapery and Milliner’s (hat-making) shop, to give its full title, is remembered by older residents who tearfully recount tales of how magical it was to visit, often compared to Grace Bros.in 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? Apparently, there was a gentleman “floor walker” in charge of the shop and money was sent upstairs to the accounts department in an air tube! This photo was taken around 1940 and it is interesting to note the colonnades that once protected visitors from the elements for the entire length of Spring Gardens.
Ben Jones is currently Visitor Services Officer for lottery-funded project Collections in the Landscape. He is helping to develop Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s facilities for its re-opening in May 2017. You can read more about the project at collectionsinthelandscape.wordpress.com
The black and white photographs are from the collection of J.R. Board who had a photography shop in The Quadrant in Buxton from the 1920s to the 1970s. Buxton Museum cares for some of the collection, which provides an invaluable insight into the history of the town. If you wish to reproduce any of the images, please contact [email protected]. There are many more to see on www.picturethepast.org.uk