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Matlock: Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & Bridge, 1870s
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Boat House Hotel, run by William Rawson
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Flooding in the Matlocks
Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks

Matlock Bank & Bridge 1890s

The Quarries

Matlock Bank & Bridge from near the Quarry 1907

Here are three rare views of the Boat House Hotel in Matlock Dale dating from Thomas Rawson's long tenure as the innkeeper. His name and that of his hotel runs along the side of the building at first floor level on the three photographs here. William Adam had described the Boat House as being a small inn near the northern entrance to the Dale in several editions of his book[1] but by 1863 Mr. Rawson had considerably enlarged the premises[2].
See Railway Bridge with Matlock Bank in the Distance, 1863, which appears to show a smaller building than the one here.

There are a numbers of buildings in addition to the inn, including two stable blocks and another, rather dilapidated, building with double doors on the roadside. Behind is another property with small windows, perhaps a store relating to the quarry or possibly the cottage that belonged to the lime kiln[3]. In 1813, with 13 years of the hotel's lease unexpired, a press notice stated that "the land abounds with limestone and the purchaser will have the use of getting and selling the stone, or of burning the same into Lime, without paying any extra rent for the premises for the reminder of the lease"[4]. All the buildings are extremely close to the limestone rocks, where there are already signs of quarrying, although it was not necessarily being done when this photograph was taken. Small gardens are on the riverbank, this was known as Derwent Bank[5].

In late December 1883 Thomas Rawson complained of the state of the road near his premises to the local board, and asked for a crossing to be made to his house. The chairman's response was somewhat unhelpful. He might put down a crossing, as others had done, but the board had no power to do it[6].

Interestingly, Matlock's Local Board decided to try to have the Harvey Dale Quarry declared an "exhausted quarry" in early 1885. This was with a view to building there. It is not known if they ever did so as Matlock Bath's Local Board had a share in the quarry, which belonged to Matlock parish[7], although the Dawber designed cottages were built on its edge.
See Cottages, Matlock Dale, 1899

Boat House, with boat

Above is a similar undated photograph that was taken from either the iron river bridge that still exists today or its predecessor (see image lower down). It provides a good view of the separate stable/carriage building belonging to the Boat House. The inn's door and windows are open on a warm summer's day in both pictures; the front door was the original, also seen on Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & River, early 1900s.

A boat is moored at the water's edge in both pictures and is, presumably, one of the boats that the Boat House used to hire out. White's Directory of 1862 described the hotel as "pleasantly situated close to the Derwent, is within ten minutes' walk of Matlock Bridge station, and is fitted up with every convenience conducive to the comfort of visitors, who can, at a minute's notice, be supplied with boats for a row on the river."[8]

A new bridge

During the summer on 1871 two meetings were held to discuss building a foot bridge over the Derwent near the Boat House and the nearby ferry. The aim was to bringing the parishes of Matlock and Matlock Bath closer together. It was to be a free bridge, with the money raised by voluntary subscriptions[9]. A second meeting, this time of the Bridge Committee, was held at the Boot Inn on Holt Lane, which was near to the site of the proposed bridge. It was unanimously resolved that the following gentlemen should be appointed "to wait upon the residents and others for subscriptions towards the erection of the bridge". For Matlock Town : Mr. Skirrow, Mr. Clarke and Mr. A. Walton. For Matlock Dale, Mr. H. Gordon, and Mr. T. H. Newbold [10].

By December the same year "the works for carrying out the scheme for a new bridge over the Derwent, near the entrance to Harvey Dale", had begun. "A rural bridge of light and tasteful design will span the river, and the ancient foot-road at the foot of the southern side of "Cats Tor" will be improved and widened, and thus the old town of Matlock, and its recently restored and beautiful church, will be brought nearly a mile nearer to Matlock Dale, and all the roads from its suburbs, converging near the entrance to the new Derwent Bridge.[11]"

The Pre 1881 bridge
The first bridge over the Derwent to link Matlock Dale and Matlock Town.
Whilst it was very attractive, it did not prove to be durable.

A number of fund raising events to help pay for the bridge took place in 1872-3. Matlock Volunteer Band performed at a grand concert in the Assembly Room[12]. Another occurred under the distinguished patronage of Lord George Cavendish, M.P., and Captain A. P. Arkwright, R.N., M.P. The proceeds also went to the footbridge fund[13].

In August 1872 the Derby Mercury had optimistically welcomed the erection of a strong new bridge across the Derwent. "We are glad to observe that the preliminary massive timber works now spans the river at the junction of Matlock and Harvey Dales, and we expect this useful bridge will soon be completed and opened to facilitate the connection and communication of the many walks, roads, and hamlets which lie on each side of the river"[14]. Unfortunately, a timber bridge was not strong enough, no matter how useful it had been deemed to be. In early 1881 heavy rain, followed by the rapid thaw of quite a heavy snowfall caused the Derwent to "rise to a great height"... "The bridge connecting Matlock Dale with the town was swept away by the unusual rush and volume of water"[15]. "The dwellings on the side of the river were flooded, and property damaged to an extent which could hardly have been anticipated as likely to occur. Massive masonry and palisades were not only destroyed, but in some cases washed away, and many fences and walls have completely disappeared."[16]

The river overflowed its banks again in 1886 as there was apparently no road visible opposite the Boat-house Hotel, owing to the submerging of the boundary walls[17]. But this time the footbridge was not destroyed.
See Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & Quarry

Shortly before his retirement in 1886 Mr. Rawson's name appeared in the "Methodist Times" as a superintendent appointed by a conference to preach and perform all acts of Worship and Methodist discipline ... for the Nottingham and Derbys District[18]. William Hancock, a former railway supervisor, took over the license from him at the end of the year[19].

There is a list of all the hotel's known licensees, listed alphabetically, 1775 - 1950s.
See Matlock: Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & River, about 1908. With Licensees.

More images of the Boat House

[The Boat House, Matlock]. Early 1880s or before. Photographer not known at present. Photographer not known at present. The image had unfortunately been kept in a frame by a previous owner, hence the yellowing. Having tested a number of options to remove the colour differences, I decided to leave it as is.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links go to on site transcripts):

[1] Adam, William "The Gem of the Peak", various editions.

[2] "Nottingham Journal" 29 August 1863. Advertisement for the Boat House Hotel. "This Fine Old House has been recently very much enlarged and newly fitted up, and contains every accommodation and comfort for visitors, with board lodgings on moderate terms" ...

[3] "The Derby Mercury", 1 July 1829. Sale advertisement includes Mr. Rawson's lime kiln and cottage. The 1899 O.S. map, Derbyshire XXXIV.3 (Revised: 1897, Published: 1899) refers to the kiln as an old limekiln.

[4] "The Derby Mercury", Thursday 14 January 1813.

[5] Matlock Tithe Award, 1848/9, Derbyshire Record Office. Part of Derwent Bank belonged to the Boat House. A number of other plots or parcels of land along the river bank were also called Derwent Bank; it was not just a name used for land in this locality.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 14 December 1883.

[7] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 6 February 1885. Matlock Bridge Local Board's Monthly Meeting. Also "Derbyshire Courier", 7 February 1885.

[8] "General Commercial Directory and Topography of the Borough of Sheffield with all the Towns, Parishes, Villages and Hamlets Within a Circuit of Twenty Miles", pub. Francis White & Co. Sheffield (1862).

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 15 July 1881. This meeting was held in the National School.

[10] "Derbyshire Times", 15 July 1881. New Bridge Meeting. Although reported in the same newspaper, this was a different meeting.

[11] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 29 December 1871. New Suspension Bridge.

[12] "Derbyshire Courier", 2 March 1872.

[13] "Derbyshire Times", 9 July 1873. Matlock Dale foot bridge. Grand concert.

[14] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, August 7, 1872.

[15] "ibid", Wednesday, February 16, 1881.

[16] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 11 February 1881

[17] "Derby Mercury", 19 May 1886.

[18] "Methodist Times", 22 July 1886. First Draft of the Stations of the Ministers in the Connexion Established by the Rev. John Wesley M. A. Superintendent first named other ministers appointed ...
598 Matlock*Thomas Rowson (Matlock Bridge), *Joseph Gibson (Matlock Bath), Sup. Thomas Sheldon (Cromford, Derby)
*Minister is changing circuits.

[19] "Derby Mercury", 25 Dec 1886. He was granted a temporary license of the Boat House Hotel.