“A Moment in Time for Buxton”
The Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust hosted an update event at the Devonshire Dome on Tuesday 4th December. The event featured a number of speakers who gave details of their involvement of the redevelopment project and answered questions from the floor.
Kate Dickson from Creative Heritage Consultants Ltd presented a review of the Heritage Skills Programme they delivered giving local tradesmen, students and homeowners experience of what was happening on the site during summer 2017. They toured the building and learnt about the heritage skills and techniques which were being used during the restoration.
Following Kate, Richard Tuffrey from HPBC gave a recap of the ownership and management structure of the Crescent and confirmed the arrangements for public access. Andrew Ryan and Cary Hadfield from Vinci Construction then spoke about some of the challenges of the restoration.
Points of interest include:
- Building Structure – there was intent to keep the original structure of the building but understanding how it was built—the methods, intent and designs—through reverse engineering and how it was still standing proved the greatest challenge. Modern codes and calculations would not fit the model and suggest it shouldn’t work. Engineers found the western Pavilion was about the collapse. It was so severe they had to evacuate and create an exclusion zone. It took 16 weeks before work could re-start and that was just to make it safe so surveys could be carried out. It then took a further 18 months to plan, design and install a solution. The work is a great achievement and has been entered into the Awards for Civil Engineering.
- Chimney Repairs – the first-floor and above fireplaces were found to be “floating in mid-air” unsupported from below. Temporary repairs had to be made to make the area safe in order to carry out surveys.
- Timber Trusses – few were not repaired or replaced. Vinci were expecting isolated areas needing work, not the whole building
- Historic Timber – any timber removed will be stored and reused as much as possible
- New Timber – this is not the same timber used as original. It is structural grade timber. The Duke of Devonshire has admitted his “ancestors were not very great builders”.
- New Stonework – the same stone is being used as the original building. It is from Stanton Moor Quarry which was also used to build Chatsworth. The quarry is now closed but Vinci managed to get some of the last quarried blocks. Some of the bottles and friezes needed attention and the Cavendish crest was poorly worn. A completely new crown has been made, hard-carved to replicate the original.
- Plaster – much of the ornate plastering just needed a wash and a little repair work but some needed replacing. Half of the Cordolova wallpaper in the Blue Room had fallen down. Vinci worked with the University of Lincoln who made a mould and generated a panel of the repeating pattern which was used to create new pieces.
- Tiles – not much work has been done on these yet but Vinci are working to create exact replicas or the remaining tiles.
- Window Glazing – it has been restored with single glazing, due to its listed status but heating under the windows will prevent condensation and heat loss.
Key points include:
- 5* Hotel – Danubius will not have to adapt their concept of a 5* hotel in order to operate in the historic building but it will be smaller than their European spas.
- Assembly Rooms – there will be 60 days per year for public use of the Assembly Rooms. Details of the public access are not yet confirmed but the “public” must be residents of Derbyshire.
- Heritage Bedrooms – there will be 6 days per year for public use of the heritage bedrooms (those which have been altered less) e.g. for Heritage Open Days
- Pump Room – this will be open with the TIC in January/February. A programme of events has been confirmed from February. It will also be available for hire in the evenings
- Visitor Experience – there will be five rooms in the Crescent for the Trust’s Visitor Experience. Local firm MM&B Studio are currently working on the website which will be launched at the end of January.
- Opening – the hotel and spa are still expected to open in 2019. Preview tours are a possibility.
- Parking – it is still planned for guests to “park elsewhere in Buxton” and valet parking will operate using the Pavilion Gardens car park
- Front Area – the road in front of the Crescent will open to access-only traffic on a one-way system. There will be a water feature and landscaped space which will be used for various activities.
- Back Area – this will have hard landscaping with plants and greenery to soften the elevations
Chairman of the Trust, James Berresford, said the coming year is a “moment in time for Buxton. No other town can boast the assets which Buxton can”. It is one of only two thermal spa towns in the country and The Crescent will be the only true spa hotel.