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All About Derbyshire by Edward Bradbury, 1884.*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
 
Chapter XXI

MATLOCK, pp. 307 - 309


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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


W.H.J. Boot's The High Tor - Evening
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 her."



*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.
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