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Matlock: The Bridge
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1799, by Turner



The Old Bridge



Tourist Booklet of Matlock, Matlock Bath & District, about 1900



Matlock Bank
Summer 1904



Bank Road & the Steep-Gradient Tramway



The top image is of the northern side of Matlock Bridge, not long after it was widened in the early years of the twentieth century. The picture shows the new stonework. On the right, on the far side, are the shops of Dale Road; the upper storeys of the Queen's Head Hotel can also be seen.

It had taken quite some time for a decision to be made about the bridge (see The Old Bridge, Matlock) and there were further delays after the plans had been approved. In early January 1903 the District Council agreed to view the site with Mr Fisher, who owned the land the County Council needed for the bridge widening project. It was hoped that there would be "no further needless delay in starting the work"[1] and at a Ratepayers Association meeting later that month it was reported that the Council was trying to buy the land from Mr. Fisher at a reasonable price[2]. Unfortunately, by April 1903 the Bridges and Highways committee had still not reached any agreement with Mr. Fisher regarding the price. They instructed that the matter should "be brought before the session ... Colonel Cavendish said a jury at the next sessions would decide what the county would have to pay in respect of Matlock Bridge"[3].

The County Council eventually reached agreement with Mr. Fisher, paying £2 per yard for 61½ yards. The contract for the work to widen the bridge was let to Mr. G. F. Tomlinson, of Derby, for £3,996 9s 9d[4]. Work was underway in early October 1903[5] but the river flooded later that month and the bridge widening was delayed for weeks[6]. However, by January 1904 Derbyshire County Council's Bridges and Highways Committee reported "that satisfactory progress is being made with the re-building and widening of Matlock Bridge. It was originally arranged that the arches should be built of blue brick, faced with stone, but the committee considered it would be better to build them throughout with stone, which will involve an additional £200"[7].

Local people believed the work was not being done quickly enough. Job Smith read out a letter from the Matlock Ratepayers and Property Owners' Association at the Urban District Council meeting of 2 May 1904, asking the Council "to press for expedition in connection with the widening of the bridge". Mr. Smith pointed out that "the contract lasted until September next, but members thought the work would not be completed by that time, and a resolution was adopted urging the County Bridges and Highways officials to expedite matters"[8].

The bridge widening venture was not completed without incident. On 2nd September 1904 James Hodgkinson, a 27 year old married man from Darley Dale employed by the contractor was working on the bridge with another man when some of the stonework and scaffolding collapsed. Hodgkinson was thrown into the river and buried under the heavy wooden scaffolding. A steam crane was used to rescue him, and he was taken to Whitworth Hospital. His ribs and chest were been badly crushed but he fortunately survived the accident[9].



The second postcard shows the bridge from the south, looking upstream. On the right are some of the buildings of Crown Square. Above the new stone wall beside the bridge was Orme's grocery, next to the Broadwalk going down to the Hall Leys. It was one of a group of buildings that were demolished in the 1920s. The shops and houses on the far side of the road are little different today. This card was sent in early January and the sender wrote that "we are glad of milder weather but the hills looked lovely covered with snow".


Further reading:
Read Moore's description of Cromford Bridge in 1818 This also has arches that differ in shape.
"The AutoChrome Album of Matlock & District". Scroll down the page to see a coloured picture of Matlock Bridge before it was widened.
The Long and Winding Road


1. Postcard of "Matlock, The Bridge", Scott Russell & Co., Art Publishers, Birmingham, No.807. Not posted, but another card was posted in 1906.
2. Postcard "The Bridge, Matlock". Raphael Tuck & Sons "Chromette" "Matlock Bank". Postcard (Regd.) 4919. Art Publishers to their Majesties the King and Queen "Picturesque Derbyshire". Posted 4 Jan 1909.
Postcards in the collection of and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 10 January 1903
[2] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 24 January 1903
[3] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 16 April 1903.
[4] Report of the Bridges and Highways Committee, presented at the Quarterly meeting of Derbyshire CC, Wed on 8 Jul 1903. They were about to stake out the land.
[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 8 October 1903. Derbyshire CC's Bridges and Highways Committee report.
[6] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 29 October 1903
[7] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 14 January 1904
[8] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 May 1904. Job Smith was then Chairman of Matlock UDC.
[9] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 3 September 1904.