RIBA East Midlands

The Crescent, Buxton

The Royal Crescent, Buxton

John Aikin, A description of the country from thirty to forty miles round Manchester (London, 1795), before p. 491
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection

The Crescent, Buxton (1740-1743)

Architect: John Carr (1723-1807)

Before the eighteenth century, Buxton was off the map: a small, isolated market town, the highest in England. However, with the vogue for spas, the mineral springs here became an asset, something that the local landowners, the Dukes of Devonshire, were determined to exploit. Here, Neo-Palladianism was used for pleasure and business.

The town's most celebrated piece of architecture is The Crescent, by John Carr (1780-86). This clearly owes much to Bath's Royal Crescent, but is smaller, semi-circular, more richly decorated and altogether more complex.

This magnificent curving terrace was built to incorporate shops on the ground floor, two hotels, accommodation and assembly rooms. This combination of functions continues to this day; The Crescent remains the centre of town life.

The façades appear close to Inigo Jones's designs for Covent Garden Piazza, the earliest Palladian town planning in Britain. Carr's arcade is heavily rusticated, its many rounded arches crowding around the semi-circular plaza. These support the upper storeys, with their giant order, deep balustrades and many windows. Together these create an intense, profoundly urban set-piece, different in mood to John Wood the Younger's Royal Crescent, Bath. Perhaps, Carr's crescent was influenced by other sources, including the drawings by Jones and Palladio in the Dukes of Devonshire's collection?


Find out more about The Crescent, Buxton with resources from the RIBA British Architectural Library:

Pevsner, N. and Williamson E. The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, (Harmondsworth, 1978) 

Summerson, J. Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830 (London, 1953 and later editions)

Wragg, R.B. A Bath on the Peak. Country Life, vol. 164, no. 4226, 1978 Jul 6, p. 42-44


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