As well as the usual array of small objects, such as birds'
nests, eggs, fruit, vases, and hats, this stereoview indicates
that some slightly unexpected things were also popular
souvenirs for nineteenth century visitors to the petrifying
wells of Matlock Bath. The enlargement below shows that
amongst the numerous items in the display were antlers
and a cow's head, as well as one of a horse and another
that was possibly a donkey, all undergoing petrifaction.
There also seem to be two small skulls, one of a monkey
and one that may or may not have been a very small human.
It is difficult to know. There is also a chain.
As the process took up to a year to complete, and sometimes
longer, some people sent whatever they wanted to be turned
into stone to the petrifactioners rather than delivering
the item in person.
An 1870s advertisement placed by Jacob Raynes, a
Lessee, stated that "The only ROYAL PETRIFYING WELL is
on the High road leading to Cromford, and is the second well,
known as "Jacob's Well". It was from this well that
her most Gracious Majesty when a girl chose a bird's nest".
Mr. Raynes' terms were "Reasonable" and he welcomed
both excursionists and school parties.
Bath was visited by thousands of excursionists at holiday
times in the mid to late nineteenth century and its regular
season visitors were also numerous.
Touting became a real problem and
the more discerning visitors were starting to make unfavourable
comments in both the press and guide books.
Cavern guides, cab drivers and petrifactioners all tried
to out-shout each other in an effort to entice visitors to
their particular attraction or mode of transport. Matlock
Bath's Local Board expressed grave concern about what was
going on in 1892. The Board had thought that the issue had
gone away but found that leaflets were starting to replace
the shouting, thus creating a litter problem. They were determined
to deal with things as best they could. "Mr Buxton remarked
that the greatest annoyance was from the petrifying wells,
where they were calling out a thousand times a day. At the
well near his house and on the other side of his premises
the shouting was awful. There was a regular obstruction and
people were touting every day".
It must have been extremely unpleasant to live next door
You may like to view more onsite information
of the Peak (1840) - read the section on "What
to do in 1840" as there is more information about
petrifying wells (scroll down).
Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869, p.16
see the transcript of Croston's "On Foot Through
the Peak". Chapter 14 provides an interesting
description of the petrification process (paras 5, 6 and
Bath's Main Attractions
century directories give the names of petrifactioners
There is more information about the
process in the FAQs