Review of ‘Buxton and the High Peak’, by Bentley, Langham and Wells

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 19th June 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

From The Board Collection
by Bentley, Langham and Wells
Published by Tempus
ISBN 0-7524-3951-0 (2006)

This is the second volume of old photographs compiled by Mike Bentley, Mike Langham and Colin Wells for the Images of England Series. While their earlier book is centred on Buxton itself, this new volume also strays beyond the town to bring nostalgic scenes from as far away as Ambergate, Monyash, Whaley Bridge and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The Board Collection comprises photographs taken by the firm of J.R. Board which opened in Buxton in the 1920s and was still there half a century later. The firm was perfectly placed to record Buxton's transformation from a spa town into a conference town, always with an eye to visitors.

After the business closed, the historic glass-plate negatives were donated to Buxton Museum, where Messrs. Bentley, Langham and Wells took on the unenviable task of cataloguing the entire archive. The image chosen for the cover of their book is literally mouth-watering.

Between the covers are glimpses of a not-quite-forgotten past. We see the old A625 before the 'downfall' of Mam Tor forced its closure; interior scenes reveal coal fires, eiderdowns, cane furniture and potted palms; gents wear spats and hats, and prim ladies are done up the nines in furs, pince-nez and button-strap shoes.

Out of doors there are smoking chimneys (without TV aerials), kerbside petrol pumps, a countryside dotted with telegraph poles, children playing on dusty roads with neither a vehicle nor a road marking in sight. The bustle of working life extends to a lorry piled with milk churns, ex-War Department vehicles being converted to lime spreaders, and shops to meet every need. The window of IXL Laundry entreats passers-by to use their 4-hour shirt service and thus 'Feel Well Dressed', while a 1960s milk bar promotes milk shakes alongside the memorable slogan ‘Drinka Pinta Milka Day’.

Buxton and the High Peak is highly ‘browsable’, especially with a magnifying glass.

Review by Julie Bunting

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