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Matlock Bath: Romantic Rocks or Dungeon Tors, 1864
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The Royal Cumberland Cavern was nearby



So was the old pavilion



The Romantic Rocks or Dungeon Tors were a popular Matlock Bath attraction in the nineteenth century, but fell out of favour in the twentieth. The extract below, written by L. Jewitt, was published in "Nooks and Corners of Derbyshire"[1] and is full of the melodrama that appealed to the Victorians. Jewitt discussed the Heights of Abraham and Masson hillside before going on to say:

"On the side of this steep [hill?] are the extensive caverns which attract so much interest, and on the same slope is one of our favourite little nooks, the Romantic Rocks, as they are termed. This singular assemblage of rocks, although comparatively small, is, perhaps, from that very fact, and its utter exclusion from the outer world, one of the most lovely spots which even Matlock can boast; it is formed of masses of gigantic rock, boldly jutting out from the side of the hill, and by a number of obelisk-shaped stones thrown wildly about in various directions, and beautifully covered with the richest coloured lichens and mosses. The whole assemblage is embosomed in the surrounding foliage of the trees, which grow from out the interstices of the rock, and in a profusion of shrubs and wild plants, which cast a deep gloom and shadow over the spot; while the constant dripping of the water as it percolates through the mountain gives a coldness and sepulchral feeling to the place, which is still more heightened by the long waving leaves of the fern and hart's-tongue, which grow in great luxuriance and profusion. We could visit this little spot at all hours, and sit and listen to the monotonous dripping of the water, and watch the waving of the long dark leaves of the unearthly-looking hart's-tongue, as drop by drop the moisture fell upon them from above, and see it pass from leaf to leaf, until, with a sullen plash, it fell upon the rock beneath; and we could peer into the darkness of the recess until our minds were lulled and soothed with the contemplation, and our very soul estranged from earthly objects."

The rocks could be reached by a path from the Palais Royal (Old Pavilion). They were bought from Walter Mather Evans' estate in 1882 and were absorbed into the grounds of the Matlock Bath Pavilion and Gardens Company[2]. Almost immediately after the Royal Assent was given to the Matlock Bath Improvement Act in 1905 the Royal Hotel purchased the Pavilion and Gardens Company from its then owners; the Tors were still part of that company and presumably were no longer available to the general public[3]. By 1912 they were referred to in the past tense[4].


The Romantic Rocks and/or the Dungeon Tors are mentioned in the following on site nineteenth century guides:
"Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath" by Henry Moore, 1818. Includes another engraving.
Hall's "Days in Derbyshire", 1863 Chapter 4 briefly mentions the Dungeon Tors.
"Holmes' Hand Book to Matlock Bath & Neighbourhood", 1866. Scroll down to Walks and Places Worth Seeing.
Croston's "On Foot Through the Peak", 1868 - Chapter 15.
"Bemroses' Guide to Matlock", 1869 - Caverns, Rocks, Museums, Church (p.13) | Places of Interest in and around Matlock Bath (scroll down the page).
"All About Derbyshire" by Edward Bradbury, 1884, Chapter 21, pp307-309.


Illustration an text from "Black's Tourist Guide to Derbyshire" (1864), 4th edition, edited by Llewellyn Jewitt, pub. Adam and Charles Black Edinburgh. From the collection of and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
References - coloured links go to on-site transcripts or information:

[1] The quotation also appeared in "Black's Tourist Guide to Derbyshire" (1864), 4th edition, edited by Llewellyn Jewitt, pub. Adam and Charles Black Edinburgh.
[2] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, July 19, 1882. New Pavilion and Gardens at Matlock Bath.
[3] The Royal Assent was given to the Bill and the Matlock Bath Improvement Act became law on 4 August, 1905. There is more information about the Royal Hotel's purchase on Matlock Bath: The Old Pavilion - the Palais Royal.
[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 January 1912. "... with that group of rocks, the Dungeon Tors, were amongst the chief attractions of Matlock Bath".