Matlock Bath has often been described as the Switzerland
The most famous and enduring image of the village is
undoubtedly the view of High Tor which "like some huge bastion,
lift[s] its grey head to the sky".
A nineteenth century writer said of the Tor: "If
there be any object that possesses a paramount interest over every
other in this enchanting dale, that object is High Tor. Matlock
[Bath] is never mentioned but the High Tor is associated with the
The village lies in a steep sided valley and is bounded by the
River Derwent to the east, with the limestone crags of High Tor
and Cat Tor, originally known as Wild Cat Tor, rising almost vertically
from the river's edge in places as the river cuts its way through
the limestone rocks. There is little on the east bank
of the river apart from the Lovers' Walks;
almost the only development has been the former colour and gas
works sites, the railway line where it surfaces from the tunnels
and a pathway up to Starkholmes. The houses, shops and other buildings
are all on the west bank of the river, on the slopes that lead
to the mighty Masson which rises to over 1,000 feet above sea level.
Matlock Bath's history is discussed below under
the following sub headings:
Matlock Bath was part of the parish of Matlock until 1843 and the
history of the two places is intertwined. Old books and journals often
talked of Matlock, when the author was actually describing Matlock
In early times there were few inhabitants in what we now know as Matlock
Bath because it was almost inaccessible. The village did not really
develop until a road was cut through the rocks at Scarthin Nick at
the south end of Matlock Bath and the bridle path from Matlock Bridge
parish of Matlock, geographical location, landowners and population
century expansion, population & councils
Scarthin Nick (below)
However, the first development of any major importance followed the
discovery of the medicinal springs. "The waters were first applied
for medicinal purposes about the latter end of the seventeenth century.
The old bath, which was of wood, lined with lead, was made in 1698 . It
was this bath that gave the place its name and visitors came to
use the bath and to drink the waters.
The village was an extremely fashionable and prosperous spa in the
nineteenth century, and was visited by the then Princess, later
Queen, Victoria on 22 Oct 1832 when she was a guest of the Duke of
Devonshire at Chatsworth House.
Visitors came to enjoy the spectacular scenery as well as for the
water cure. There were plenty of books to tempt the prospective tourist
about the village, which had become really popular during the Napoleonic
Wars when foreign travel was difficult for the wealthy. Matlock Bath
responded to the demand.
Matlock & Matlock Bath Guides are on this website
Guide: Walks and Places of Interest, about 1869
19th Century People Who Wrote About or Visited Matlock Bath
- Jane Austen, who mentions Matlock in "Pride and
Prejudice" Vol. II, Chapter I
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as a girl
- Lord George Byron
- Erasmus Darwin
- Charles Dickens
- John Ruskin
- Sir Walter Scott
- Mary Shelley - see right
Before this, in 1775, Anna Seward had written
a poem about the Derwent - her "favourite river".
Seward wasn't the only person to write poetry about Matlock
John Wesley preached at Matlock Bath in 1761.
In her Gothic novel "Frankenstein" Mary
Shelley talks of Matlock:
"We ... proceeded to Matlock, which was our next place
of rest. The country in the neighbourhood of this village resembles
Switzerland; but everything is on a lower scale ... We visited
the wondrous cave, and the little cabinets of natural history
Mary actually is describing Matlock Bath.
Mary Shelley (1994) "Frankenstein"
(1818 Text) World Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford
(Vol. III, Chapter II).
Matlock Bath - Poetry
Elizabeth Barrett's visit as a young girl
Through the Centuries: Arrivals at Matlock Bath, 1820-1850. European
Royal families and nobility, British politicians, academics, clergy,
members of the British aristocracy and upper and middle classes of
were also Royal Visitors
- 22 Oct 1832 - Princess (later Queen) Victoria and her mother,
Victoria Duchess of Kent.
- 31 July 1840 - Dowager Queen Adelaide, widow of King William
- 23 September 1856 - ex-Queen Marie Amelie of France
- August 1899 - Princess Mary, Duchess of York - later Queen Mary,
wife of the future King George V
- 10 November 1815 - Archdukes John and Louis of Austria
- 5 February 1816 - Duke Nicholas of Russia, later Emperor
- 23 July 1818 - Imperial Grand Duke Michael of Russia (see Moore's
"Picturesque Excursions" for a short description of the visit,
scroll down the page)
- 10 August 1871 - Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil and the Empress.
in Matlock Bath in the Nineteenth Century
|Ebenezer Rhodes enjoyed his visits
to Matlock Bath in the early part of the nineteenth century.
His description of the hotels at that time is on the right.
At the end of the nineteenth century Matlock Bath's burgeoning
popularity amongst all levels of society is reflected in the
figures for hotel and lodging house accommodation in 1891,
as advertised in Kelly's Directory.
By then the number of hotels had increased from the three
described by Rhodes to nine, plus one hydropathy establishment.
At that time Thomas Tyack was the proprietor of the New
Bath and Royal Hotels, and Mrs. Sarah Evans was at the
Temple Hotel, which was "originally built as a lodging
house or appendage to the Old Bath".
See Tyack's advertisement below
The Royal Hotel had been built on the site of Old Bath Hotel,
with the Old Pavilion set in 16 acres of woodland on the hillside
behind. In addition to the hotels there were some thirty-two
lodging houses! Refreshments of various kinds could be bought
at a the numerous refreshment rooms and restaurants. Gardens,
too, were used as places to serve refreshments, especially
those on the climb up to the Heights.
||When the writer Ebenezer Rhodes visited the village about 1824
he stayed at Varley's Hotel. He described the three inns that
were in Matlock Bath at the time as excellent. He wrote:
"The principal one [hotel] is denominated the Old Bath,
and it is a spacious building capable of affording accommodations
to nearly one hundred visitors. At this inn there is an excellent
assembly room, lighted with elegant glass chandeliers; and a
hot and cold bath are included within the establishment."
Saxton's Hotel was "a commodious house pleasantly situated
on rising ground, nearly opposite Wild Cat Tor".
Rhodes also described the discovery of the skeleton of a moose
deer, found when the foundations for the stables were being
dug. This was taken to the British Museum. The Temple was "the
principal lodging house"' at that time, kept by a Mrs. Evans;
it became an hotel shortly after this date. Rhodes deemed it
to be excellent and "one of the most delightful residences
in the place".
by E. Rhodes,
pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster
The 1892 postcard on the right shows the New Bath Hotel (Saxton's
and later Tyack's), the Bath Terrace Hotel and Holy Trinity
Church with the Royal Hotel behind it, at the southern
end of Matlock Bath. The Bath Terrace became part of the New
Bath and was eventually demolished.
The backs of the houses of Woodland Terrace and the roof of
what was Matlock Bath School at the time can be seen in the
foreground. Clifton Road winds its way up the hillside and
the domed Old Pavilion, with its 228 feet long terrace, can
also be seen.
The Old Pavilion was opened by Lord Edward Cavendish
in 1884 and was known as the Palais Royal. A band performed
twice daily at the Old Pavilion throughout the season. The
building was made of glass and had entrances on both Clifton
Road and Temple Walk.
From the latter there was a very long and wide straight drive
through planted woods. The whole valley was quite densely wooded
and the Derwent Gardens Pleasure Grounds beside the River Derwent
are only just visible on the bottom right hand side.
Matlock Bath from Cat Tor.
Published by Valentines in 1892, No.17465.
a coloured version of Matlock Bath from Cat Tor elsewhere
on this website
Holy Trinity Church
On the left is an advertisement for the
New Bath Hotel dating from 1888 when it was run by Thomas
There are quite a few of pictures of the New
Bath on this site. For example:
| More on the Visitors
Matlock Bath has attracted both painters and writers
over the centuries and Artists Corner, opposite High Tor in Matlock
Dale, was a favourite haunt of the former. Many writers have described
the spectacular scenery in glowing terms.
Not every visitor painted a favourable picture of the scene they
encountered, though. By 1908, J. B. Firth was less flattering about
the village as he describes Matlock Bath as "a tripper's paradise"
and he clearly disliked some of the village's less attractive sites,
such as a bottling plant and paint works in the Dale.
Quite a contrast with those earlier guides whose authors loved
all they saw.
Whilst he was still extremely appreciative
of the scenery, Firth describes the noise - "the bawling
of the drivers of brakes and waggonettes, the attentions
of the pushing salesmen" - and the Switchback Railway,
that was for over 40 years on the river bank, as "a
wanton outrage to one of the fairest scenes in England".
The Switchback Railway he mentioned was in the Derwent Pleasure
Gardens, formerly Orchard Holme or Orchard Close.
By the 1950's there was a
miniature railway in the Derwent Gardens for children and
a paddling pool was nearby, behind the 'New' or Grand Pavilion
near the landing stage.
This second pavilion,
the Grand Pavilion, is shown on the old pre war postcard
on the right. It was built opposite the Fishpond Hotel in
1910, at a cost of £10,000
and was called the Kursaal, though the name was changed during
the first war. Clearly designed to impress, it was built
of brick "with a large central dome and two smaller
domes; it contains a theatre, a large ground floor room and
a pump room. The council offices are situated in one wing
of the building".
The Pump Room is only partially visible on the right of the
The Fish Pond is in the centre of the picture. In
the 1920s the Pavilion's car park would have been packed
with day trippers, who arrived by charabanc. They always
paused to have their photo taken, either beside the vehicle
or in it. The pictures provide a unique view of the charas
that were the favoured mode of transport at the time.
to Matlock Bath - Travelling by Motor Charabanc
The Pavilion was the venue for cultural events such as the
Musical Festival and dances were also held in the ballroom.
The Local Council had offices in one wing and a branch of
the library was housed here in the 1950's and 60's. It is
now the home of the Mining Museum and Tourist Information
Both before and after the Second World War cycle clubs,
whose members lived in towns such as Derby, used to visit
Matlock Bath each weekend. The cyclists would often enjoy
a hearty egg and chip tea in one or other of the local cafés
before returning home. A group of cyclists, with their cycles
parked on the pavement edge, can be see relaxing on the wooden
seats beside the bus stop in the photograph of the Pavilion.
Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath (see
The picture (right), another of a series of cards in my personal
collection, shows an omnibus belonging to William Furniss
Jnr. on South Parade, outside the Fish Pond Hotel. It depicts
a quiet scene as South Parade was almost deserted. However,
on Bank Holidays and summer weekends the pavements and roads
and hillsides were teeming with tourists.
Some of the houses in the village are reminiscent of Swiss chalets.
Valentine's postcard, No. 88725, featuring the bus of
W. H. Furniss outside the Fish Pond Hotel
and registered in 1923.
See: Furniss's Garage, Crown Square
Jewitt's description of the Heights of Abraham, quoted on
the right, is not an exaggeration. The view from the summit
today, which can now be reached by cable car, is truly wonderful.
Those who still chose to visit the Heights as pedestrians,
just as the Victorians did, are able to walk up through
the delightful gardens. It is well worth the effort if you
Matlock Bath's "Heights" are believed to be named
after the Heights of Abraham in Quebec, Canada, which British
troops scaled in 1759 and where their commander, General
James Wolfe, was killed. The Heights in Matlock Bath first
became a tourist attraction in the late Georgian era.
Although the lower slopes have been developed, there are
few buildings higher up and the only residence is the Upper
Tower. In the picture of South Parade with the bus in it,
immediately above this section, the Upper Tower can be seen
in the grounds of the Heights; it is the white building amongst
the trees at the top, just left of centre. This was the home
of Samuel Sprinthall who was at the Heights of Abraham for
many years and was the great grandfather of Peter Aspey.
Peter also lived there and he describes life at the Heights,
its ownership and history on his website. Peter includes
a postcard dating from 1870 and describes both the Great
Rutland and Great Masson Caverns in considerable detail (see
link on the right).
The Petrifying Wells also attracted tourists.
In 1888, Black's "Guide" recorded
that "a penny is the ordinary charge for admission to
onsite transcripts of "Gem of the Peak" have
more on petrifying wells and the numerous caverns
The public promenade opened in 1874, along the riverbank
opposite North Parade.
It was extended in 1887. People were entertained on 'The
Prom' and there were regular performances from the Band Stand
on the opposite side of the river. As well as local bands,
entertainers returned to Matlock Bath year after year to
please the crowds.
On the same side of the river as the [old] Band Stand is
the Lovers' Walks, with footpaths both
on the river's edge and up through the woodland to the summit.
The Jubilee Bridge has spanned the River Derwent for over
a century; it originally connected the Promenade across to
the Lovers' Walks, though the Promenade has now gone. The
iron bridge was put in place on 14 June, 1887 in time for
the Jubilee of Queen Victoria eight days later. A second
footbridge, connecting the Lovers' Walks and the Derwent
Gardens a bit further down river, was finally erected in
"One of the greatest attractions
of Matlock [Bath] is the wooded slopes called the Heights
of Abraham, and the gigantic mountain Masson towering
above it. ... On arriving at the summit the scene is truly
grand and seems to strike the mind with awe ; the view from
this point embraces five counties".
Jewitt, L., "Nooks and Corners
Further details of the Heights of Abraham for those wishing to visit, either
on foot or by the cable car, can be found on their website.
of Abraham site
delightful part of Matlock [Bath] is the Lovers' Walks, on
the opposite side of the river from the village and Masson.
These walks are entered from the ferry, and embrace nearly
the whole of the eastern side of the dale".
Jewitt, L., "Nooks and Corners of Derbyshire"
The Fountain Baths,
was on the opposite side of the road from the promenade;
it is now the Matlock Bath Aquarium. There were several private
baths and a large swimming bath supplied by spring water
which had a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The proprietors of these attractions have been listed in
various directories. Those in 1891 included W. E. Howe at
the Fountain Baths & Assembly Room, Samuel Sprinthall
who was the lessee of the Heights of Abraham (already mentioned,
above), William B. Hunt at Matlock Bath Skating Rink, Frederick
Downs was the Manager of the Pavilion & Gardens and Robert
Hall was listed as Secretary for Matlock & High Tor Recreation
Grounds Co. Ltd. Cavern proprietors were Job Hall Cardin
at High Tor Grotto in The Dale, Jacob Rains and William Smedley.
Five years later little had changed, although Mrs Howe was
at the Fountain Baths and the Skating Rink was not listed.
However, by 1916 most of these concerns had changed hands:
James Fearn was at the Fountain Baths, Robert Hall had taken
over the High Tor Grotto and the Pavilion and gardens had
become the property of the Royal Hotel. There was by then
a Matlock Bath Improvements Society,
based at Riversdale, and Thomas Coates was the Hon. Secretary.
Many visitors travelled to Matlock Bath by train.
The River Derwent, seen on the right
from close to the Pavilion, is the village's greatest asset.
This view, probably photographed in the late 1940s, includes
several old riverside buildings that were to disappear when
the A6 was widened.
The river appears in many of the pictures of the village.
See just some of them in the Matlock Bath 20th & 21st century
River Derwent, from north
Photochrom postcard, No.70579, "Matlock Bath, The River"
the Majority of the Residents Earned a Living in the Nineteenth Century
The tourist season was a short one and not everyone was
involved in the tourist industry, so local people had to
find other ways of making ends meet. There was a wide variety
of employment available in Matlock Bath at the end of the
nineteenth century, listed in Kelly's Directory.
In the Southern part, near Cromford, was Sir Richard Arkwright
& Co.'s Masson Mill (a cotton thread mill) and Simons
& Pickard had a paper mill there; James Shepherd of Derby
Road was the manager.
Samuel Barnes made hosiery on North parade. Samuel Buxton & Son
were builders, William and John Smedley were tufa stone merchants
and George Drabble had premises at the Railway station as
he was a timber merchant. Joseph Reeds was the managing director
of Matlock Bath Gas Light & Coke Co.
In Matlock Dale were the Stevens Brothers who were
barytes and colour manufacturers and Mrs. Mary Whittaker
was the proprietress of Matlock Bath Aërated & Mineral
In 1895 the barytes and colour works on Matlock Dale was
owned by Edward Stanbridge Ginger.
Four years later, the Via Gellia Colour Co. Ltd. had taken
over the works.
Also read about:
newspaper report in 1917 (scroll down on the page)
Though some think of Matlock Dale as beginning
just past the railway bridge near the Boat House, the bridge
is not the parish boundary; this is a little further
along, near the bottom of St. John's Road.
It is easy to get confused as the earlier writers referred
to the whole length of the narrow valley, from the Boat House
down to Scarthin Nick, as "the Dale", with a north
entrance and a south entrance. The north end of the dale
was described, for example, in 1840 by W. Adam in his guide "The
Gem of the Peak".
from the book and names of the residents in 1840 are elsewhere
on this web site
Nineteenth century census returns record Matlock
a few metres from the bottom of Holme Road and finishing
at the bottom of St. John's Road.
The Dale was included in Matlock Bath in old tourist
guides and trades directories and became part of the parish
of Matlock Bath when Holy Trinity Church was built.
The houses in the coloured photo are in the
Dale, on the opposite side of the River Derwent from High
Tor. There is a bend in the river close to here, known as
Artist's Corner, that has been
favoured by artists for several centuries. These days the
section of the River Derwent below High Tor is now regularly
used by canoeists and climbers can be seen scaling the face
of the Tor almost every weekend.
Chapel overlooks the Dale.
Matlock Dale from High Tor, about 1980.
The houses opposite High Tor including Riversdale.
Work to widen the road at Artist's Corner
began in 1936, but in 1939 the wall of the High Tor Guest
House collapsed. It was not repaired immediately. The sepia
postcard on the right shows both the widened road and the
newly re-built wall and was probably taken in the late 1940s.
As already mentioned,
the view of High Tor and the Dale was painted innumerable
times by artists though they would struggle to do so today
because of the tree growth. Many photographs have also been
taken and this web site has a large collection of images.
and Matlock Bath Images includes two sections
about Matlock Dale.
on their own pages, with biographical and historical information
contains a further 17 pictures of the Dale
Photochrom postcard, No.8630-, "Matlock Dale, High Tor"
Nick and Chapel Hill
A mid nineteenth century directory described
"SCARTHIN NICK is a hamlet pleasantly
situated on an eminence on the southern border of this parish
[Matlock], adjoining the village of Cromford".
It had, like Matlock Bath, been part of the ancient parish
Black's "Guide", 1888,,
further described the hamlet: "Scarthin Nick is an opening
between two massive limestone rocks, through which the turnpike
road passes. Close to these rocks is the entrance lodge to
Willersley Castle, the drive passing along between the river
Derwent and the rocky boundary of the grounds, until it reaches
Although Scarthin did not have a parish
church there were several establishments where local people
could worship. "Here is a Mission church, erected in
1871, with a belfry, containing one bell, in which divine
service is held every Sunday and Wednesday evenings. There
are also Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist chapels, the former
erected in 1853, and the latter many years since, but enlarged
Roman coins were found here in March 1795, close to the
head of a human skeleton.
documentary evidence in The Wolley Manuscripts, Matlock.
Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick, together with Chapel Hill,
were governed by Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Local Board
from 1865 until 1894 when they became Matlock Bath and Scarthin
Nick Urban District Council (Local Government Act,1894).
In late 1924, after considerable opposition and a Public
Inquiry, the Council amalgamated with Matlock, Cromford and
Tansley to form the Matlocks Urban District.
There would have been times in the second half of the nineteenth
century when Scarthin was a less than pleasant place to live,
partly to do with the over crowding but also because of problems
with the drainage.
For such a small place Scarthin had quite a large population.
transcripts of the census returns
There's a newborn infant, Robert James White, one of the youngest
children I've come across in a census return, who can be found
living in Scarthin with his family at Schedule 101 in the 1861
to 1861 census page
Scarthin residents and businesses were listed under Matlock
in several onsite Trade Directories.
They were also listed under Cromford directories, which are
Derbyshire: A collection of 19th century trades directory
Photographs and scanned images provided by and
© the web mistress, unless stated.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only
hyperlinks are to transcripts elsewhere on this website):
 "Black's Tourist Guide to Derbyshire"
(1888) pub. Adam and Charles Black Edinburgh
 Jewitt, Llewellynn Frederick William
(?1860) "The Matlock Companion and Visitor's Guide to the
Beauties of the Peak of Derbyshire ... " pub. Derby Telegraph
 Lysons, Rev Daniel and Samuel Lysons
Esq. (1817) "Topographical and Historical Account of Derbyshire"
London: Printed for T. Cadell, Strand; and G. and A. Greenland, Poultry.
The Old Bath Spring had been discovered two years earlier than the
first bath was constructed, in 1696.
 Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History
of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose
& Sons, Limited. Also read the newspaper reports of the time
: Visit of
Princess Victoria & Her Mother, 1832.
 Firth, J. B. (1908) "Highways
and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.
 Adam, W. (1840) "The Gem of
the Peak" London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row
 There were the petitions to the Ministry
of Health from the Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Urban District
Council, the Bakewell Rural District Council and the Cromford
Parish Council for the disallowance of the County of Derby (The
Matlocks Urban District) Order, 1923 ("Derby
Daily Telegraph", 30 Jan 1924). The public inquiry opened
on the 19th February (same newspaper,
19 Feb 1924). On 1st Oct 1924 the various districts were abolished,
amalgamating to form the Matlocks Urban District.
Bath & Scarthin Newspaper Cuttings has two articles about
poor conditions at Scarthin. See 1871 and 1872.
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire", 1912 (not transcribed on this site)
| "The Post
Office Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire
and Rutlandshire", pub. Kelly and Co., London (1855)
 "Kelly's Directory of the
Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland" (May,
1891), pub. London
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire,
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland", pub.
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire,
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland", pub.
There are online
19th century directories
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire",
1916 } There are online transcripts: 20th
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire",