Guides Index> "Picturesque Excursions"> This page
Moore: "Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath, 1818"*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
by Henry Moore
pp.27 - 32 With engraving's of
"The Dungeon Tors" and "Romantic Bridge Rutland Cavern"

View opposite the Museum
"Picturesque Excursions"
Next Page
Previous Page
Also see
About Matlock
About Matlock Bath
Find a Name

New Bath Hotel (2) has more about the ancient lime tree

Dungeon Tors or
Romantic Rocks

Great Rutland Cavern

Beyond this, the road rises to Saxton's New Bath, which is a very commodious inn and hotel, with excellent accommodations; opposite to it is a level green, also the grand eastern rampart of the dale, the appearance of which is here very impressive. The walk round this green presents a variety of uncommon fine scenery. Up the dale is seen the Heights of Abraham, towering above its neighbours ; the continuous range of the eastern cliffs, curiously netted with ivy, and cloathed with magnificent woods, which beautifully relieve the crouching cottages on the margin of the green. The smart lodging houses enliven the scene ; their neatness and clean appearance strongly recommend them, whilst their situation, in the midst of such magic beauties, renders a sojournment here one of the most delightful enjoyments for rational being's; where, retired in this sequestered spot from the artifice of a bustling world, the contemplative mind wanders from scene to scene, and is finally led on, admiring nature " up to nature's God,"

" Oh! knew he but his happiness, of men
The happiest he, who far retired from public rage,
Deep in the vale, with a choice few retired,
Drinks the pure pleasures of the rural life."

In the New Bath Garden is seen a very fine spreading lime tree, whose extensive branches are supported by props, that give to it an appearance similar to the banyan-tree of the East Indies ; there is a seat round the bole, where, in warm weather, & most grateful shade may be enjoyed. In the hill above the New Bath is the Cumberland Cavern. It presents many curious fossils, and is well worth seeing.

Pursuing the road, we have now and then a glimpse of the river, murmuring below, Or between the trees a transitory peep at a fine mass of grey rock. On the western side, gently rising are fine fields of grass, and then the Old Bath appears. This is an extensive range of building, and is kept by Mr. Cumming, where every accommodation will be found. Here are also assembly and billiard rooms for the amusement of the company. This is the primitive bath, and may be regarded as the nucleus, around which grew the present extended erections of Matlock Bath.

The first warm spring was discovered about the year 1698, when a bath and a few small rooms were built. At that period there was no carriage road to the place, and but an indifferent one for a horse; however, the valetudinary repaired thither, was benefited, and spread the fame of its tepid waters ; the buildings were then enlarged, and a carriage road made from this spot to Cromford; the horse-way to Matlock Bridge was also repaired. The roads and the accommodations being both improved, and the celebrity of the waters far spread, the demand for accommodations still increased. Another spring being discovered about a quarter of a mile to the south, a new bath and lodging house sprang up, that which is now denominatted the New Bath, as before-noticed; after this a third spring was discovered about a quarter of a mile to the north of the old one, upon which grew another bath and lodging house, called the Hotel Bath. Although the fame of this place was primarily derived from the medicinal Virtues of the waters, yet numbers are now attracted for the purpose of contemplating the scenery, which is perhaps equal in romantic beauty to any thing of the kind that is met with in Wales.

The Old Bath, retiring from the road, has a spacious carriage drive, which partly encompasses the garden in its front, and is a continued terrace walk to the Temple, a sweetly situated lodging house, kept by Mrs. Evans. The prospect up the dale is enlivened by a number of very neat houses, built with tuffa, a kind of stone formed by the water, which deposits in its passage a part of the calcarious particles it held in solution, so that the Western bank of the river, and where the road, turns from a little below the New Bath to the foot of Masson, is an entire bed of this substance. It is well known that water in a warm state will hold more saline matter in solution than when cold, so that in cooling it deposits a part, in a crystallized form: so it is with these warm springs : they carry so much calcarious matter, that cooling as they flow exposed to the air, a part becomes deposited, which composes tuffa: therefore the petrifying weIls (as they are called here) only form an incrustation upon the substances that are put into them. " Encrusting wells," would be their true designation. Many houses here are perched up aloft in such aerial situations, where one would imagine that birds only could build their habitations. The most striking of them is Mr. Gilbert's residence, situated on the Heights of Abraham : below, a handsome range of building skirts the road. This we may call the metropolis of the Dale, being the most populous and busy part of it. Masson here sweeping into a noble amphitheatre, forms a grand western barrier, and kindly protects the metropolitans from inclement storms; it also receives the solar rays with such effect, as render it a warm and most salubrious region.

The High Tor is also seen here, rearing its grey head above the lower part of Masson : and although its grandeur is eclipsed by the magnitude of the latter, yet; it strongly preserves the character of an extraordinary mass of rocks.

In the Upper-wood at the back of the Old Bath, are the Dungeon Tors, a very singular assemblage of rocks, that will amply repay the labour of mounting a steep and intricate path to them. The way turns by the northern end of the Old Bath, where it ascends by some cottages that derive a very romantic air from their situation within the wood ; the path is strewed with glistening spar, and winds up the steep amongst innumerable trees and fragments of rocks. We pass a mine in an angle of the rocks, and a few more turns bring us to the Dungeon Tors; but we are disgusted with a wall and gate that checks the forcible effect of the first view. Here is also the Fluor Cavern, so called from its being studded with that mineral, in considerable quantity: this cavern is well worth the attention of the curious. The guide now conducts the visitor through the gate where these extraordinary detached crags commence; they consist of immense fragments that have, by some strange convulsion, been forced from the parent rock,* leaving a very narrow passage between them. Painting only can convey any adequate idea of these rugged rocks, which are thrown into the wildest disorder; and it is very remarkable that so many of them should remain in an upright position. The dark ivy with which they are netted, the sombre mosses with which they are patched, and the deep gloom which the overhanging trees throws over them, render the appellation of Dungeon Tors very expressive; modern refinement, however, denominates them the Romantic rocks, which is a very indeterminate name for them; the term being too general : therefore let them for the future retain their ancient descriptive appellation of Dungeon Tors.†

[footnote at the bottom of page 32]
*An author advances this curious hypothesis. " Several large fragments have separated, apparently at different periods; as they are found at different distances." But as my optics could not discover any dates upon these fragments, I cannot form any conclusion to favour such an idea.
†A late guide to these rocks hearing parties call them romantic rocks, supposed it a more refined appellation, and therefore adopted it.

[Page 32 continues]

Henry Moore's
The Dungeon Tours and
Romantic Bridge Rutland Cavern
Opposite Page 32
[Engravings of "The Dungeon Tors" and "Romantic Bridge Rutland Cavern" opposite page 32]

There is a slightly later engraving of the Romantic Rocks or Dungeon Tors, dating from about 1864.

*Transcribed by Ann Andrews in March 2004 from:
"Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath, and its Vicinity ; Being a Descriptive Guide to the Most Interesting Scenery and Curiosities in that Romantic District, With Observations Thereon", by Henry Moore (1818), published by H. Moore, Drawing Master; Printed by T. Wilkinson, Ridgefield, Manchester.
Reproduced here with the very kind permission and help of Jane Steer, whose book this is from.
OCRed and images scanned by Ann Andrews.