Review of ‘Buxton Hydro’ (Spa Hotel), by Peter Lomas

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

by Peter Lomas
Published by Ashridge Press/Country Books
ISBN 9-781901-214833 (2007)

When Peter Lomas began researching his family history, he little realised that he would uncover enough information for the proverbial book. His discoveries turned out to be inseparable from a rich source of local and social history centred on Buxton.

Similarly, in 1849 the Revd James Shore could hardly have imagined during his time in jail that he would overcome this injustice and move to faraway Buxton, there to establish Malvern House Hydropathic and Homeopathic establishment. Shore had meanwhile taken the water cure at Smedley's Hydro in Matlock, gaining such relief from his rheumatism that he opened his own hydro in the town before transferring his business interests to Buxton.

The story continues through his descendants and in particular the extensive legacy of Herbert Reginald Pomeroy Lomas (HRP), born in 1859 and whose early diaries make fascinating reading here in their own right. Personally observed appearances of Queen Victoria, for instance, describe her as looking anything from merely 'rather cross' to 'most extremely cross'.

In utilising numerous contemporary records and illustrations, Peter Lomas brings to life Buxton in its prime, with all the social demands and complications of catering for the wealthy in an 'honest Hydropathic sanatorium'. In fact the establishment did not have access to the famous natural thermal waters of Buxton; it offered instead waters 'strongly "activated" with added radium' alongside power showers and massages - or rather 'medical rubbing'. Entertainment demanded orchestral concerts, fancy dress balls, recitations and year-round outdoor sports.

HRP expanded his business interests to the extent that he was second only to the Duke of Devonshire as a property owner in Buxton. In his hands Malvern House became the palatial Buxton Hydro Hotel, where 500 sat down to Christmas Dinner in 1924 amidst claims that a further 700 were turned away 'from sheer lack of accommodation'. Changing times brought moves towards attracting healthy guests to what next became the Spa Hotel, the last incarnation of a magnificent institution that met a sad and ignominious end. Its story is paid full tribute in this new publication from Ashridge Press/Country Books.

Review by Julie Bunting

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