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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Buxton, The Empire Hotel

Buxton's Empire Hotel opened on 24 May 1901[1]. It had 300 rooms and there were hydraulic lifts, electric light and every modern comfort. It had been built on an elevated site and the "Illustrated London News" thought it was like "a stately old mansion of the time of Charles II"[2].

The hotel was in spacious grounds half a mile from the town centre and it was chosen by the reserve battalion of the 6th Notts and Derbyshires as their HQ at the beginning of World War One. On 2nd November 1914 the first company of 184 men arrived from Chesterfield. During that week a thousand men were to arrive and be quartered at Buxton whilst they were undergoing their Army training. Upon their arrival they marched direct to the hotel, the headquarters for both the officers and men. The Colonel in charge was Colonel J. Morton Clayton[3].

The hotel was run by Spiers and Pond but had been temporarily vacant, which is why it was chosen, and the soldiers must have initially thought their accommodation was relatively good. Far better than in a tent in a frozen field. There was an up to date heating installation in the basement and electric plant, all run by the hotel's permanent staff. The spacious grounds were tended by the hotel's gardeners[4]. Nevertheless, the hotel was a summer hotel and in severe wintry weather snow and rain drove in on the west side and the wind blew up through the floor boards[5]. The soldiers could do some of their drills within the grounds although most were done on Fairfield Common.

The first recruits to arrive had come from Ashbourne, Buxton, Chapel en le Frith, Chesterfield, Clay Cross and Staveley. They were to be joined by men from Matlock, Whaley Bridge and Wirksworth[4] and it was the New Mills contingent who provided the Brass Band[5].

Amongst the officers was Lieutenant H. Douglas of Matlock, "the well known rifle shot". Harry Douglas had been promoted from the ranks, along with Lieut. Roberts of Hasland[4].

Several Matlock men were destined for early promotion to non-commissioned ranks, too, and their names were announced in early December:

Matlock Half Company, Pte. W. H. Rylands, to sergeant
Matlock Half Company, Pte. C. F. White, [son of Charles White of Matlock Bath, the chief political agent for the Liberal party in W. Derbyshire], to corporal
Matlock Half Company, Pte. P. Farnsworth, to corporal
Matlock Half Company, Pte. Walter Richardson, to Lance-corporal
Matlock Half Company, Pte. L. W. Wildgoose, to Lance-corporal
Others were named, but were not of Matlock[6].

The name of Pte. Edgar Harry Barnwell of Henry Avenue, the son of the watchmaker, had been expected to be included in the list but he not mentioned[7]. However, a few weeks later he was appointed to staff billets (Quarternaster's Office) and W. S. F. Lennox of Matlock Bath was working in the battalion orderly room[8].

On 3 February 1915 they moved to Luton[9]. The Hotel re-opened for the summer season on 15 July 1915. Buxton's premier hotel had been redecorated[10].

The Empire subsequently served as a discharge depot for Canadian troops. Sadly for the hotel, it was considered a white elephant in the inter war years. It had not been occupied since 1921 but in 1927 it was proposed that the hotel should be used for research and laboratory work[11]. A few years earlier, at an auction in 1922, the reserve price for the hotel's sale was not reached. Lyons Cafe had considered it as a rest home for their employees but nothing came of it. The deeds of the hotel prevented it from being used for trade. It was still empty in 1932 when it was reputed to be being considered for a boy's college[12].

From then on things went downhill for the property. In 1949 about 12 bailiffs and 60 policemen set about evicting 17 families, who were squatting, and had barricaded themselves into the building[13]. The hotel that had shown so much promise was eventually demolished in the 1960s.

It is believed that, despite the caption, the above image was taken after the first war. The grounds and the area immediately surrounding the building are not as immaculate as they appear in some of the earlier pictures, both from when it was used as an hotel and during the Sherwood Foresters' and the Canadians' time in Buxton.

The Empire Hotel is featured in the
Vernon Lamb Archive elsewhere on the site.

The Archive is a unique Photographic Record of Matlock and District, 1910-1915, and World War One Soldiers in the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters, 1914-1915.

Go to the various sections that show soldiers.

"Empire Hotel, Buxton". Postcard published by Kingsway Real Photo Series. Unused. The caption also states that the hotel was "Head quarters of the Reserve Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. Notts & Derby Regiment".
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Buxton Advertiser", 25 May 1901.

[2] "Buxton Advertiser", 1 June 1901.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 November 1914. The War. Sixth Notts & Derbyshire Territorials. Reserve Battalion at Buxton.

[4] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 28 November 1914.

[5] WO 95/3025/3, Regimental War Diary, 1914 - 1916, TNA: section written Nov 1914 See VLA 4879 and VLA9771.

[6] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 4 December 1914. Philip Farnsworth was Killed in Action and is commemorated on Matlock's War Memorial. W. H Rylands was also a War Casualty.

[7] Edgar Barnwell, who was born in Matlock on 24 Dec 1890, survived the war. He married and in 1939 was living in Heaton Mersey, Manchester with his wife Jessie and was working as a Civil Servant for the Ministry of Pensions.

[8] Derbyshire Courier 26 December 1914.

[9] From WO 95/3025/3, Battalion's War Diary, 1914 - 1916, TNA.

[10] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 14 July 1915.

[11] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 14 November 1927.

[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 7 May 1932.

[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 7 December 1949.

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Harry Douglas & Fellow Officers, Empire Hotel Buxton, Dec 1914