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Buxton Pump Room Talk – Water Music


With Professor Ian Campbell-Bradley

Buxton Pump Room Talk: Water Music

Music has always been a central feature of the experience of taking the waters in Europe’s spas. Initially it was provided as a distraction from the grim business of swallowing large quantities of evil tasting water and wallowing in steamy baths. Bands played in the early mornings and late afternoons in pump rooms and bath houses as patients dutifully took their prescribed cures. Later, as spas became fashionable and attracted royalty and aristocracy, composers came in search of patrons.

Buxton has a rich history of spa music. Initially, a uniformed band provided by the Duke of Devonshire played while people took the health-giving waters. Later a 30 piece orchestra took up residence in the concert hall known as the Octagon, built in 1876 as part of the Pavilion Gardens complex. The opening of the Opera House in 1903 brought another orchestra and during the season it was possible to hear more than seven hours of live music a day.

Using letters, diaries and other primary sources Ian Bradley tells the story of music making in spas, focusing especially on Buxton, revealing romances between musicians, candid accounts of concerts and conjuring up the unique atmosphere of ‘water music’.   

About Ian… 

Ian Bradley, already known as one of world’s leading authorities on and enthusiasts for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, is also highly active in and maintains a very high profile at summer spa music festivals.

He has broadcast regularly on music for the BBC including most recently a documentary transmitted on 25 October 2008 on BBC Radio 3 under the title ‘Water Music. He is Vice President of the Arthur Sullivan Society and honorary life president of the St. Andrews University Gilbert and Sullivan Society with whom he has performed several principal bass-baritone roles.

He has also acted as consultant to the D’Oyly Carte Company. His abiding passion for operetta and music is fitted into his more serious life as a minister in the Church of Scotland, University Chaplain and Reader in Practical Theology and Church History in the School of Divinity at St. Andrews University.

He is the author of more than 30 books.



Wednesday 18th May 2022 Doors open at 6.30pm Talk starts at 7pm sharp The talk will last around 60 minutes, and there will be time for questions and discussion at the end.


This talk will take place in the Buxton Pump Room, opposite the Buxton Crescent. The Crescent Buxton SK17 6BH The entrance for the talk will be at the right hand door of the Pump Room. There is level access. For more details please email hello@buxtoncrescenttrust.org Call: 01298 214577


£10 full price adult tickets £9 concessions* £8 friends of Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust Tickets are for unreserved seats. *65+, Full time student, in receipt of benefits (please bring proof of concession on the evening).


The Buxton Pump Room is accessible by wheelchair over a small ramp at the door. For more information about venue accessibility, please visit our Accessibility Page We will do our best to make the presentation accessible to all guests. Please let us know in advance if you have any specific access needs we can cater for, such as having a large print copy of the presentation notes.

Covid Safety

We're following the guidance of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions guidance on appropriate Covid precautions. Therefore, we still advise that visitors while inside our venues, still wear a face mask, wash and sanitise hands, and maintain social distancing.

Any Questions?

If you need to know more, or have a question, please feel free to get in touch...

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Our visitor experience...

tells the stories of Buxton, The Crescent, its famous water and the many people who came to seek its cure. Click here to read more.

Our Premium Guided Tours set off in the morning, where you can dive deep into the rich history of our area aided by our warm and wonderful hosts.

For those who prefer to discover at their own pace, the Experience opens to Self-Guided visitors at 1pm.

Large group? Or a sensory tour during quiet times? Please contact us and we can help get that arranged.