Restoring a near-derelict, Georgian architectural treasure was never going to be straightforward. But the 20-year, $90-million effort to refurbish the Grade I-listed Buxton Crescent Hotel and spa in England’s Peak District has taken the collective input of heritage and government bodies as well as hospitality, design, engineering, and geology experts. “We don’t give in easily,” says Trevor Osborne, whose eponymous property group developed the Ensana-operated hotel in partnership with CP Holdings. “The complexities we faced were multifold, from ensuring the integrity of the thermal water springs below the buildings to reinforcing the structure of the degraded historic fabric, and introducing modern standards of luxury comparable to Europe’s finest spa hotels.”
Commissioned in 1780 by William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, Buxton Crescent was designed by architect John Carr as a collection of lodging houses, hotels, and an assembly room—their collective façade fashioned out of local gritstone into an imposing arc, complete with columns and arcaded walkways. Tapping into the natural spring welling up on his land, Cavendish envisioned Buxton as a chic spa town with the pulling power to attract high society, something it achieved into the Victorian era.
While “Carr was a great designer,” says Osborne, “he wasn’t a great builder,” and so the present-day architects had to deal with dizzyingly complex spatial planning, climatic damage, and bizarre structural anomalies including fireplaces suspended on timber.
Where restoration has allowed, the project team has preserved stone, glass, and wood features, even working traditional elements into the new extension. In the restaurant, intricate plastered ceilings and the external crescent sandstone wall is showcased within contemporary interiors. Lead designer Marc Dorrian of the firm Curious, which has offices in London, Glasgow, and Dubai, notes the grandeur of the assembly room, which lives on in “original chandeliers, gilt-topped Corinthian columns, and an ornate ceiling.” The bar, “full of interesting character,” benefits from the addition of leather, eglomise mirror, antique bronze, and wallcoverings that are an homage to Charles Darwin’s grandfather, who once favored Buxton’s waters.
But it’s in the spa, a former Victorian bathhouse, where old and new meet most emphatically. “Sitting in harmony with the original ornamental cast-iron beams and pillars, a new stained-glass dome casts calming blue and green hues over the thermal pool below,” explains Dorrian, “while the intimate relaxation pool has a dramatic black barrel ceiling with celestial mood lighting.”
From: Hospitality Design
✅ free Wi-Fi • size matters: 81 rooms & suites (20-52m2) (215-560 sq ft) • hotel opened: 1789 • interior design: Curious (London) • on-site parking (charged) • pets allowed on request • 24-hour front desk