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"Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath"*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
 
by Henry Moore
pp.36 - 41, with etching of "View From Masson"

View opposite the Museum
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The walk up the steep eminence called the Heights of Abraham,* is carried in a zigzag direction, and is shaded by a thick plantation. It is


[footnote at the bottom of page 36]
* So called from the resemblance it is said to bear to a hill, near Quebec, of that name, where the gallant General Wolfe lost his life in the career of victory.


rendered uncommonly interesting from the line views that occur at various turns and openings, which include all the remarkable eminences in the neighbourhood, with a charmingly varied distance, extending beyond Crich.

The height of Masson top, as taken by the barometer, is 833 feet. The Heights of Abraham 516 feet, and the Alcove 382 feet above the river.

The entrance to this walk is at the Hotel Bath, which is situated near the main road, a little beyond the houses, where the waters may at all times be taken at a very neat fountain, that has been lately erected by Samuel Richardson, Esq. Who has liberally laid it open to the public. From the fountain we ascend through a very neat shrubbery, which has lately been laid out by Mr. Joseph Wilson, of Derby, in a very tasteful manner, and then enter the plantation. Mr. Gilbert's residence will be noticed for its neatness, simplicity of design, and singular situation. At the eastern angle is a round tower, which with two receding quadrangular parts embattled, produce a variation of line as well as of shadow, which renders it a picturesque villa. From the Alcove the view is grand, but at a still higher point much wider scope is taken in : even the High Tor appears much diminished under the eye. If the efforts made in ascending these heights should prove tiresome, the descent, requiring no exertion, will be found extremely pleasant.* Bearing a little to the west is the Rutland Cavern, one or the most singular curiosities in nature. It is entered by a subterraneous passage, cut through a solid rock of limestone, which leads into a very capacious vault, called Ossian's Hall, where a lighted torch is drawn up by the means of a pulley, to exhibit the great extent of the opening. By standing in such situations, where the light that is drawn up can be concealed from the eye, the effect it produces will be found uncommonly impressive; and such as the sportive imagination of a romance writer would enjoy with delight: he would perhaps discover the harp of Ossian, the shield of Trenmor, and the spar of Fingal, hanging upon the walls; and probably the ghost of the bard himself issuing from a gloomy recess.

Several passages branch off here, leading to other grand caverns; one called the Hall of Enchantment, is peculiarly so, where a torch is also drawn up, in the manner and for the same purpose, as in Ossian's Hall. Another, named the Lion's Den, is curious on account of a very faint glimpse of day-light appearing at an immense


[footnote at the bottom of page 38]
* For the purpose of keeping this walk select and retired, the proprietor found it necessary that a trifle should be taken for admission, at a place called the Round House, upon the heights.



height, conveying the idea of being something supernatural. A flight of one hundred steps lead to other vaults and galleries; particularly the gloomy cave of black stone, and the romantic bridge.

It is impossible, to compress a description of all the grand subterranean scenes that are to be met with here, into a small publication of this kind : there are even many that the visitor cannot at present explore. The path in the extensive part that is now shewn is very good ; and the proprietor keeps men continually at work, in making roads to various stupendous vaults, expending considerable sums for that purpose. It is worthy of remark, that we do not in this subterranean ramble meet with monotonous scenery ; for, on the contrary, it is beyond the power of imagination to depict such a diversity of rocks as are to be seen in these recesses ; possessing such wildness as could only result from some terrible convulsion of nature. A fine current of pure air circulates through this cavern, which kept it free from those damps that generally render such kind of places more or less unpleasant. This air finds its way down the shaft of an old mine near the summit of the mountain, which (penetrating the cavern) is the cause of the faint glimmering of daylight before mentioned.

The mineralogist and geologist will derive high gratification from the facility that is here afforded for examining veins of ore, and a great variety of minerals, as they lie imbedded in the limestone, which abounds with natural grottos, beautifully beset with shilling crystals and various ores. " The labyrinths that lead to the natural recesses of the cavern are lined by an infinite variety of brilliant crystallizations, of the fluate of lime, carbonate of lime, a great variety of combinations with the ores of zinc, lead, and copper, iron pyrites, the sulphurets, &c. &c. A rare and unique specimen of the carbonate of zinc, obtained from this cavern, is given in a plate in Mr. Sowerby's English Mineralogy ."* It is of a most brilliant green colour, and is also peculiar to this cavern.

The appearance of daylight, after putting out the candles, in the passage, is very extraordinary. Although it may be a bright day in summer, yet the face of the country appears as if covered with snow; perhaps this may arise from the yellow lights of the candles being imbibed and also retained by the retina of the eye, so that contrast may be said to produce this appearance. That it is not caused by an unusual extension of the pupil, is proved by the eye easily bearing the daylight.

A little further towards the west is a prospect tower; at a considerable elevation on the hill above


[footnote at the bottom of page 40]
*Monthly Magazine for September, 1817, page 134.



View from Masson
Drawn and Etched by H. Moore
This is opposite page 41 in his guide
[Etching opposite page 41]


it, bearing to the west, I found a good station for an extensive prospect, of which I give an etching, to shew the kind of views that are to be obtained from elevated situations in this neighbourhood.

Following the dale, we see the vast eastern rampart before noticed, declining into soft inclosures ; then another immediately rises on the sight; and now the High Tor appears, like a vast promontory, impending over the stream. The river sweeps round a mining peninsula, and then tumbles over large fragments of limestone, that have fallen from the adjoining cliffs. On the left a vast ridge of uncouth rugged rocks, runs from the road to the summit of Masson; other large crag's also appear on different parts of the mountain. The hand of cultivation has lately made some efforts towards softening the lesser asperities of this part of the mountain.

Advancing to the front of the High Tor we are amazed at its awful appearance, and a degree of terror thrills the nerves. Who can look on that frowning veteran of the dale without feeling some appalling sensations ! Those who can contemplate such an object unmoved, may boast a firmness of nerve; but they feel not the dreadful pleasure that such scenes inspire.

It is the awe of the Allwise Creator of the universe, at whose word these mighty mountains with dreadful crash were rent asunder, that caches us through the medium of his works.

[End of page 41]


*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.