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Matlock Bath: Warm Walls Toll Bar, before 1879
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The toll bar at the south end of Matlock Bath
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Matlock Dale Toll Bar (formerly Holt Lane)

Hascar Lane toll bar

The photograph of Warm Walls (or Warm Wells) hung on the chimney wall in the Standard 1 / Standard 2 classroom at Holy Trinity School in Matlock Bath for many years[1]; the toll house wasn't all that far from the school. Like other toll houses, the building protruded forward into the roadway. There were windows on several sides to provide good visibility so the toll keeper could see approaching carriages and carts. The road leaving the gate, towards the camera, becomes wider.

To the modern eye this may seem an odd place for the toll house to be have been situated, as the road was not very wide, but it was built beside the old road (now the A6) through the village and was described in several nineteenth century tour guides[2].

William Adam tells us that, having passed Masson House, "we immediately reach the narrow pass at the Toll-Bar, and the first object which strikes attention is the Post Office, a large square brick building just in front. Upon the left is the King's Head, Skidmore's and Greenhough's shops and some lodging houses ; between these and the Post Office at the top of the old road is seen standing conspicuously the New Bath"[3]. It was close to the bottom of the Wapping (now just a footpath), but on the opposite side of the road, and also one of the routes up to the New Bath Hotel, as Adam mentions.

Pre 1850 references to the toll gate and where it was located in Matlock Bath are hard to find in the newspapers, but in 1866 a young woman "residing at what is known "The Wapping," close Matlock Bath toll-gate" was unsuccessful when she attempted to commit suicide[4]. On a somewhat happier occasion, a visitor commented that "On going through a toll-gate the noise of the river is heard rushing down the circular stone work of the weir ... a short distance from the Weir is a large cotton mill belonging to the Arkwrights" in 1872[5].

A letter from "Alpha" of Matlock Bath, dated 4 May 1870, sought to "call the attention of the highway surveyors ... to the dangerous state of the wall on the right hand between the toll-bar at the Cromford end, and Matlock Bath. In some places it is dangerous even for a steady person to lean against or walk by. In others, to any poor unfortunate drunkard proceeding along by its side, one slight reel on his part would be instant death - as he would be dashed to pieces by his fall to the abyss beneath". Curiously, after a call that to remedy the situation immediately, there was a plea to "let our police constables give a sharp look out for offending parties throwing the wall down, and bring them to justice"[6]. One could perhaps infer from this that individuals had been picking up a stone from the wall and throwing it down into the weir or the river to make a big splash!

In 1876, in a report about a serious accident near the toll gate, we learn quite a few details of the area around it when various witnesses gave statements to the court: "the road after the gate is passed, is a level one"; "from the toll-gate the road is a plain level one for 100 yards"; and lastly "having passed the Rutland Arms, about 250 yards from the toll-bar, Matlock Bath". At that time William Blasdale was the collector at the gate and James Shepherd lived nearby[7]. Previous collectors included Thomas Newton (1841)[8], John Wragg (1851)[9] and William Pearson (1852-6)[10]. Mr. Pearson later moved to the Rutland Arms.

In 1879 we learn that "the bars on the road leading through Matlock Bath and Matlock Dale are now gone, and so completely swept away scarcely to leave a mark of the place where they have stood for nearly a century past"[11]. Between 1911 and 1925 the ruins of the building, with a batten door in the wall and behind it the base on which the toll house had stood could still be seen[12]. Whilst the toll bar and, later, the other buildings may have been demolished the two pillars of the toll's gateway were kept and were been moved to outside the New Bath Hotel, but do not appear to be there now[13].

To return to the photograph itself, there are photographs or postcards displayed in the window and an external picture frame contains even more pictures. On the right front is also a large signboard which perhaps advertised the toll charges, although that is speculation on the web mistress's part as the board is not facing the camera. It could equally have been advertising the petrifying well that was close by. Mr. Boden's petrifying well in the 1830s and 1840s was "by the Post Office near Saxton's Green", according to William Adam[3]. In the 1940s this was Mr. Beck's petrifying well[14].

There were various spellings of Warm Walls:
Warmwalles is mentioned in the Will of John Swift of Scarthin, 1776 (scroll down).
Anthony Bowden Yeoman lived at Warmewalls - see his 1728 Will transcript.
It is also mentioned, as Warm Walls, in the Will of Thomas Boden of Matlock Bath, 1812 (scroll down).
An advertisement for Mr. Boden's Petrifying Well can be seen in Hall's "Days in Derbyshire".
(Warm Walls) is shown under "occupyers" in Eighteenth Century Lists: Poor Rate, 1784 (part 2). The owners were Matlock, Lords of the Manor.

Photograph in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews, one of several images given to me by my late father.
Information written and researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Information from conversations with my late father, Frank Clay, and confirmed by Ken Smith. The web mistress also remembers the picture being there. The school was built in 1856 (Schools in Earlier Times), so there was a slight overlap.

[2] There are references to the toll house in some other tour guides. See, for example, Barker's "Panorama of Matlock", 1827 (end of third paragraph down).

[3] Adam, W. (1838, 1840, 1845 editions) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row ; ... . There is a transcript of "Gem of the Peak (1840)" elsewhere on the site (scroll down slightly). The red brick building Adam mentioned was Woodland House.

[4] "Glossop Record", 10 November 1866.

[5] "Nottingham Journal", 11 July 1872.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 7 May 1870. Correspondence (to the Editor). Beware of the Wall.

[7] Thomas Newton and his family in the 1841 census.

[8] John Wragg in the 1851 census.

[9] Matlock Bath PR. One of the children can be found on Holy Trinity Church Baptisms, 1856. He can also be found in White's 1857 Directory.

[10] William Pearson's 1861 census entry.

[11] "Derbyshire Courier", 15 November 1879. Removal of Toll Bar.

[12] Reminiscences of the late Mr. Frank Clay, from his private papers and notes owned by the web mistress.

[13] Information from a conversation with the late Ken Smith.

[14] In 2001/2 the late Brian Hadfield emailed me from Blackpool. He had lived in Matlock Bath, next door to the school, for a little while. He wrote that "opposite my house was a bakers run by a Mr. Beck who I used to help, or more likely hinder. He also had a petrifying well directly underneath the shop". Also see Matlock Bath Today (5)