THE BUXTON GROUP
It was a day early in September 1991 when a letter appeared in the Buxton Advertiser from a Mr Trevor Gilman. He was asking for anyone who felt as frustrated as he did about the state of the Crescent to contact him.
I had been concerned for some time about the Crescent. The library had been moved out because the floor was unsafe, and the hotel had been closed down by the Health & Safety inspectors.
I phoned Trevor and he said there would be a meeting at his house on Windsor Road on Friday September 13th. On the said date, 25 people attended. We discussed a lot and decided to gather information for the next meeting on October 3rd. Trevor was voted Chairman, myself as Secretary and Jill Leyden as Treasurer and Membership Secretary.
It was agreed to call ourselves The Buxton Group and Trevor drafted out the aims and objectives and also a constitution. During the next few weeks the Duke of Devonshire was visited by Trevor, Ros McCoola, Glyn Jones and Geoff Wilkinson. The Duke graciously agreed to become our patron, wrote to Michael Heseltine, and promised to show HRH Prince Charles round the Crescent on his next visit to Chatsworth. In addition he wrote to other MP’s who were involved in Heritage issues.
A dialogue of correspondence took place between the Group and Ministers for the Environment, namely David Trippier and Baroness Blatch, over the next few months.
On the 29th October 1991, the Duke and Ros McCoola (Vice-
In February, Ros McCoola resigned as Vice Chairman due to her deteriorating health, and was made President, with Linda Cluckie taking over her position. In June Trevor resigned as Chairman, though still deeply committed to the Group, and Linda took over as Acting Chairman until the AGM. Subsequent meetings were held in the Old Hall, where Louise Potter (a founder member) let us have a room. Linda was elected Chairman in 1993 for one year when Brian George took over for the next two years. Trevor returned as Chairman in 1995.
In May 1992 Charles Hendry (Conservative M P for the High Peak) met the Group. About this time we met John Thornhill, founder of The Derbyshire Trust, a management group, who had grandiose plans for the Crescent.
Graham Fairbairn (proprietor of the Grosvenor House Hotel) quoted discontented visitors saying they were not coming back to the town again, and suggested a petition. On Saturday June 27th 1992, 35 members of the Group spent the day canvassing signatures for the petition which was presented to parliament on October 16th by Charles Hendry.
The Duke spoke on Radio Derby on July 29th and in August 1992 the Bank of Egypt sold St Ann’s Hotel to a new company, Capitalrise Ltd. The Group pressured HPBC to place signs outside the Crescent to inform people what was happening, and this was done in September. At this time English Heritage stepped in and started working with HPBC to arrest the deterioration of the building. Charles Hendry met the Group again in the Shrewsbury Room of the Old Hall on September 23rd.
Capitalrise were given until March 8 1993 to produce their plans for repairs to the west side of the building. These were not forthcoming and HPBC made a compulsory purchase order for that side of the building, with Derbyshire County Council selling the east side to the Borough Council shortly afterwards. Repairs to the roof of the Crescent started in May 1994 and lasted 8 months. Discussions between English Heritage and the County and Borough Council’s on a marketing strategy for the building were revealed to the public, and the Buxton Group were formally invited to comment on the plans.
In February 1996 English Heritage gave money for repairs to the east side, and an exhibition of plans for the Crescent, Natural Baths and Pump Room was held in the old library on December 2nd and 3rd 1996.
In January 1997, Trevor and Sheila were invited to the official opening of The Crescent by Jocelyn Stephens (Chairman of English Heritage). A plaque was unveiled in the ante room next to the Assembly Rooms, followed by a buffet lunch in the Pavilion Gardens.
Although the Buxton Group was primarily set up to draw attention to the state of the Crescent, we have since attempted to influence many other issues that affect residents and visitors alike.
It was in March 1993 that we first suggested that there should be toilets in the Spring Gardens Centre. Since then we have been in correspondence with the succession of different owners of the Centre, finally achieving a result when plans were drawn and approved and work was due to start in Autumn 2000. Unfortunately, Marks & Spencer's and Somerfield wanted the work delaying until the New Year as they felt it would affect their pre Christmas trading. Early in 2001 Derby University announced their plans to move to the town, and the toilet plans were abandoned due to a possible expansion of the Centre!
We were closely involved in the plans for the refurbishment of the Pavilion Gardens In February 1996, a group of members toured the Gardens with Peter Storrie (the architect) and discussed the features they remembered from their youth, suggesting what items should be restored. Trevor and Kathy Roberts were invited to attend the launch of the restoration.
As a result of pressure from the Group, the windows were replaced in the roof of the Octagonal Hall in 1994.
We have been represented at all the Buxton Partnership (formerly Brighter Buxton) meetings.
In September 1995 the closure of the Devonshire Royal Hospital was announced. The Buxton Group was concerned to maintain the level of health facilities in the town, and instigated the High Peak Health Forum, with representatives from across the community. Following meetings with the MP for High Peak, English Heritage and NHS Estates became involved.
All planning proposals have been scrutinised, and many commented on over the years. A particular one that we were involved with was the application to build houses on land to the north west of St Johns Road. Although a development brief was produced for the site, no further action has been taken.
The Taylor Well has now been restored with a new urn having been fabricated. The pipe work is being installed at the present time, and as soon as the well is in position, the Group will present a cheque for £500 to representatives from the HPBC, together with a feature in the Buxton Advertiser. This must rank as one of the Group’s major achievements.
Sheila Morten (Secretary)