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© Peter Lomas 2007

Book Reviews

"This is a highly readable book that chronicles the rise and fall of the Buxton Hydro between 1866 and 1974. There is a varied mix of sources including interviews with old members of staff, photographs, letters, and advertisements from the local papers.

There is also an informative, and often amusing, chapter on examples of the treatments on offer, as well as a family tree of the original and subsequent owners of the Spa Hotel. A great social history of a middle-class establishment that spans two centuries."

Family History Monthly

October 2007

"As well as covering the history of Hydros, the book features many unique insights into life and events at the Buxton Hydro, including details of staff members and important visitors. Its multi-layered history includes it being requisitioned during WW1 as a Canadian hospital, and purchased during WW2 by the Norwich Union for offices. The story ends with the tragic demolition of the large Victorian building in the 1970s, an event that in these more enlightened times, would not have been allowed to take place."

Best of British

September 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 Reverend James Shore could hardly have imagined during his time in jail that he would overcome this injustice and move to far away 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 bought 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".

 The Peak Advertiser

September 2007

"The story of this remarkable establishment is told by Peter Lomas. If like me you stayed at the Spa Hotel in the 50s or the early 60s then this will be a book that interests you. Mr Lomas weaves an interesting story around the origin, rise and eventual fall of this interesting building."

Independent Purchaser

October 2007

"Peter Lomas can perhaps be excused if he shows a touch of family pride in St. John's Church Bridgetown on Sunday morning. One of his ancestors was the Reverend James Shore whose sermons in the church caused a 19th century sensation.

Now the retired solicitor has written a book about the rebel curate whose arrest for preaching without a licence led to protest meetings all over the country and made him one of the most celebrated religious figures in England.

Mr Lomas came upon the family connection quite by chance while researching documents left by his late father.

Gradually he built up the life story of an extraordinary man who not only made his mark in the church but founded the hydropathy hotel that helped to make Buxton in Derbyshire famous as a spa town."

Totnes Times

September 2007

"In Victorian times hydropathy - treatment with water - was highly fashionable; those who could afford it went to spa towns for a holiday, much like visitors stay at a health farm today. In his book Peter Lomas traces the history of this famous establishment, which had its unlikely beginnings in the prosecution of an Anglican minister whose health had suffered under the strain of a court case. When hydropathy fell out of favour, the establishment became a luxurious hotel, and was used as a hospital for Canadian servicemen and World War 1. Mr Lomas’s account looks at hydropathy and the guests who came to be cured, for a holiday or even to take up permanent residence. He shows how they were entertained and the staff behind-the-scenes on whose efforts it depended. Like so many successful family businesses, the driving force was lost once the original family was gone. The magnificent building was demolished in 1974."

Ancestry Magazine

October 2007

“When the Hydro was tops.”   “…… The author’s intention was to write a family history, but his research revealed so much social and local history that the story of the Buxton Hydro just had to be told. ……The appendices include examples of treatment … and a remarkable diary written by Herbert Lomas. The black and white photographs of people at fancy-dress balls are fascinating and the line drawings of so many of Buxton’s important buildings are enlightening. Reading quotes from diaries contrasts the literary style of that period with that of today and the book, which costs £14.99, tells the story of a Buxton now long gone but which may return in part when the Crescent reopens.”

High Peak Review  

December 2007

Additional reviews in: Derbyshire Life and Countryside December 2007, Peak District Life December 2007, Practical Family History November 2007, Family Tree Magazine February 2008, Herald Express South Devon September 2007.