In Gough's edition of old Camden's "Britannia," we
have the following quaint mulutm in parvo kind of
description which so peculiarly characterizes that work - "On
the banks of the Darwent is Matlock, where is a weak medicinal
water, efficacious in colick, consumptive and cutaneous cases,
and much frequented by the neighbouring gentry as an agreeable
retreat during the summer months for health and amusement,
without the infection of southern manners. Here are two baths;
the old bath, as it is called, though there had been a bath
at the place long before, was built in 1734 ; the house belonging
to which is the largest and most frequented, though the new
one has a handsomer house in a pleasanter situation. The
baths are temperate, and the water lighter than common water.
It possesses the virtues of Bristol and Bath waters. It was
first known about 1698. There is a hot spring in a hill beyond
the old bath, but notwithstanding all attempts to prevent
it, it mixes with a cold one in its way to the river. Here
is a water of a strong petrifying quality, a large stratum
formed by which is used for building, and is very serviceable.
Matlock great Torr is 420 feet perpendi
p. 9 MATLOCK-BATH-THE DERWENT.
cular. Near Matlock-Bridge are two chalybeat springs. Sir
Richard Arkwright erected cotton mills here also."
The situation of Matlock-Bath (as it is called, to distinguish
it from the old village), is in the bosom of a deep valley, by
the side of the Derwent. This river is formed by the confluence
of several small streams, which, rising in that wild, unfrequented
part of Derbyshire called the Woodlands, are united near Hathersage.
It afterwards visits Chatsworth, and three miles further southward
is augmented by the river Wye, which rises near Buxton, and having
passed by Ashford and Bakewell, falls into the Derwent at Rowsley
; then, pursuing its course through the middle of the county,
the Derwent passes by Darley, Matlock, Belper, and Duffield,
and falls into the Trent a few miles below Derby. Among the valleys
of extraordinary beauty through which these rivers stray, none
is so much celebrated as that in which Matlock-Bath is situated;
but though nature has lavished numberless charms on this delightful
dale, yet little more than a century has elapsed since it first
began to emerge from obscurity; and that, in consequence of a
spring of warm water being discovered in it. This happened about
the year 1698, and the spring having, soon after, acquired some
reputation on account of its medicinal qualities, a house or
two were erected near it, for the accommodation of visitors.
As the number of these increased, the houses were gradually enlarged
and rendered commodious; and Matlock, in a few years, became
the general rendezvous of the neighbouring gentry, who passed
much time together there, composing as it were but one family,
and uniting to form a most agreeable society. The reputation
of the place was at length more generally diffused, and it has
now become the favourite resort of the gay and the valetudinarian,
of whom there is frequently a greater in-
flux than it can supply with suitable accommodation; though in consequence
of two other warm springs having been discovered at different periods,
the buildings have been multiplied to such an extent, that they are
now computed to be capable of receiving many hundred persons in addition
to the regular inhabitants. Before the discovery of the springs,
no trace of a wheel had been seen in the dale, which was covered
with wood; but after that event, a road was formed along the western
bank of the river. The valley itself is above two miles in length,
and it runs, not without several considerable deviations, in a northern
and southerly direction.
Matlock-Bath, whether seen from the hills or the valley, presents
a singularly picturesque and beautiful appearance.
The gentle Cowper, in one of his contemplative poems, says :-
"The love of nature's works
Is an ingredient in the compound man,
Infused at the creation of the kind ;
And though the Almighty Maker has throughout
Discriminated each from each by strokes
And touches of His hand, with so much art
Diversified, that two were never found
Twins at all points; yet this obtains in all,
That all discern a beauty in His works :
And all can taste them."
Here then is a scene to illustrate the philosophy of the author
of "The Task ;" to pour upon the heart the inspirations
of poetry ; and to realize the feelings with which the " Minstrel
Girl " of Whittier's imagination, gazed on such a soul-soothing
"For early she had learned to love
Each holy charm to nature given-
The changing earth, the skies above,
Were prompters to her dreams of heaven.
She loved the earth, the streams that wind
Like music, from the hills of green !
The stirring boughs above them twined,
The shining light and shade between ;
The fall of waves, the fountain-gush,
The sigh of winds, the music heard
At eventide from air and bush-
The minstrelsy of leaf and bird.
But chief she loved the sunset sky,
Its golden clouds like curtains drawn,
To form the gorgeous canopy
Of monarchs, to their slumbers gone."