Most architects would hate to see their handiwork fall into disrepair, but it’s a sad reality when so many factors play into the success of a building. It almost makes restorations and refurbishing seem like a love letter to the original creator. And, make no mistake, the long, arduous 20-year process to restore the near-derelict Georgian architectural treasure that is the Buxton Crescent back to a wellness destination can only be seen as a labor of love.
“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.”
Originally designed by architect John Carr, the Buxton Crescent had been commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire himself, William Cavendish, and built as a collection of lodging houses and hotels, along with an assembly room. By 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.
Unconventional Builds Lead to Unique Reimagining
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. The entire process of the bringing the hotel and spa back to life has taken the collective input of heritage and government bodies as well as hospitality, design, engineering and geology experts.
Where possible the original stone, glass and wood featured have been preserved, even finding their way into the design of the newer extension. 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 reimagined 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.”
Another version of this article previously appeared in Hospitality Design.