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Matlock: The Derwent, about 1910, & the Sewerage Scheme
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View of the Derwent and Riber Castle from Matlock's Bridge
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Boating on the Derwent

Two early twentieth century views of the River Derwent from Matlock's Bridge. On the right are the back of the shops of Dale Road and the Hall Leys is on the left bank. Riber Castle is on the hilltop. There are slight differences between the two cards. If you look very hard at the top postcard, you can just about make out through the trees both the bandstand and the footbridge across the river whereas only the footbridge is shown in the second picture, so it would have been taken slightly earlier. The tower of St. Giles' Church can also just be seen in the top image but is hidden behind the trees in the lower view.

What cannot be seen is how polluted the river was. A letter was read at a Matlock UDC meeting on 26 May 1902 from the Trent Fishery Board stating that it had been reported to them that large quantities of refuse were constantly being put into the River Derwent at Matlock Bach [sic], and that many sewers emptied directly into the river. The Trent Fishery Board wanted to know if any steps were being taken to put a stop to these practices. They added that "the water was in a very foul condition and fish were reported to be dying in large quantities". In 1897 the County Council had issued orders to the District Council to engage an engineer to carry out a sewerage scheme and the Fishery Board asked if anything been done. The Council decided to reply that the matter was receiving attention and that they were in correspondence with the Local Government Board[1].

It may have been receiving attention, but nothing was decided for some time. In 1909 the two Matlock Councils, Matlock and Matlock Bath, faced summonses. Derbyshire County Council asked for penalties against them for not having obeyed a previous Court Order in which the defendants undertook to carry out sewerage schemes. Mr. Bailey appeared for the County Council, Mr. F. C. Lymn for the Matlock Bath Council, and Mr. Sleigh for Matlock Council. It was stated that the last Court order had expired in 1907, but since then a scheme had been prepared that both councils had agreed to join. The estimated cost was £45,000, of which Matlock Bath would pay £10,000. It was claimed that plans for the scheme were ready for presentation to the Local Government Board[2].

Matlock Urban District Council granted an extension for the receipt of tenders for the work in 1912[3]. At the beginning of the First World War advertisements appeared in the local papers wanting miners to blast rocks in a sewer tunnel[4]. Then in late 1915 one of the Local Government Board inspectors visited Matlock Town Hall to consider the Council's request for further powers to raise loans so that they could complete the sewerage scheme. They needed a further £12,000. Matlock Council's chairman, Mr. D. M. Wildgoose, attended the meeting together with the Clerk of the Council, Mr. R. Taylor, and Matlock Bath Council. Also represented were Bakewell Rural District Council, Belper Rural District Council, and the Cromford Parish Council. Mr. Taylor assured the meeting that the other Councils were not being asked to pay[5].

The scheme was not finished until 1925, having taken fifteen years to complete[6]. And it was around twenty eight years since a scheme had been first suggested.

1. Matlock: The Derwent". One of the "Celesque" Series, published by the Photochrome Co. Ltd, London and Tunbridge Wells (F.38512). The card is unused so the date of publication only approximate, although another card was posted in 1919. Image re-scanned 2014.
2. "Matlock Bridge - on River Derwent". Jarrolds, Printers, Norwich. Not posted.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", Saturday 31 May 1902. River Pollution at Matlock.
[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Tuesday 09 March 1909. Matlock Sewerage Scheme. Councils in Court.
[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Tuesday 16 April 1912. Discussed at the Council meeting the previous day.
[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Tuesday 3 November 1914. This was one of several adverts. It was "good for steady men" and potential workers had to apply to the foreman.
[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Thursday 11 November 1915. Matlock Sewerage Scheme. Government Board Inquiry. Held on 10th November.
[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Wednesday 1 April 1925. Matlock Sewerage Works. It began working on 30th March. Also "Derby Daily Telegraph", Tuesday 15 December 1925. Final payment to Diggle, the engineers.