But the High Tor is really the pride and glory of
Matlock. A sheer impending precipice of pale gray, so picturesque
as to win admiration, so stupendous as to compel awe ; a white wall
of rock nearly four hundred feet high, whose broad base is covered
with a wild growth of foliage, but whose solemn face, wrinkled with
rents and fissures, and stained with coloured lichens, presents a
naked front of lifeless limestone ; a river shaded by hanging trees,
brawling past obstructions of islanded rock ; the cliff on the opposite
side of the dale corresponding in geological strata and shape, and
affording proof that the cliffs have been torn asunder by some past
revolution of Nature ; such is the High Tor at Matlock Bath.
Derbyshire is famous for giant "Tors." The word is applied
in Derbyshire to any lofty mass of precipitous rock, just as "scar"
is used in Yorkshire. Chee Tor in Miller's Dale, Mam Tor at Castleton,
and the various limestone pinnacles in Dove Dale, are notable specimens
of this romantic rock scenery: but they are less imposing in their
the High Tor, which is without an inland rival, or finds a rival
in the St. Vincent Rocks at Clifton alone.
The High Tor appeals to every mind, and attracts every taste.
It has attractions for the geologist because of the basalt sheet
which intervenes between the two limestone strata, and which once
flowed from submarine volcanoes, and also because of the natural
fissures, whose walls are of dog-tooth crystals, fluor spar, and
lead ore. The botanist
finds rare ferns and scarce plants in the wild undergrowth of vegetation
that covers the lower part of the rock; while, to the poet, and
painter, and the lover of picturesque, the beauty of the kingly
bastion never palls, and never appeals in vain for loyal homage.
It is a picture, this great mass of grim, gray limestone, rising
with imperious sternness high above the festooning foliage and
ferns and braids of ivy that cling and climb round the feet of
the flinty-souled giant, as if to soften his frowning face with
their beautiful appeal of green ; and above the Derwent, that also
seems to try to reach the heart of the majestic monarch with its
The Midland railway has forced its iron path through the
flinty heart of the High Tor, and the rumbling reverberations of
the Pullman express reaches the ear like the grumble of subterraneous
thunder. The summit of the crag is easy of access. The road leads
through ornamental grounds, and the view across the ravine to the
Heights of Abraham, and the steep shoulder of Masson, is very striking.
Quarrying operations are, however, robbing the answering cliff
across the river or its original contour. The edge of the giddy
High Tor cliff may be approached without danger. An iron fence
protects what would otherwise be a path of peril, and enables you
to gaze down the startling wall of rock right away to the river
roaring over the strangled rocks with hoarse music. The High Tor
Cavern is of surpassing interest to the mineralogist. It abounds
in shining crystallizations of calcareous spar, to which, the geological
guides give jaw-jeopardising Latin names.
There was in the good old days a hermit's cave on the top of the
High Tor. The English Traveller, a curious book on " Our Native
published in 1746, states that -" By being at the Pains to
clamber on hands and Knees almost to the top of it (the High Tor),
may be viewed an Hermit's Cell hewn in the Rock, with a most dreary
prospect before it. At one end is a Crucifix and a little Nich,
where the Anchorite placed his Saint." No trace of the Hermitage
is now to be found, and if descried it would de difficult to obtain
an inmate for the cell. The spell of seclusion is broken. To-day
a recluse would soon be frightened away by satchelled cheap-trippers,
and tourists with opera-glasses.
It is a pleasant walk down from the back of the High Tor to the
old village of Matlock, a very primitive place compared with Matlock
Bath. The church is small, but ancient. The Rev. John Charles Cox
places the date of its erection in the reign of Stephen. The tower
is the sole surviving portion of the old structure. Inside the
church are some interesting relics. Among these is a strong chest.
Riveted to it is a chain of about four feet long, to which was
formerly secured the Parish Bible, when first deposited there in
the sixteenth century.