Town and former spa in Derbyshire, central England, 54 km/34 mi northwest of Derby, on the River Wye, surrounded by the Peak District National Park; population (2001) 20,800. At about 300 m/984 ft above sea level, Buxton is the highest town of its size in England. Known from Roman times for its hot springs, it is now a tourist centre and a source for bottled mineral water.
The Roman settlement of Aquae Arnemetiae was founded in the area in about AD 79, the Romans being attracted by the natural spring water supplied at a constant temperature of 28°C/82°F. In the Middle Ages the town became a centre of pilgrimage, and Mary Queen of Scots was treated for rheumatism at the spa. In the 1780s, under the guidance of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, the Crescent and other buildings were built, modelled on the architecture of the fashionable spa town of Bath.
Features include the Devonshire Royal Hospital (1859), which was originally an 18th-century stables; its wide dome is 48 m/156 ft in diameter. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery displays the history of the Peak District. Pavilion Gardens (1871) contains a hot house with tropical plants. Buxton Country Park, to the southwest of the town, includes Poole's Cavern, a limestone cave near the source of the Wye, which has large chambers with complex stalactite and stalagmite formations. The cave has been used by humans since Neolithic times. Other features are St Ann's Well, a place of pilgrimage from the Middle Ages; and the Micrarium (1790), which displays exhibits as seen through a microscope, situated in the old Pump Room. Buxton has an annual well-dressing ceremony and carnival which starts on the second Sunday in July. Well-dressing is an ancient ceremony involving the blessing of the water-supply, and has recently been revived for the tourist industry. There is an annual international festival of opera from mid-July to early-August, located mainly in the Buxton Opera House (1903).
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