Guides Index> Bemroses' Guide, Index> This page
Bemroses' Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
Matlock Bath to Matlock Dale

The Bridge at Matlock, Bemrose
Bemroses' Guide
Matlock's Scenery
Caverns, Rocks, Museums, Church
Bath to Dale
Black Rocks
to Parish Church
High Tor & Antiquities
Matlock Bank & Riber
Walks & Places of Interest
Mr. Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment
Walker's Museum
Matlock House & Rockside
Royal Cumberland Cavern
Clark Greaves
Radfirth & Stevenson
Midland Railway 01
Midland Railway 02
Further Information
About Matlock
About Matlock Bath
Find a Name


In this immediate vicinity, placed on either side of the road, are several so-called PETRIFYING WELLS, where may be seen various articles in all stages of encrustation; which is caused by the limestone precipitated from the water of the springs among the hills, as it rapidly evaporates, in the act of falling upon the objects placed underneath the stream for the purpose of petrifaction. A call at these wells, one of which, on the road-side, near the approach to the Old Bath, was visited by the Queen, when Princess Victoria, in 1832, will afford both amusement and information.

The MEDICINAL SPRINGS, to which Matlock-Bath owes its rise and present popularity, were first brought into public notice in the year 1698; how, or by whom, has not transpired; but its beginnings were very homely, and its progress to celebrity very slow, as many years elapsed before the original wooden shed, which marked the site of the spring, was superseded by a more substantial building; for in 1724, Daniel Defoe, the celebrated author of "Robinson Crusoe,"


in his " Tour through England," thus speaks of it-" This bath would be much more frequented than it is, if a sad stony mountainous road which leads to it, and no good accommodation when you are there, did not hinder; for from the Bath you are to cross over the meadows, and then ascend a Derbyshire hill, before you meet with a house of refreshment. For some miles before you come to Matlock, you pass over barren moors, in perpetual danger of slipping into coal-pits and lead-mines, or ride for miles together on the edge of a steep hill, on solid slippery rock, or loose stones, with a valley underneath, the bottom of which you can hardly discover with your eye."

Ten years afterwards, when the property had passed into the hands of Messrs. Smith and Pennell, of Nottingham, who are said to have given £1000 for the estate, some improvements were effected; roads opened, the bath enlarged with convenient offices, which ultimately developed into further extensions by different proprietors, until in 1803 they assumed a fixed importance as the OLD BATH HOTEL, with every accommodation for the reception of visitors on a large and fashionable scale of entertainment. It soon became a popular rendezvous for the principal families of the Midland Counties; and was made classic ground in public estimation, by the many authors, who, like Sir Walter Scott, often enjoyed their learned leisure here; or who, like Lord Byron, repaired hither to meet the fair companions of their youth; and muse in sentimental fancy - as he did with the heiress of Annesley - on the thrilling joys of " first and passionate love." But

"The day of its destiny's over,
The star of its fate hath declined;"

and the Old Bath Hotel, where Scott nursed his romantic enthusiasm, and Byron his poetic imagination, became,


amidst all the extending popularity of Matlock, a "shut-up" and neglected road-side inn.

Its Baths, however, continued in use; the waters with which they are supplied having medicinal properties, which are most efficacious in bilious and rheumatic complaints, the first stages of consumption, gout, and all cases of debility arising from relaxation of the muscular fibres. The temperature of the waters, as they issue from the springs, is 68 degrees Fahrenheit - about 14 degrees lower than those at Buxton - their specific gravity 1.003, and their constituents, free carbonic acid, with muriates and sulphates of magnesia, lime, and soda, in very minute quantities. Dr. Thomson, in his " Materia Medica," classes this water with the calcareous, and considers it almost pure. "The hot springs flow out at an elevation of about 100 feet above the river; but these sources are now hidden, and the water is conveyed in pipes and covered channels into the Baths and Petrifying Wells. One of the streams is seen flowing from a field into the road, under which it passes opposite Smedley's spar shop; and another forms a beautiful little waterfall, after passing through the Old Bath stable-yard, by flowing over the rough tufa margin behind the stables."

Engraving of Matlock Dale, about 1869, looking across from Matlock Bank towards Matlock Bath. You can see St. Giles' Church on the left, the railway bridge, High Tor and Masson hill with The Prospect Tower visible on the skyline.
Image rescanned 2008 Ann Andrews
Matlock Dale

In the year 1866, the picturesque situation of the Old Bath, and the ancient celebrity of its springs, attracted the attention of a number of visitors, who, in conjunction with a few influential residents, formed themselves into a Company, under the provisions of the Limited Liability Act, with a nominal Capital of £25,000, for the purpose of erecting on the site a new building, combining all the conveniences and requisites of a first-class Hydropathic Establishment. In furtherance of this design, Messrs. Whyatt and Redford of Manchester, were engaged as the Archi-


tects, under whose direction a handsome edifice has been built, after the domestic Gothic style of the fourteenth century , with all adaptations to modern requirements, and with a tasteful regard to its romantic position. The establishment is divided into two departments; one consisting of the residential portion, and the other appropriated to Thermal purposes; they are connected by an enclosed corridor, intended to serve as a conservatory and a promenade. In front of the building is a terrace, under which are the kitchens, housekeeper's and other rooms, connected with the domestic arrangements of the establishment. On the ground-floor are the reception rooms, and apartments for the stewards and physicians, dining hall, library, drawing and private sitting rooms, lavatories, and other accommodations. On the floors above are sixty-seven chambers, some of which can be used for two beds, and are en suite with private sitting rooms. A prospect tower, erected over the staircase, affords grand views of the charming landscape. The approach to the establishment for visitors, is by a carriage-porch on the terrace. The Thermal arrangements include a large swimming-bath, and a number of baths required for medicinal purposes.

Besides the Baths at the Old Hotel, there is another establishment of the kind at the NEW BATH HOTEL, and a third at the FOUNTAIN GARDENS, near to the north end of the Museum Parade; all available for public accommodation, and all of course supplied from the natural medicinal springs which flow from the hills. The Swimming Bath is supplied by a natural spring of the temperature of 68 degrees; the bath is 18 feet wide, and 5 feet deep.

The NEW BATH HOTEL owes its origin to the discovery of a second tepid spring, some years after the establishment of the Old Bath. It has of late been considerably enlarged


and improved, and now affords most excellent accommodation to passing tourists, resident visitors, and private families. It is delightfully situated, and its beautiful gardens, which command charming views, are kept in admirable order; their chief glory being a magnificent lime tree, nearly two centuries old, covering an area of more than one hundred feet in diameter. Naturalists ascribe the luxurious growth and vigour of this noble tree to the effect of the stream of tepid water which constantly runs beneath its roots in its flow to the valley.

Of other Hotels, the principal are WALKER'S and the TEMPLE. The former is pleasantly situated at the north end of New Bath Terrace, near the Church, and is well adapted in all its regulations and resources for the comfort, convenience and enjoyment of visitors. Its excellent means of accommodation for pleasure-parties are also highly appreciated, as well as its arrangements for private families.

The TEMPLE HOTEL is on the hill-side, at an elevation of 150 feet above the level of the valley; a number of terraces prettily laid out on the declivity, constituting it a pleasant and picturesque place of sojourn.

HODGKINSON'S HOTEL is a comfortable house of the tavern class, in the Museum Parade, in very good repute ; and, besides the establishments above-named, there are other places of public reception and entertainment, and many excellent lodging-houses most respectably conducted.

A lounge along the Museum Parade will lead to the FERRY, where, under Mr. Walker's direction, and also by Mr. Buxton, opposite The Library, boats may be had for a delightful row upon the gently-flowing waters of the Derwent, which ripple at the base of the wood-clad rocks on the eastern side of the dale, and soothe the ear by their gentle murmurs, as they fall in silver streams over


the not very distant weir, near the entrance to Willersley Park. The visitor will be much pleased with the tranquil charms of this aquatic retreat; and should not return to the vale, without landing to explore the LOVERS' WALKS, which form a most picturesque ramble through verdant vistas, and open out a series of beautiful prospects, that will not fail to excite admiration, and to dwell in the memory as pictures of pleasure.

" So pure, so clear, the woods, the sky, the air ;
It seems a spot where angels might repair,
And tune their harps, beneath its tranquil shades,
To morning songs and moonlight serenades."

And well we remember, that the first sight we ever had of this happy valley - long before the fiery dragon of the iron roads had invaded its repose - was on a glorious evening, as we approached it by the road from Cromford.

" All nature seemed
Fond of tranquillity;
The winds were all at rest, and in the east
The crescent moon, then seen imperfectly,
Came onwards with the vesper star, to see
A summer day's decline."

Just as we entered the romantic dale in which Matlock-Bath is situated, by an approach at once rude, striking, and majestic - the road having been formed through an immense limestone rock, by blasting the stone with gunpowder [transcriber's note : Scarthin Nick] - as we passed along the valley, the joyous sounds of music at the foot of the rocks came floating over the waters with a happy effect from a band of minstrels, who, in this practice of their witching art perhaps thought, with Shakspere, that

" Soft stillness and the night
Became the touches of sweet harmony. "

Be that as it may, the impression left upon the mind has


never been effaced; and future visits have realized the conviction, that in such a spot as this, music sounds most sweetly in unison with the harmonies of creation and the music of the spheres; and that a moonlight view of Matlock Dale is remarkably grand and impressive.

Engraving of Waterfall, Matlock Dale
Image scan © 2001 Ann Andrews

*Transcribed from
'Bemroses' Guide to Matlock, Bakewell, Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, &c' by John Hicklin, Third Edition, pub Bemrose and Sons, London (no date, but about 1869).
Reproduced here with the very kind permission and help of Sonia Addis Smith, whose book this is from.
OCRed and images scanned by Ann Andrews, 2001 - 2004.
The following may also be of interest
Matlock Images: Photographs, Postcards, Engravings and Etchings
The Old Bath
Water Cures
Read an extract from Defoe's "Tour Through Britain"