|Henricus : "The Matlock Tourist"*
|Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
THE MUSEUMS. pp.14-21
THE CENTRE MUSEUM - (Proprietor MR.VALLANCE)
Consists of two fine show-rooms, in which are to be seen the most
curious and interesting specimens of marble and spar found in the
surrounding country, manufactured into vases of the most exquisite
beauty. We would particularly refer the visitor to some of the large
Bell and Etruscan Vases, which are equal, if not superior, to similar
productions of the ancients. The original of the beautifully formed
Etruscan Vase, commonly called the " Devonshire Vase," was
brought from Italy by the present Duke of Devonshire, who wished to
ascertain whether the workmen of his own county could imitate it.
It was left with Mr. ValIance, who in the course of a few months had
the honour of executing some in black marble for the noble Duke. The
rapid sale which the Devonshire Vases have since experienced, bears
testimony alike to the Duke of Devonshire's taste, and the ingenuity
of the Derbyshire workmen.
"Banks' Obelisk is another beautiful specimen of workmanship.
The hieroglyphics are beautifully depicted by the application of an
acid, and the Greek inscriptions prove the extraordinary accuracy
with which it is executed. This obelisk is doubly interesting, on
account of its being associated with the name of Belzoni, who brought
the original from the island of Phil, in Egypt. It is now erected
at Mr. Banks's seat, in Dorsetshire."
The "Diamond Engravings," upon black marble tablets, by
Mr. Rayner (we believe exclusively pos-
sessed by Mr. ValIance), may properly be considered the most interesting,
as well as the most attractive objects in this collection. We have
heard of many novel methods of drawing, painting, and engraving, within
the last four or five years, but they have uniformly been inferior:
these are of a higher order ; and we hesitate not to say, that Mr.
Rayner has executed some subjects that require the half tone of moonlight,
in a manner equal to any of our moonlight painters.
Mr. Vallance has been a manufacturer in the marble business for upwards
of thirty years, and from his long standing in this place, and from
the great interest he has always taken in the productions of the county,
on all subjects of local importance. His name has indeed become associated
with Matlock Bath, as an obliging and communicative resident.
Mr. Rhodes, the author of " Peak Scenery," in his description
of Mr. Vallance's Museum, says, "under the taste and direction
of Mr. V., the workmen of Matlock have been instructed and improved
in the various articles which the spar and fluor works produce."
- The Matlock Companion likewise describes Mr. Vallance "as a
gentleman, who from long experience, is very conversant in whatever
relates to the natural productions of Derbyshire."
Indeed a visit to this Museum will prove a rich treat, as well as
an agreeable lounge, but more particularly to the geologist and collector
of minerals, as he may here meet with a choice collection of every
specimen of minerals which Derbyshire produces; there are no less
scientifically arranged; each
separately labelled, and they are admirably adapted for the studies
of geology and mineralogy. We believe the whole cabinet does not exceed
the moderate price of twenty-five shillings.
To Mr. Vallance the public are indebted for the first introduction
of the Black Marble, obtained from a quarry near Ashford-in-the-Waters
; it bears a beautiful polish.
This gentleman is now turning his more immediate attention to the
Amethystine fluor, or Blue John, this being in his opinion, the only
gem of the County. So scarce and valuable is this fluor, that there
is only one mine in the world where it can be obtained, to which,
in company with Mr. Vallance, we paid a visit. Our readers may have
some idea of its value when we inform them that the stone fetches
the enormous sum of forty guineas per ton, in the rough, independent
of the expense of carriage. Mr. Vallance, however, seems fully to
appreciate its value, for he is by far the greatest purchaser and
largest manufacturer of any of his competitors. The mine from whence
it is obtained is about a mile and a half from Castleton, in a mountain
called Tray Cliff, extending from Mam Tor to the Winnats, on the road
leading to Buxton. It is really astonishing that such a beautiful
production of the mineral kingdom as the Amethystine fluor, should
for such a length of time be looked upon as unworthy of attention.
Its qualities, however, have at length begun to be fully appreciated
- its known rarity has enhanced its value ; it is consequently to
be found in the splendid palaces of the nobility, and forms an article
of virtù for their cabinets. Its variegated colours
are rich and beautiful
in the extreme. In the estimation of foreigners it is a gem beyond
all praise, and is by them sought after with an avidity truly astonishing.
Blue John Vase
At Mr. Vallance's Museum
|| Speaking of the Amethystine fluor, Mr. Mawe,
the mineralogist, says, " It is impossible to account for
the prodigious variety and singular disposition of the veins,
and sudden contrasts of the finest colours, which occur in this
substance. Some of the pieces of fluor are a foot in thickness,
and have four or five distinct veins ; but such large pieces
are very rare. In general they are only about three or four
inches thick, and some present one strong vein, while others
show many smaller. Such as display a geographical figure, like
a coloured map, are most rare and valuable." A variety
of elegant articles, manufactured of this fluor, may be seen
at Mr. Vallance's. In calling attention to the splendid Blue
John vase in Mr. Vallance's possession, we avail ourselves of
some observations which appeared a few weeks ago in the leading
county paper :-
"BLUE JOHN. - In November, 1842, we had the pleasure of
presenting our readers with an historical account of this most
beautiful spar, in which we took occasion to notice a very celebrated
fluor vase, executed for the late Mr. Mawe, then and now standing
in the old Museum at Matlock Bath. We believe we were right
at that time in saying this was "the largest work ever
executed in the Blue John in its natural state" but it
does not appear that we were so correct in stating that there
was "not the slightest chance of finding stone sufficiently
larfge to match this wonderful production," and in
pronouncing it to be 'matchless!
We will not now inquire how far that account stimulated our old
acquaintance, Mr. Vallance, of the Centre Museum to dig and delve
in the Castleton mines, but at once candidly acknowledge that an exquisite
vase in Blue John spar, recently completed by him, has, indeed, both
for quality of stone, colour, form, and size, no rival in the world.
We are informed it is executed from three double stones of the soundest
description. The colour is a pure blue and white, brilliant and cheerful,
and therefore, in that respect, very far superior to the one we formerly
noticed, which is dark in colour. The shape is perfect Grecian, and
the size is absolutely startling - measuring three feet five inches
from the base to the top of the handles, and more than forty inches
in circumference. Many of our readers are aware that the material
of which we are speaking has always been considered so precious that
the forms of the vases have almost invariably been sacrificed. The
economical use of the stone has increased in proportion to its value,
and, consequently, all the best specimens of Blue John are to be found
in the most ugly dumpy-looking things which go by the name of vases.
The work, executed for Mr. Mawe, twenty years ago, is, from the reason
just given, very deficient; the neck is almost as large as the body,
and therefore, while its size always excited the admiration of the
public, the extreme clumsiness of its form has never escaped the observation
of the man of taste. This blunder, we are happy to say, Mr Vallance
has entirely escaped, and has executed a vase which, from its form
alone, is worthy of a place in the choicest repository of Grecian
art. We hope that it will not fall into the possession of some merely
where it will be hid for ever from the public inspection; but that
it will find its way into one of the royal galleries, or into some
nobleman's collection, where it may constantly be brought under the
notice of the élite of society."
We cannot close our remarks on this Manufactory without specially
alluding to the Mosaic or inlaid tables made by Mr. Vallance ; they
are in truth elegant specimens of art, as well as beautiful illustrations
of the local productions and manufacture. In some of these tables
the malachite of copper from Siberia is worked up with very great
effect; the colour is the richest opaque green, with darker lines,
sometimes in circular nodes and sometimes in veins, and the effect
in contrast with the black marble is beyond description; we understand
Mr. ValIance possesses this valuable and rare stone in large quantities,
which gives him a great advantage over his contemporaries.
MESSRS. ADAM AND Co's. Museum. This Museum was
originally Mr. Mawe's, and Mr. Vallance (the present proprietor of
the Centre Museum) was for twenty years the sole agent of Mr. Mawe.
Here may be seen a great variety of the spar and fluor productions
of Derbyshire, with a choice selection of urns, vases, groups and
figures. Amongst the elegant display of articles here produced, we
must not forget to notice the chaste and classic tables of Black Marble,
on which are introduced beautifully engraved views of Chatsworth,
Haddon, Alton Towers, Hardwick Hall, &c;, executed in a pleasing
style, by a local artist. But as regards our description of this establishment,
we will let the author of the Gem of the Peak, speak for
himself.-" The management," he says, " of the wholesale
and retail trade, and conducting of the manufactory have devolved
on Mr. Adam (from Cheltenham), where he had most efficiently conducted
that fine establishment for many years, and under whose management
, this place has lost none of its energy or success; on the contrary,
the trade has been much extended and increased.
The entrance to the Museum is up a flight of stairs: the show room
is of excellent dimensions, and most admirably adapted for the display
of the beautiful wares so tastefully arranged; the stock is costly,
rich, and elegant, not only in the productions of this country, but
in fine specimens of foreign minerals, fossils, and shells, with many
wonders of the Eastern hemisphere, both in their natural and artificial
MR. BUXTON'S MUSEUM. - We were politely shown
over the room by the proprietor, and noticed a good collection of
Spar and Marble ornaments, minerals, fancy articles, and Derbyshire
wares. "Mr. Buxton," observes the author of the Gem of the
Peak, " was brought up to a far different business, that of a
carpenter, but took a liking to this, having obtained an insight into
it while employed by Mr. Vallance."
THE SPAR SHOPS. - Of these there
are several, the best of which is kept by Mr. Smedley, the proprietor
of a petrifying well, which may be seen at the back If of his premises;
the charge is only three-pence. Mr. Walker has a spar shop across
the ferry, and manufactures a few of his own goods: the assortment
good, and none of the articles expensive. Mr. Joseph Pearson has a
shop near the Obelisk; Mr. John Smedley, one close to Saxton's Hotel;
Mr. Boden, by the Post Office: and Mr. Bryan (the Guide), near Hodgkinson's
Hotel, has also a collection of minerals and spars for sale.
Mr. Hartle, comb manufacturer, has a Bazaar, for the sale of toys
and fancy goods, which is situate on the Green, near the New Bath.
[HOTELS, INNS, BOARDING HOUSES. , &c. continues
on from here, but has not been transcribed]
Henricus (1843) "The Matlock Tourist; and Guide through the
Peak, embracing Matlock Bath, Haddon, Chatsworth and C",
published Matlock Bath. There's a handwritten note to Mr. Vallance
is inside the front cover. From the copy held at Derby
Local Studies Library (ref DLSL 143) and published here with the
librarian's very kind permission. Also very grateful thanks to Jane
Steer for generously providing copies and all her help and interest.