TRAFFIC CONGESTION is nothing
new to the Peak District. By the mid-twenties it was increasingly
obvious that the network of narrow roads largely unchanged from the
19th century urgently needed some major changes if gridlock, pollution
and endless delays were to be avoided.
One congestion hotspot was the bridge over the river at Rowsley -
a busy location because of the large railway sidings and goods
yards along the A6. Although the road itself just about coped with traffic flow the single-width bridge was a major, frustrating, bottleneck.
Work started on bridge-widening in the late twenties to the relief
of most local people but amid concerns from some conservationists
who feared that the historic structure would not be sympathetically
widened (it was and 70 years later is still in good shape). You
can see how narrow the
original bridge was as a North Western bus (much smaller than
a modern bus) makes its way from Bakewell to Matlock watched
by an RAC patrolman.
The second view, taken a few months later, shows how carefully
the widened bridge has followed the original design.[Image
Taken 75 years ago, a view of Artists' Corner between Matlock and
Matlock Bath reminds us that the hillside and the buildings on
it survive almost unchanged. But the road has been widened and
the area to the right is now a car park.[Image
3] The bus is a North Western. The Stockport-based North
Western Road Car Company operated the majority of buses in the
Peak District in pre-war years until the 1960s when the bus
industry was re-organised and opened to more competition. The
car which is causing trouble is, incidentally, an Austin Seven.
Between Matlock Bath and Cromford this once-familiar
building was demolished some years before a much more ambitious
road-widening project between the two areas. The smaller part
of the building was the Glenorchy Chapel and that nearest to
the camera was a private house. [Images 4 & 5]
[Note from the webmistress:
Gill took this similar view of the A6 trunk road, shown above,
after both Glenorchy and the Independent Chapel were demolished.
Glenorchy was the Pastor's house]
about Glenorchy (Congregational) Independent Chapel
You could attract a good crowd in Matlock back in the 1950s even
for the opening of a modest bus station - little more than just
three rows of corrugated sheeting shelters, long since demolished.
The official opening was performed by Alderman Charles White,
the then-chairman of Derbyshire County Council
and a Matlock man.[Image 6] The two buses on hand at
the opening were provided by North Western and the Darley Dale-based
Silver Service - two or the main operators. From this station,
you could also catch an East Midland to Chesterfield, a Midland
General Alfreton or a Hulley's to Baslow.
Difficult civil engineering work
The most important road project locally for many years was widening
of the A6 between Cromford and Matlock, a difficult civil engineering
project as the road followed the floor of the dale, with the River
Derwent on one side and a towering cliff face liable to subsidence
on the other.
Work started in 1960 and millions
of tons of rock were blasted away and the road closed for months.
This dramatic shot, taken in January 1961, shows the scene after
one of the blasting operations in the early stages of the scheme
while the other scene taken two months later shows the narrowness
of the original road. The diversions, incidentally, were slow
and lengthy. To reach Matlock you had to negotiate the narrow
winding road through Starkholmes, Old Matlock and eventually
Matlock Green.[Images 7 & 8]
The third scene shows the completed new road soon after its opening
in October 1962.[Image 9] This shot was published at the
time in a local newspaper. The trees have matured but more than 40
years later the road remains largely unchanged as our recent view
Just off the A6 at Cromford by a bridge over
the Derwent the historic bridge chapel was in a ruined state
in the 1950s. Harry Gill took this scene, intended for the Manchester
Guardian, of workmen from the then Ministry of Works examining
the structure.[Image 11] The board propped against
the chapel contains a thinly-veiled appeal for funding to help
the Derbyshire Archeological Society repair and renovate the
remaining parts of the Ancient Monument.
The chapel was restored, is listed as of historic and architectural
interest and still stands although looking a bit neglected as our
recent view shows.
[Images not shown]
[Note from the webmistress:
Images 12 and 13 left, also from "Reflections" Magazine,
are of the old gritstone Fishing Lodge on Mill Road, close
to Cromford Bridge. It is a copy of the fishing Lodge on the
River Dove, made famous by Charles Cotton and Isaac Walton,
dating from about 1796 for Richard Arkwright the younger's
water baliff to live in. "Piscatoribus Sacrum" is
written over the door.
You need to look hard, but in both photographs
you can just make out the stonework of the ancient medieval
bridge chapel, described by Michael, to the left of the fishing