10 Magical Moments – a decade at the Devonshire Dome
With its magnificent 44.2 metre dome, the iconic Devonshire Dome is one of the most dramatic historic spaces in Britain. Built in 1779 by the 5th Duke of Devonshire to provide horse stabling for the fashionable visitors who flocked to Buxton to take the spa waters, this incredible Grade II* listed building acquired its famous dome in 1881 to create an enclosed space for a brand new hydropathic hospital.
The building was later taken over in 1948 by the NHS and used for its unique facilities, but in 2000, the facility became surplus to requirements and was in danger of falling into disrepair after its closure. The University of Derby saw its tremendous potential and in 2006, following a five-year, £11 million restoration programme, new life was breathed into the iconic building as it was transformed into the first-class educational facility that it is today.
Now home to the University of Derby’s Buxton Campus and Buxton & Leek College students, the facility sees hospitality, events, tourism and culinary arts students walk through its doors each year to experience real-world learning in a unique setting.
A stunning example of heritage regeneration, the Devonshire Dome is home to a fine dining restaurant, the relaxed Café Central and the luxurious, award-winning spa together with a hair and beauty salon. This truly unique venue is also licensed for civil weddings and hosts some of the country’s biggest Asian weddings, traditional weddings, premier events, fairs and banquets.
With a fully-operational commercial restaurant and a purpose-built, luxurious spa on campus offering the world’s first spa management degree, students have the opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on experience in their chosen area of study with many graduates going on to work in famous hotels, spas, restaurants and event venues after completing their degree.
2016 marks ten years since the official opening of the Devonshire Dome by Prince Charles and to celebrate the transformation of this truly unique historical venue into the successful educational and commercial facility that it is today, we look back at some of the best moments of the past decade…
The Royal Seal of Approval – at the official opening of the Devonshire Dome in 2006, HRH Prince Charles described the conversion of the former Devonshire Hospital as a “wonderful example of what heritage-led projects can achieve.” His Royal Highness, who is a passionate campaigner for heritage projects said: “The Devonshire Dome is a truly remarkable building. Projects which aim to bring buildings back to life present a challenge – but by God, it’s worthwhile in the end.”
University of Derby graduate Megan Fallows always dreamed of working at Raymond Blanc’s acclaimed Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire and her dreams became a reality when she contacted the restaurant via Twitter to enquire about work experience at the esteemed eatery. Following a two-week stint at Le Manoir, Megan went on to land a full-time job as Commis Chef and is now following in the footsteps of many famous chefs who also trained with Raymond Blanc including Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White.
November 2007 saw flagship BBC programme Question Time filmed at the Devonshire Dome. An audience of around 150, including Buxton residents had the chance to quiz Liberal Democrat candidates Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne in front of an anticipated TV audience of around 2.6 million viewers. Question Time’s host, David Dimbleby, said at the time: “I can honestly say that I have never broadcast from a more spectacular venue in 20 years of Any Questions?”
The Buxton Military Tattoo returned for its sixth year this July with two awesome performances inside the Dome. The military musical spectacle was presented this year by ABF the Soldiers’ Charity and entertained the crowds with a 200-strong cast of regular and reservist bands. Since the event began in 2010¸ over £62,000 has been raised for the charity.
Wedding bells rang for Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson and Carl Hyland in April 2015 when the pair married in a star-studded ceremony at the Devonshire Dome. Kieron’s agent commented on the reasons the couple chose the Dome as their wedding venue and said: “Kieron wanted somewhere with the wow factor, somewhere completely different. When we came to visit the Dome for the first time, he fell in love with the venue. The location was fantastic, Buxton is a really lovely place. This was the first civil wedding to take place in the Dome itself too, making the occasion extra special for Kieron and Carl.”
Devonshire Spa celebrated earlier this year as the Spa scooped the ‘Best Day Spa of the Year 2016’ accolade at the Professional Beauty magazine awards, beating some of the most luxurious day spas in the country – including the Urban Retreat at Harrods. The win was the icing on the birthday cake for the Devonshire Spa in the Dome’s 10-year anniversary year and the team celebrated at a glamorous ceremony held at London’s premier events venue, The Brewery. Sian Jones, manager at the Devonshire Spa, said: “This is an incredible achievement for the Devonshire Spa and everyone who has worked so hard along the journey. The Spa strives to become a centre of excellence, benchmarking the industry leaders of the future.”
The Devonshire Dome hosts the Northern Design Awards – Buxton’s iconic Devonshire Dome provided a dazzling backdrop to the 12th annual Northern Design Awards in November 2014. The crème de la crème of the design industry including award-winning designer and event host Wayne Hemingway MBE and UK designer and TV presenter Linda Barker, came together to celebrate the region’s most innovative architects, designers and retailers in a glittering awards ceremony.
We Do! In 2015, the Devonshire Dome became fully licensed and is now able to accommodate couples who opt for a non-religious service. The Dome’s vast floor space, incredible acoustics, versatile backdrop and sheer scale ensures that this historic venue is one of the most magnificent wedding locations in the East Midlands and beyond. Popular with Asian brides and grooms and couples looking for a large venue that can accommodate 300 guests or more, the Dome team comprises expert chefs, banqueting staff and wedding co-ordinators who are always on hand to roll out the red carpet and serve a magical wedding breakfast to guests, whether it’s an elaborate three-course fine dining affair or a relaxed evening buffet.
Unicon 2016 joins a jam-packed events calendar. There’s always an event going on at the Dome from boxing matches, art shows and political debates to vintage and wedding fairs, but this year’s Unicon 2016 event was the first event of its kind, bringing a raft of well-known science fiction characters and guests to Buxton, including Martin Ballantyne (Harry Potter; The Dark Knight); Paul Warren (Harry Potter; Star Wars) and Norman Lovett (Holly in Red Dwarf).
From Horses to Courses! New for summer 2016, the Devonshire Dome has launched an audio tour to take visitors on a self-guided journey through the Dome’s fascinating 200-year history. Designed by the University of Derby’s first year International Tourism Management students, the fun and engaging audio tour ‘From Horses to Courses’ explores the Dome’s evolving purpose: from one of the grandest stables ever built, to a pioneering hospital and now a university campus spanned by what was once the largest unsupported dome in the world.