People have been attracted to the warm springs here for over three thousand years: worshiping at them; bathing in them; and, nowadays, just drinking the water. The outlines of Iron Age buildings have been identified on the banks of the river Wye, just upstream from the town. Buried under The Crescent are the remnants of a Roman bath-house built for the soldiers stationed in the area. The emperor Hadrian was Buxton’s first famous visitor.
In the 16th century, The Old Hall provided lodgings and bathing facilities for many famous visitors: the prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots; her gaoler, the Earl of Shrewsbury; several of Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers, including her favourite, the Earl of Leicester, and her Secretary of State, Lord Burghley. In Higher Buxton, the oldest part of the town, evidence of other buildings from this early period can be found.
In the late 18th century, the fifth Duke of Devonshire, husband of Georgiana, made it his ambition to create a rival to the then fashionable spa town of Bath and he began his project with The Crescent, shortly followed by The Square and the Great Stables (now the Devonshire Dome).
The names Wedgwood and Darwin featured in the list of visitors. The sixth Duke of Devonshire continued this work, adding many other elegant buildings. By the end of the nineteenth century, Buxton was a very popular spa town and a bi-word for elegance. Buxton was used as a brand name for several luxury products, including an early model of motor car.
For over a hundred years, Buxton was a prosperous spa town and a bustling centre of local commerce, full of dynamic, independent traders proud of their town and always ready to promote it.
The town was severely affected by the social changes brought about by the First World War. Widow’s Peak portrays those changes and the people who were affected by them.