‘Taking the waters’ at Buxton in 1800

The majority of us will have come across Buxton Water which today is sold commercially bottled, but what was known about Buxton and its health-giving water in 1800?

buxton-water-image

The Georgians had an obsession with their health, and there were several popular spa towns frequented in the late Georgian/Regency periods, Buxton being one of them. We thought we would find out what the writer William Bott had to say about the lovely Derbyshire town of Buxton in 1800 in his book ‘A description of Buxton, and the adjacent country; or the new guide, for Ladies and Gentlemen, Resorting to that place of health and amusement’. Please note this is in no way us endorsing Buxton water although, if you had been reading this in 1800 you would have thought it was, although even today it’s possibly to drink it directly from the source.

St Ann's Well, Buxton via The Megalithic Portal
St Ann’s Well, Buxton via The Megalithic Portal

The salubrity of the air and the excellent quality of the water, are entitled to very particular and distinguished notice, on account of both their very ancient reputation and great usefulness.

A range of buildings constructed in the form of a crescent, has however, been lately erected which for beauty and magnificence exceeds any other in this part of the kingdom, the space being two hundred and fifty-seven feet wide, an elegant stone balustrade extends the whole length of the front, with the arms of the Cavendish family neatly carved in wood, fixed in the centre. This Crescent consists of four private lodging house, two hotels and the assembly room; the latter of which forms a part of the larger hotel, and is seventy-five feet six inches long, thirty-two feet two inches wide and thirty feet high.

buxton-crescent-banner
Buxton Crescent, courtesy of Buxton online.net

It is not possible to ascertain with exactness the number of company who resort to Buxton every season, but it is computed that the public buildings and private lodgings will accommodate above seven hundred persons, besides the inhabitant of the place and it is well known, that for some years past several persons have occasionally been obliged to procure lodgings in the neighbouring villages.

There are circumstance attending the use of Buxton water, of which it may not improper to take notice. When drank in considerable quantity, it is found to possess a binding and heating quality, and is productive of many feverish symptoms; with a view, however, of preventing such disagreeable effects, it is usual to recommend a gentle purgative to keep the body open. These waters in common with a great many others, are observed upon first drinking to affect the head with a sort of giddiness, attended with a sense of universal fullness and drowsiness, but after using them a few days, the sensations go off and are seldom or never perceived afterwards. The spirit is different in different waters and in most appears so extremely fugitive, that it immediately flies off when exposes to the air; all waters therefore are best whether drank at the fountain head. Pure water, as it betrays neither taste nor smell, must be admirably calculated to correct the acrimonious state of the fluids, from whatever cause it may arise, and if anything upon earth can be considered as a universal remedy, it must be water.

A uniform course of this pure element, assisted by exercise, and a proper regime of diet, will do more in some diseases than anything we know of.

Smith, John Rubens; The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-crescent-buxton-derbyshire-60625
The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire by John Rubens Smith, c,1837; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

As you read on, the list of restorative properties of Buxton water reads like a ‘cure for whatever may ail you‘ everything from bilious colic to rheumatism.  The recommendation for drinking the water being somewhere in the region of 3 pints per day – ‘if your stomach can bear and the nature of the case requires it’.  The period for drinking the waters is from the beginning of April until the beginning of November.

the-baths

Bathing

The chief properties of Buxton water for bathing, which it very widely differs, from both Bath and Bristol, for in the one, the waters are too hot, and in the other too cold – Buxton being just right.

Who knew?

The poor at their bath are not only exempted from all charge, but also met with great assistance and support from the charitable contributions of the company who resort to Buxton, it being customary for every newcomer, if he stay more than one day, to give one shilling for their use, which is collected and taken care of by the ‘steward of the house’ in which he happens to lodge; and the sum raised in this way in the course of the season, has some years past been very considerable; the common weekly allowance to the poor is six shillings and should any of them be more weak and necessitous it is usual to add something more.

Travel to Buxton

post-roads

Pleasure

People not only attended Buxton for its waters, but also for leisure activities and Bott goes on to describe places worthy of a visit, including Pool’s hole (now known as Poole’s Cavern);  Castleton, Speedwell mine, Mam Torr, Matlock, Tideswell and Litton Mills, Dovedale and of course Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire.  The list of places he recommended worthy of a  visit is endless.

chats
Chatsworth House photograph taken June 2016

 

Featured Image:

Buxton Market Place, Derbyshire, unknown artist, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

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