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Schneebath, Devonshire Hospital, Buxton, pre 1934
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
About this image
A patient receiving treatment by means of a schneebath (a cure for rheumatism and painful joints that involved each limb being placed in a separate porcelain bath through which electric currents were run).
The Devonshire Royal Hospital (as it was latterly termed) was constructed as a stable block for the 5th Duke of Devonshire between 1780 and 1789 to the design of John Carr of York. It was square in plan with canted corners and housed 110 horses and also the servants of the guests at the nearby Crescent Hotel, all of which was part of a plan to promote Buxton as a spa town.
In 1859 the by then under-used stables were partly converted into a charity hospital for use by the 'sick poor' coming in from the mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Some 22 years later the Buxton Bath Charity under the chairmanship of Dr William Henry Robertson persuaded the 7th Duke to part with the building in its entirety and it was at this point that the central circular courtyard was covered over by what was for a time the world's largest unsupported dome with a diameter of 44.2 metres (145 feet), this record enduring until 1902. The architect was a local man, Robert Rippon Duke. Further additions included a clock tower and lodge in 1882, surgical wards in 1897, spa baths in 1913, and a dining room and kitchens in 1921.
Initially known as the Devonshire Hospital, in 1934 it became the Devonshire Royal Hospital and was the final hydropathic hospital operating in England when it closed in 2000. It had been listed Grade II-star in 1970 and in 2001 was acquired by the University of Derby who between 2003 and 2006 undertook a major restoration scheme using £4.7 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, transforming the site into their Buxton Campus.