The University of Derby celebrates ten years at Buxton’s historic Devonshire Dome, with a series of celebratory events in the planning.
Prince Charles –who opened the campus in 2006 – put the royal seal of approval on a rescue which saw one of the nation’s most exciting buildings taken off the official “at risk” register and given new life.
Completed in 1789 by the Fifth Duke of Devonshire as a stable for horses serving his Crescent Hotel, it was later donated to a charity by the Seventh Duke as a hospital for the “sick poor” of the Lancashire and Yorkshire cotton towns.
Originally the horses’ exercise circle at its centre was open to the sky, but by 1881 a dome with a diameter of 44.2 metres – at the time the largest unsupported dome in the world – was added to create the enclosed space for a hydropathic hospital which used Buxton natural spa waters at the heart of its cures.
The NHS later took over what had become The Devonshire Royal Hospital, but it was surplus to requirements and closed in 2000 – leaving a Grade II* listed building seemingly without a future, until the University stepped in.
“As someone who is extremely interested in heritage-led projects this is a wonderful example of what can be achieved,” the Prince said at the time. “Projects which aim to bring buildings back to life present a big challenge – but by God, it’s worthwhile in the end.”
He added: “The project has also enjoyed the support of the town of Buxton and I am sure this building, in turn, will make a huge difference to the life of Buxton and the economy itself.”
Studies to be released soon show that the Prince was right – with the 1,500 students and staff making a major contribution to the local economy, as well as raising Buxton’s profile internationally through its work and its overseas undergraduates.
Work to restore the former Royal Devonshire Hospital took over five years to complete with £6 million in grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A further £2.6 million came from the Learning Skills Council, with £1.5 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and £1 million from the Single Regeneration Budget Programme of the East Midlands’ Development Agency.
English Heritage contributed £160,000 itself and was consulted closely to ensure that all restoration work was completed to a high standard with sensitivity to original styles, materials and building methods. Students at Buxton study Hospitality, Events, Tourism and Culinary Arts – with graduates going on to work in such famous hotels and restaurants as Claridge’s in London and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
It is also home to the world’s first – and according to at least one international expert, best – Spa Management degree, based in a purpose-built spa which carries on the hydropathic tradition but with a luxurious twist to provide a real-world learning setting suitable for training the industry’s future managers.
The Buxton Campus also delivers a range of Sport and Outdoor courses, drawing on the area’s dramatic natural landscape to offer unique programmes such as Adventure Sport and Coaching Science.
“The University’s aim is to give young people a brighter future, and we are proud to be doing that in a building which was in need of the same thing, “said John Phillips, University of Derby’s Community Liaison Officer.
For more information on visiting the spa, restaurant, beauty & hair salon, as well as a range of college higher eduation courses, visit: www.derby.ac.uk/campus/campuses/buxton/