What is the oldest building in Buxton? And where is it?
The Old Hall Hotel might spring to mind. Parts of the building date at least as far back as 1573. Others might suggest St Anne’s Church – an inscribed date on the porch reads ‘1625’, but other sections of the church are understood to be much older.
And what did the Romans do for us? We know they were drawn here by the natural hot and cold springs. Their baths, temple, fort and houses are buried beneath the foundations of contemporary Buxton.
But to find the site of the oldest building in Buxton we need to follow the River Wye south-west. Stroll through the Pavilion Gardens and along the Serpentine Walks to a patch of raised ground by a 20th century housing estate. Welcome to Lismore Fields.
In the 1980s archaeologists excavated this site anticipating the presence of a Roman Road. Instead they discovered evidence for some of the oldest structures in Derbyshire.
Three buildings were discovered dating from around 6,000 years ago, during the Early Neolithic, but it isn’t known if they were used at exactly the same time. The buildings were rectangular and supported by posts. We can’t be sure what they looked like but it’s likely they had walls of mud plaster and heather-thatched roofs.
The people who lived here at that time were some of the earliest farmers in Derbyshire. Analysis of pottery found at the site suggested various contents including milk, animal fats and vegetable matter – the diet of those raising domesticated plants and animals.
But even these discoveries still might not clinch the title of ‘Oldest building in Buxton’! Lismore Fields also produced stone tools and debris associated with a circular structure of post holes. This assemblage was dated to the Mesolithic, or ‘Middle Stone Age’, a time before farming was practiced in Britain. Could these post holes indicate a temporary house or shelter? And, if so, have we truly found a winner for ‘Oldest Building in Buxton?’