Donkey rides were a good way of visiting such places as the Heights
of Abraham for those who did not want to walk up the hill
in the nineteenth century.
William Adam, writing in 1840, tells us that the hourly hire
rate was one shilling.
Over the years there were complaints about donkey nuisance
and the issue was sometimes discussed by Matlock Bath and
Scarthin Nick Local Board.
One disgruntled visitor to Matlock Bath wrote to the Derby
Mercury in the summer of 1866, during a particularly
hot week. He began by objecting to the state of the roads:
"Whilst taking my daily walks through this place during
the past hot week (which, if I could have done so in peace
and comfort, would have been delightful,) I have been almost
blinded with dust".
He went on to complain about the donkeys, the cabbies and
the donkey urchins : "but who would imagine, to
see the utmost disorder amongst the cabs and the unfortunate
quadrupeds in Matlock Bath, there was in existence anything
approaching a restraint of any description. Instead of being
quietly stationed upon their "stands",
they are allowed to move about plying for hire, and a most
intolerable nuisance exists in the confusion and quarrelling
prevalent among the "Cabbies," and donkey urchins,
as to who should "take you to the Via Gellia, the
Black Rocks, sir; take you cheaper than any of 'em, sir"".
This stereoview shows mostly youngish boys, the donkey
urchins who had upset the complainant, waiting
for passing trade by the obelisk below the Royal Hotel. You
can almost hear them calling out the words. They may have
been a nuisance to some, but they needed the work whilst
they could get it to supplement the family income. The tourist
season was very short.
Croston, in 1868, described an area nearby as being the "general
rendezvous of the ostlers, stable-helpers, donkey drivers,
guides", etc. He also mentioned the donkeys and their
treatment at the hands of some local lads.
The donkey issue resurfaced in 1888 when Matlock Police
Court dealt with a case involving badly behaved donkeys on
25th July. James Rouse, of Matlock Bath, was charged on the
7th July with having donkeys on the highway and not keeping
them under control. Police Inspector Faulkner told the
court that he had seen "four donkeys galloping along
the Bath as fast as they could go. [The] Defendant was riding
upon one of the animals. The police said they had many complaints
about these donkeys, and they were constantly getting into
trouble. Rouse was fined 1s and 10s. 6d costs".
The words Royal Old Bath Hotel can clearly
be seen painted on the obelisk. Today the Temple Hotel's
name has been carved into the stone.
Cat Tor, then known as Wild Cat Tor, is the spectacular limestone
rock face in the background and the church spire belongs to
Holy Trinity Church.
links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this
 Charlotte M Mason mentions
the donkeys in "The
Forty Shires", (1882)
 Adam, William (1840) "The
Gem of the Peak", London; Longman & Co., Paternoster
Row. See General
 "Derby Mercury",
September 13, 1865. At the Local Board Meeting of 30th August,
held at the Literary Institute, the issue of donkey nuisance
was on the agenda, but it was said to have abated.
 "Derby Mercury",
4 July 1866.
 Croston, James (1868) (2nd Ed)
"On Foot Through the Peak": Chapter
14, 15th paragraph down
Times", 28 July 1888.