The River Derwent has flooded many times in the town's history
and there have been several flood relief schemes. The
most recent has proved very effective and largely withstood
the effects of the very heavy rainfalls experienced in
Great Britain during October and November 2000 when the
River Derwent broke its banks in many places. Although
central Matlock was affected, and some premises were flooded
because of water coming up through the drainage system,
the walls that have been built alongside the river and the
enclosure of the Hall Leys Park withstood the torrents
and largely contained the swollen river.
November 2000. Floodwater contained in the Hall Leys park.
The water was just a few inches from the top of the retaining
wall before it stopped rising.
The footbridge over the River Derwent connecting
the Hall Leys Park with Dale Road, shown in the photograph
on the right, has plaques marking two severe floods that
occurred in the twentieth century and within living memory
of many residents. On Sunday 4th December, 1960 the flood
water reached the lower mark when the river burst its banks
and flooded into Crown Square at 9 a.m., engulfing an area
five miles long by a mile wide.
Some five years later, on Thursday 11th December, 1965, the
flood waters reached even an higher point. Many of the shops
in the town centre were again flooded and water went up into
Firs Parade, where the writer's father had to try to rescue
and remove stock before the waters came in.
Susy Cytko remembers these floods.
"In Matlock Green a lorry decided to rush through the water
and made such waves that it broke the window at Aunty Dolly's
sweet shop and all the jars of sweets floated out, which
was exciting to us as we were children at the time; we
did try to catch them but my mum would not let us go down
stairs so we tried to catch them with a bucket on a rope
but it never worked.
Someone came with soup in a boat and we let the bucket
down to collect it, and bread. Of course we kids hated the
soup as it was onion, but our parents were grateful. ...
One person drowned across the road".
The Mace Archive
has video footage by Harry Gill of the 1965 floods in Matlock
- see Harry
Gill, the tempestuous years (external link, so
will open in a new window or tab)
Where the floodwater reached,
1960 and 1965.
© Ann Andrews
Though flooding has occurred because of exceptionally heavy rainfall,
as in 2000, the town has also flooded when extremely heavy snowfalls
were followed by very sudden rises in air temperature and rapid thaws,
sometimes accompanied by heavy rainfall.
So snow falling in the hills of the Peak melted quickly and formed
torrents which drained into the Derwent, causing water levels to
rise dramatically and this was the reason why the town flooded
The same thing had happened over sixty years before, when
the water levels rose very quickly overnight between Sunday 29th
December and Monday 30th December 1901. An article in "The
Times" described the whole of the Derwent Valley as a "scene
of desolation" and
another press report thought the town was "Matlock in the
It was reported
that water had entered hundreds of business premises, hotels and
private homes at 3 a.m. causing residents to flee.
Other inhabitants awoke and peered through through the mist to
find that Matlock Bridge and Matlock Green had joined hands, as
it were, and only the coping stones of the walls along Causeway
Lane were visible.
The cellars of both the Crown and Railway Hotels were under water,
with water standing four to five feet high in the Railway Hotel.
On that occasion the flood water covered Crown Square by 7 a.m. and
the Derwent above Matlock was about a mile wide.
The greatest depth was recorded on the football ground (which was
on the Hall Leys until 1911). The water level there registered
ten feet - "not a vestige of the football field could be seen
except the top of the 'pavilion'." According
to the Matlock historian Benjamin Bryan, there was by then bright
sunshine which reflected in the newly formed lake.
Fortunately, "an abatement took place by daylight" but
the flooding had caused considerable damage in the town.
Matlock Green did not suffer quite as badly as it could have done,
thanks to the Council having raised the banks of the stream there
(the Bentley Brook).
The bridge widening was delayed for weeks
in 1903 owing to the flooded state of the river, when Matlock
cricket field was under water.
It was reported that many rivers had overflowed and part of Matlock
was once more submerged in October 1907, with damage to the hockey
and cricket grounds (see
Benjamin Bryan described several nineteenth century floods.
In the first week of October 1880 there was a storm with very high
winds which caused the river to burst its banks. Several months
later, just before the 1881 census was taken, snow, high winds
and a rapid thaw caused further flooding in February. "So
high did the waters rise that the railway was flooded, and no train
was permitted to proceed northwards beyond Matlock Bridge. The
consequence was that numbers of passengers had their journey arrested,
and upwards of 150 persons had to be accommodated at the Queen's
Head Hotel and elsewhere". "The
footbridge across the river to Matlock Town was washed down and
wrecked ; whilst lower down the bridge leading to the paint works
and the High Tor Grotto was also destroyed. There was a strong
current of water three to four feet deep running along the roadway,
as if it were part of the river, to and through Matlock Bath".
see Matlock: Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & Quarry
There was further flooding in March of the same year, and again
during October, so 1881 was not a good year for the town.
A few years afterwards the "Weekly Dispatch" reported,
on 16 May 1886, serious flooding and "Great Destruction of
many parts of the country. "At Matlock vehicular and pedestrian
traffic was totally stopped along a large portion of the highway,
and the houses on The Green were submerged to the second storey".
November 1890 saw further flooding: "On the road to Matlock
Bath there was a depth of four to five feet of water".
The postcard above is dated 18th January, 1921 and the area under
water is just off Crown Square, at the bottom of Bank Road. One
of the entrances to the Crown Hotel is clearly visible on the
near left. A gale of unusual severity had affected the U.K. for
the previous two days, causing widespread flooding. The Matlock
correspondent to "The Times" described "the
view from the Peak as one huge lake" as much of the Matlock's
town centre was under water. The water rose so rapidly
that a temporary bridge had to be erected for traffic.
Ten years later, on the 4th September, 1931, the town flooded
again and photographs
exist of the Hall Leys under water once more in 1941.
As for Matlock Bath, there was very localised flooding during
the summer of 1924 that was caused by a violent thunderstorm in
which "rain and hailstones fell as large
marbles for two hours. The Parade became a river and the shops
were flooded to a great depth". Visitors and day trippers
were marooned, or had to wade through deep water to escape.
Parts of Matlock Bath had also flooded during the war.
Some of the ground next to the river had been prone to flooding
for a long time.
Postcard taken before 1906, and possibly before 1900, showing
a swollen river Derwent.
The Promenade landing stage is under water and the shelter
is also flooded.
This was not an uncommon occurrence.
One of the saddest tales resulting from the Derwent being in flood
occurred in the village in January 1852. There was a particularly
tragic accident involving two members of the Cumming family, who
drowned in the swollen river at Matlock Bath. The disastrous consequences
of this, as the head of the family was one of the two who perished,
were widely reported and a fund was set up to help the surviving
biographies | Newspaper
report | Subscription
for the relief of the Cumming children
Sadly, these weren't the only fatalities to occur in the Matlock
section of the River Derwent.
Whilst flooding can and did cause misery and damage, Matlock's
inhabitants were not without a sense of humour. Colin Goodwyn writes
of an escapade in 1866 during what proved to be the worst flood
for 25 years and which turned the Hall Leys into a sea of water
across to Matlock Green. "Some wags hung a five bar gate on
the lamp post at Matlock Bridge as a make believe that the flood
had been that height and left it there". A sign board was
seen floating down the Derwent; on it had been painted the words "No
road this way".
Below is a photograph of the River Derwent in spate, taken from
from Matlock Bath's Jubilee Bridge in the 1950s using a 2 x 2 Agifold
camera. The landing stage was completely submerged! The Lovers'
Walks on the opposite bank would undoubtedly have been underwater
There is an interesting, if somewhat obscure, cutting from the
High Peak News, dated Saturday, 22 April, 1916, about flood prevention.
Whatever the various bodies may have either talked about or did, nothing
to deal effectively with the problem happened for many years.
During the 1970s the weir that served the Matlock Dale colour
works and fed their water turbine was removed. This fundamentally
changed the nature of the river between Matlock and Matlock Bath;
it is better for the canoeists, though that was not why the weir
was removed, and Matlock has not been flooded since.
The last time the river was a cause for concern was in 2007, but
it just broke the bank in the park.
More pictures of the November 2000 floods
The pictures show the flooding that year was
just before Armistice Sunday;
crosses and posts were being prepared for poppies close to the town
centre's memorial. A great deal of surface water also ran down
the hill behind Matlock's football ground, which stayed on the
land. Someone was even using a canoe on the cricket end of the
Firemen pumping water back into the river on Bakewell
Road, taken from the car park over the supermarket.
The flood water receded
very quickly in 2000. This picture was taken two days after the
water was at its height
It shows just how much debris is
carried downstream by flood water and then deposited where it hits
something in its path.
links go to on site transcripts):
 "The Times", Monday
5 Nov 1960. These were the worst floods to have
hit Matlock since those of late Dec 1931 - early Jan 1932. The
flood water covered low lying land between Matlock and Rowsley.
 Thanks to Susy Cytko, whose parents
then ran the Horse Shoe in Matlock Green. The drowned man Suzy
referred to was Mr. George Ellis, a 58 year old railway worker
from Starkholmes. He was swept away by the flood water during the
night of 9th December ("The
Times", Monday 13 Dec 1965).
 "The Times", 30 Nov 1965 reported
blizzards and heavy snowfalls in the U.K. and Matlock police reported
that over 400 vehicles were stranded in North Derbyshire.
 "The Times", Wednesday
1 Jan 1902.
Courier", 4 January 1902 and "Derbyshire
4 January 1902
 Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History
of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons,
Daily Telegraph", Thursday
29 October 1903.
 "Derby Daily
Telegraph", 19 October 1907.
 "The Derby Mercury",
19 Oct 1881, reported a gale and strong winds, with many trees uprooted.
A Mr. Willliam Hadfield of Oker managed to save a hay rick which
was in danger of being carried away by the water that flooded the
fields. It referred to the damage in February when, according to
the same paper, the noise of the water rushing through the gorge
beneath High Tor was terrifying. Tree trunks, general debris
and some sheep and rabbits were swept downstream and on towards Derby
(issue of 16 Feb 1881).
 "The Times", Wednesday
19 Jan 1921.
 The date is from Arkle, M. J. (1983) "Tuppence
Up, Penny Down", printed by Geo. Hodgkinson (Printers) Ltd.
The flood damage was estimated to be over £30,000. "The Times" of
4 Sept 1931 reported heavy rain across the country and on the 5th
that Derbyshire's rivers were in flood, although did not mention
events in Matlock.
 "The Times", Wednesday 23
 There is a short report in Matlock
and Matlock Bath Newspaper Cuttings, Jul 1914 - Nov 1918, 1916.
 A sale notice from 1767 comments
on this. See Matlock & Matlock Bath
Public Notices & Announcements,
 Further tragedies are described in Boating on the River
 "The Derby Mercury",
21 Nov 1866, with thanks to Colin.
 Information from the late Peter
Hare. Also see Photographs
of Matlock Bath Today (4) | Matlock
Bath, High Tor and the Colour Works
 Information from Susan Tomlinson.