Updated 17 Aug 2005
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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Matlock area description 1894
A description of the Matlock area taken from "The Peak", one of a series of "Thorough Guides", by M J B Baddeley, published in 1894 by Dulau & Co, London.
The space between the parade and the river has been laid out as a garden connected with the Lovers' Walks by a Jubilee footbridge. There is nothing to pay for the use of them.
That Matlock should be overrun with trippers during the holiday season is the inevitable penalty of its beauty and accessibility, and it is idle to deny that on bank-holidays and such-like occasions the ordinary tourist requires a philosophic spirit. The place, however, contains abundant accommodation for all classes of visitors, and those whose purses or legs are long enough. to carry them to the various spots of interest in the neighbourhood may always escape from the periodical incursions of the profanum vulgus.
While on this subject we would enter a friendly but firm protest
against the reckless extent to which some of the caterers for
public amusements advertise their own particular attractions.
The place is small, and huge advertising-boards and posters are
proportionately unsightly. Nothing tends more to keep the better
class of visitors away than this unfortunate practice. If public
spirit could induce moderation in this respect, reduce the size of
the "Petrifying Wells" and "Cave" announcements, and at the
same time give real assistance to visitors by the erection of modest
finger-posts at many points round the village where at present the
pedestrian is almost always perplexed, it would be a happy day for
Matlock. At present, Matlock is second only to Ingleton in the
vulgarity of its local advertisements.
Pavilion and Gardens (ordiinary adm.,6d.), These cover an area of about 15 acres. and extend upwards from the New Bath, Terrace and Royal HoteIs. almost to the, Bonsall footpath. The whole overlooks the valley, and the views. especially from the higher parts, are very fine, the chief feature being the richly- wooded limestone cliffs which beetle over the Lovers' Walks and the Derwent. The Pavillion is a fine building. with a spacious central saloon, adapted for concerts, promenading, &tc., and with wings on each side. It also contains, in the way of apartments and appliances, whatever may be needed for indoor recreation when outdoor is denied. In front of it is the Terrace, extending the length of the building, and fronted by a handsome balustrade. The gardens. are laid out with a maze of winding walks, planned so as to change the steepest of slopes into a gently rising promenade. The difficulty has been-not to produce picturesqueness-rock, wood, and rugged unevenness of surface already provided that; but to avoid destroying it; and how far success has been attained the visitor must judge for himself. High up, in the north-east corner of the grounds, are the Romantic Rocks, a strange group of huge isolated fragments, which have been torn away from the adjacent hill-side without losing their equilibrium. Walks wind between them. In this part of the grounds, too, is the Fluor Spar Cave, close to "Jacob's Hillock" (p.110). The Victoria Cavern, 250 yards long, is not now shewn.
The Baths. The Fountain Baths, on the main road in the centre of the village, include a large Swimming Bath in a lofty and cheerful room; also Hot Baths, Shower Baths, and Douche Baths. There is also a good Swimming Bath at the New Bath Hotel, and Hot Baths at both that and the Royal Hotels. The latter is as much a Hydro' as an hotel, having Turkish, Russian, Vapour and Douche Baths. In the gardens of the "New Bath" is a very remarkable old lime-tree.
The Caves. These are to a great extent old mining excavatins,
tough some part of nearly every one is the result either
of violent natural disruption or of the characteristic wearing away
of limestone rock by water. Those whose standard of subterranean
impressiveness has been fixed by the Castleton caverns, or
of beauty by the famous one at Cheddar, will probably think
lightly of these hybrid Matlock ones, but caverns, after all, are
rare in tourist districts, and whatever motive may prompt you to
go in, there is also a certain pleasure in getting out again. If it
is not a "trip" day you should decidedly make at least one
underground excursion. To geologists these caverns are specially interesting, and the comparative absence of stalactitic formations is often atoned for by the abundance of dog-tooth crystallizations and the frequent outcrop therein of the precious metal in search of which the openings were originally made. The minimum, charge for admission is 1s. or 6d., parties being charged at a reduced scale according to their number. It is well to strike a bargain before entering. As to position, four of them, the Cumberland, the Speedwell, the Fluor Spar, and the Devonshire are on the hill-side, behind the Pavilion grounds; two, the Rutland and the Great Masson, on the Heights of Abraham, near the Victoria Tower, and one, the Grotto Cavern, underneath the High Tor. There is also the Victoria Cavern in the Pavilion grounds.
(2) The Speedwell Cavern (minimum charge, 6d). This is a few yards beyond the divergence of the lower Bonsall and Cromford footpaths, close to which is the cottage of the proprietress. It may be approached by the same routes as the Cumberland. It is upwards of 400 yards long, entered by many steps, and chiefly remarkable for the quantity of calc or cubic spar-called dog-tooth. A few small stalactites are pointed out, some effective transparencies, and a little well.
(3) The Fluor Spar Cavern (minimum charge, 6d.). This, also on the lower Bonsall footpath, may be reached either from the station by the same route as that already described to the Cumberland Cavern, or by the zig-zag path leading up from the near (east) entrance to the Pavilion grounds. It is entered from an artificially formed level called "Jocob's Hillock" at the top of this path. The area, like the footpath behind it, commands a very fine view across the valley. It is in the same proprietorship as the cave, but the only charge is for visiting the cave, which, as usual, is entered by many steps. The length of the excavation is about 40 yards. It contains barytes, veins of lead ore, fluor-spar, and calc-spar. As a feature a little gallery is shown, a copy in miniature of the one in the Peak Cavern at Castleton.
(4). The Devonshire Cavern is on the direct Bonsall path, a few yards beyond the point at which it strikes up the hill from the more circuitous one. Its most remarkable feature is the immense slab of rock, quite flat, which forms its roof and slopes at a considerable angle. It contains a large quantity of stalagmite, also fluor-spar and calc-spar. The floor is a debris of rock and boulder.
(5) The Rutland Cavern (adm., 6d.). This is the largest of the Matlock
Caverns. It is approached either by the Holme Road, after crossing the river
from the station, or from the Waterloo Road, near Hodgkinson's Hotel. The
guide's cottage is at the east entrance to the Heights of Abraham, in Masson
Road. There is a very pretty bird's-eye view of the valley between Matlock
and Cromford from the roadway opposite the entrance to the cavern, which
begins with an artificial passage nearly 80 yards in length. Then comes a
chamber about 100 yards long and reaching in one place a height of 120 feet,
and branching into two towards its end. On the sides there is a fair quantity
of fluor-spar and carbonate-of-lime spar. Perhaps the most striking object in the cave is the pillar which. with the ribs of the arches it supports, resembles the gnarled trunk of an oak tree. The cave is lighted with gas.
(6). The Old Roman Lead Mine and Great Masson Cavern is just above the Heights of abraham, on the way to Masson. Its entrance is reached by a passage between two rocks, and visitors may pass through it on to the upper part of Masson. The cavern is about 70 yards long and attains a height of 90 feet. It contains fluor-spar and dog-tooth crystals.
(7) High Tor Grotto (adm. 6d.) This cavern, though small, is the best for crystallization in Matlock. It is under the High Tor, ¾m north of the station, and is entered from the main road by a foot-bridge across the Derwent.
A passage of 12 yards or so leads to the natural cave, which has been lowered in the first part and raised in the last, to admit a walk through it. The limestone strata, resting on clay, dip inwards from above the entrance till they sink below the level of the river outside. The dog-tooth crystals are very abundant, some parts of the surface being entirely made up of them. About 12 feet above the roof is the High Tor tunnel, and the trains, as they pass through, produce a sound like thunder. At the further end the opening becomes lower than the level of the river, which the water inside always maintains. This cave was discovered by an old man tracking a rabbit in 1820.
Yet another cave has lately been opened opposite the High Tor
The High Tor, 673 ft. above the sea, 380 above the river. (Adm., 4d.). Carriages can enter at the Starkholmes Gate (see plan) and drive over to Matlock Town and Bridge (or vice versa). The walks are broad and dry. This rock dominates the gorge between Matlock Bridge and Cromford, and contributes more than any other object to the romantic character of the Matiock scenery. Its upper part is quite perpendicular. and the lower consists of screes overgrown with scrub and timber of larger dimensions. The approach for pedestrians is across the river by the bridge leading to the station. and under the line between the station and the tunnel. or by a footbridge ¾ mile on the road to Matlock Bridge. The walks skirt the edge of the cliff-in places a little below the highest ground.
Through the green slope, a little behind the scarped front of the
Tor, runs a deep fissure only a few feet wide. and so narrow at the
top as only to admit a streak of daylight. This is called the Fern
Cave, and is in one part 10 feet deep. The entrance (adm., 1d.) is near the Starkholmes Gate, and the first part is a real cave. From the gate to the entrance you can pass through another deep and very narrow cleft called the Roman Cave.
The Lovers'Walks (1d.). Along the east side of the Derwent, opposite Matlock Bath, a line of cliff extends, considerably lower than the High Tor, but similar in character. The picturesque effect of these cliffs is greatly enhanced by the ivy which spreads itself all over them, the yews which grow out of their crannies, and the wood which covers the scree at their feet. There is an upper and lower walk along them-the latter by the river-side. These walks are entered by a new footbridge connecting them with the pleasant little promenade which has lately been laid out between the Parade and the river near the station, or by ferry-boat.
For interesting and varied walks there are few places in the kingdom equal to Matlock. Public footpaths are so numerous as almost to baffle description. With the aid of our map, however, specially made for the purpose, and the following directions, we hope to introduce visitors to the most charming of these expeditions. All of them worth making are hilly, but any fatigue is amply compensated for by the exquisite views they command. It may be as well to warn ladies who object to climbing walls that the stiles are chiefly remarkable for their narrowness, especially on the west or limestone side. Six inches is considered a liberal allowance to squeeze through.
(1) Bonsall, 1½ m.; Cromford, 3 ; Matlock Bath, 4. A more delightful ramble than this can hardly be imagined. In less than two hours it brings before the eye every beautiful object that is typical of Matlock scenery. The view is only curtailed northwards, in which direction Masson interposes its superior height.
There are two routes, of which the second (b) is the longer and prettier :-
(a) Direct. Ascend from the station by Holme Road; from the
Terrace by Waterloo Road, which rises from Hodgkinson's Hotel,
and West Bank, passing on the left the Prince of Wales Inn, a
little above which the route from the station is joined. At the next
fork, 100 yards higher up, turn sharp to the right. After passing
the Devonshire Cavern and some old lead mines, you enter a lane
that leads from Ember Farm (on the right) to Bonsall, joining the
Bonsall and Cromford lane opposite Bonsall Church. The view
during the descent is charming.
(b) Either take the left branch-straight on- at the fork above the Prince of Wales Inn (see above), or ascend from the Terrace Hotel as to the Cumberland Cavern (p.110), above which the two tracks join. On the former path, above the N.W. corner of the Pavilion grounds is Jacob's Hillock., with access to the Fluor Spar Cavern (p.110), and an entrance to the Pavilion grounds. The view from this part of our walk is very charming, and must have been much more so before the valley below was so filled with houses and the free course of the stream held back by weirs. The "Lovers' Walk" cliffs look their best.
Beyond the "Hillock" the lane forks. Continue upwards to the right. Passing through a stile you reach by a wide footpath the brow of the hill, and a view of the valleys which converge upon the Derwent at Cromford opens up in front. Chief amongst them is the Via Gellia (p.141), a winding V-shaped glen with finely wooded sides and here and there a limestone cliff cropping out above them. This valley in contrast and combination with that of the Derwent, stretching southwards to Ambergate, and the charming retrospect over Matlock itself, makes up a prospect of a high order of beauty. Riber Castle crowns the hill behind us; south of it is Crich Stand.
Our route now joins the lane leading up from Cromford, and in a few hundred yards enters Bonsall, a quaint and sweetly-placed little village with a very picturesque little church, an inn of the seventeenth century (The King's Head; also Queen's Head), a Cross (restored 1870) still more ancient, on a pedestal of thirteen steps, and drinking fountains innumerable. We may go far before we find a village combining so picturesque a situation with so much that is interesting in itself. The spire of the church is octagonal, and belted in two places with ornamental carving, which gives it a very pleasing appearance.
Dropping into the valley from the village, we pass an elegant fountain opposite the entrance gates to Bonsall Manor House, and descend at once to the lower part of the Via Gellia (p. 141), past the "Pig of Lead," and entering in a short time Cromford.(p.141), which we shall describe in our next excursion.
This walk may be very pleasantly prolonged by taking a foot path close to the entrance to Bonsall Manor House and crossing by it into the Via Gellia (see below), or by climbing from the latter to the Black Rocks, which are the subject of our next description.
(b) Proceed to Slaley-and the Via Gellia as in the following:-
(2) Cromford, 1 m.; Black Rocks, 2½. The Black Rocks command the best view of Matlock from the south, and should either be made the object of a special excursion, or taken in combination with the above described walk to Bonsall Dale. The village of Cromford (Inn: Greyhound) lies ¾ mile south of the chief Matlock Bath hotels, and is entered by a gap-Scarthin Nick-in the rock, just beyond the point at which the river turns away to the left through the grounds of Willersley Castle. From this gap a narrow isolated limestone ridge extends about half-a-mile eastwards. The most picturesque part of Cromford lies at the east end of this ridge, where the church, whose architectural blemishes are concealed by a complete covering of ivy, and the three-arched bridge, with round arches on one side and pointed ones on the other, materially assist Nature in producing a picture. The grounds of Willersley Castle, which rise from the north bank of the river hereabouts, are open to visitors by ticket on Mondays. The Cotton Mills here only call for notice by reason of their size, and the fact that they were the first built in Derbyshire (p.10). From the open square in the centre of Cromford village, we ascend by the Wirksworth road till we have left the last row of houses a few hundred yards behind us. Then turning through a gate on the left we follow a cart-track with a plantation on the right, and cross the High Peak railway. The Black Rocks, or Stonnis, as they are sometimes called, rise directly from the other side of the line. The path works round them to the right, and on reaching the edge brings us face to face with the view.
Wherever the millstone grit crops out it affords favourable
opportunities for obtaining views, and this peculiarity is nowhere better
exemplified than by the Black Rocks. Behind them the ground
rises to a somewhat greater elevation, and is covered with
evergreen wood, but in front the entire geography of the Matlock
district is seen at a glance. The rocks standing boldly out from the
surrounding slopes, and often projecting in a way which suggests
field-guns, afford a natural platform which no human contrivance.
The great charm of the view centres in Matlock Bath, and the course of the Derwent above and below it. Where the river first appears, we have the High Tor rising almost sheer from its banks on the right, and the green, sylvan Heights of Abraham sloping more gently, but still steeply, on the left. Above the latter is the beech-crested Masson. Then we trace the river-course through the bowl in which Matlock lies, hemmed in by limestone crags on one side, and separated from Bonsall Dale and the Via Gellia by a lofty green ridge on the other. At Cromford, which is mapped out just under our eyes, the stream escapes from its gorge and flows through the rich park-like scenery of Willersley Castle, which is the most beautiful, if not the most conspicuous, architectural adornment of the scene. Riber Castle, whenever it forms part of a view, is perhaps the most imposing erection in the country. Its square towers and solid walls rear themselves on the summit of a hill perfectly destitute of foliage, their size and massiveness making them more prominent than even Crich Stand, which occupies a similar but somewhat higher plateau a few miles further south.
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2005, John Palmer All Rights Reserved.