Matlock, as a pleasure place, appears to be taking a new lease of
popularity. Shortly after these lines are printed the Pavilion and
Gardens Company will have completed their
picturesque pleasaunce.It is a romantic replica of the Buxton institution,
with this difference: while the Buxton pleasure palace is situated
almost in the bed of the Wye, its neighbour at Matlock is on a spur
of hill above the New Bath Hotel. The site commands a scenic panorama
that almost justifies Montgomery's grandiloquent lines. The
THE HIGH TOR - EVENING
grounds are laid out in terraces and zigzag wooded walks, which
include the "Romantic Rocks," which are naturally
romantic, and indented with wonderful caverns of rare geological
interest. The landscape gardener has been Mr. Speed, brother of the
late Mr. Thomas Speed, of Chatsworth, upon whose shoulders descended
the mantle of Sir Joseph Paxton. Another instance of this progressive
spirit is shown in Mr.
Howe's enterprise, which takes the form of splendid baths, assembly-room,
and rendezvous for a rainy day.
One writes of Matlock with mingled feelings. Nature has done so
much to make it, and man has done his little utmost to mar it.
It is to be hoped that with the new and higher enterprise infused
into the place by Mr. Peters of Guilderoy, a less mean and mercenary
spirit will be shown towards the visitor. Why should this pretty
spa be monopolized by showmen with catchpenny petrifying wells
? Why should the noble river be parcelled out in detached lengths
to boatmen, with competing proprietary lines of demarkation at
every few hundred yards ? And the Cavern guides! My journalistic
friend, Mr. H. J. Palmer, best expresses my sentiments when he
writes: "At Matlock
Bath, the beauties and curiosities of the place, from the 'Heights
of Abraham,' the caverns, and the petrifying springs, to the right
of boating on the river are held, like a fort, by speculators and
guides who have risen to become 'small proprietors.' These parasites
make Matlock the embodiment of Savage's lines:
'Where perquisited varlets frequent stand,
At each new walk a new tax to demand ;'
and put a barrier against the popularity of the resort.
They are not always content with a single payment for their exhibitions.
In one cavern at least a compulsory fee for admission is followed
by a strong appeal for a voluntary one for exit, a most ingenious
device being adopted. When the party, with shivering limbs and bowed
heads, have crept through the narrow entrance and traversed the tortuous
path into the heart of the cavern, the guide, holding his candle aloft,
delivers a rambling address on lead-mining and volcanic upheavals,
which he winds up with a few words in quite an altered tone, which
have the curious effect of resembling the familiar close of a sermon.
With this performance he throws himself against the only means of
egress and coolly blocks the way whilst his quickly doffed hat is
going the round of the company. Guides who have any desire to rise
in their profession and to learn how to introduce 'a brilliant flash
of silence' into their explanation should take a hint from the lady
who so gracefully conducts
the public through the Duke of Devonshire's noble treasure-house
at Chatsworth. There is no feverish haste or parrot-like harangues
in those superb halls. Visitors are allowed to inspect and admire
in their own 'v ay, and from their own point of view. The attendant
conducts them from room to room with a few words of general introduction,
but otherwise discreetly and modestly confines herself to answering
with clearness and intelligence any inquiries that may be put to
*Transcribed by Ann Andrews in July 2007 from:
Bradbury, Edward (1884) "All about Derbyshire." With
sixty illustrations by W.H.J. Boot, J.S. Gresley, W.C. Keene, L.L.
Jewitt, G. Bailey, J.A. Warwick, R. Keene, and others. Simpkin Marshall,
London : Richard Keene, All Saints', Derby
With my grateful thanks to Jane Steer who provided photocopies of
her book for me to OCR.
Image scans Copyright Jane Steer and intended for personal use only.