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Building the Railway Line to Matlock Station
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Matlock Bath Station (the first of a short series)



Matlock Bath Today.
Image3 shows the Tunnel



Matlock Dale: The Weir and the High Tor Tunnel



Railway track near the High Tor Tunnel



Bridge, 1906



Bridge, 1918




The Railways of Derbyshire, 1903
(Old Maps of Derbyshire)



Midland Railway Distances



The railway arrived in Matlock in 1849, opening on 4th June and celebrated by lunch at the Old Bath Hotel in Matlock Bath[1]. Matlock Bridge Station, as it was first known, was one of three stations to be built within the parish, the others being at Matlock Bath and Cromford. The Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midlands Railway Company was formed in 1846, with the local M.P., Mr. George Henry Cavendish, as its chairman[2]. George Stephenson was appointed resident-engineer for the line, with Messrs. Wheatcroft and Co. being awarded the contract for the High Tor tunnel[3]. Stephenson's report of progress so far (1846) was read to the shareholders at their first meeting. He stated that the line was staked out between Ambergate and Matlock and he hoped to purchase the land "fairly shortly"[2].

A major difficulty was tunnelling under High Tor and local miners were employed to blast through the rock. High Tor tunnel is 600 yards long and the Willersley tunnel, between Matlock Bath and Cromford, is 800 yards in length. Both are a tribute to the skill of the team of men involved. There were relatively few accidents but on the morning of Monday 18 October 1847 a man named Statham, an experienced miner, lit a fuse of "a heavy blast" but failed to "retire to a sufficient distance". He received a heavy blow on back of head from rock fragment and by the following morning his life was in danger[4] but his name is not recorded in the parish register so he clearly survived[5].

In September 1848 the men working from each end met up: "a communication was effected a few days since between the north and south ends of the northern High Tor Tunnel. The tunnel is on a somewhat difficult curve, but on the workmen meeting, it was found to have been set out with such accuracy, that the centres of the two portions, where the miners met, on being proved by the surveyor, Mr. John Wheatcroft, were found not to vary half an inch laterally"[5].


The Matlock end of the High Tor Tunnel, about 1955
The Matlock end of the High Tor Tunnel, about 1955.
In November 1849 The Illustrated News commented that "On emerging from the High Tor
Tunnel, another picturesque amphitheatre strikes your view - the river and new bridge,
neighbouring woods and rocks, the residence of John Greaves, Esq., Boat-house Inn &c."[7].


Before the line could be opened it had to be properly tested with full, heavy, trucks to replicate the normal loads the track and bridges would have to withstand. On 14 May 1849 "the first locomotive engine passed over that portion of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Ambergate railway, now nearly complete, for traffic, lying between Ambergate and Matlock bridge station. The train on this occasion consisted of a number of Midland railway trucks, laden with stone, of a sufficient length to reach over the Boathouse bridge, at Matlock. The gross weight of the train, when engine and tender were attached, being about 150 tons, was a pretty good test for green masonry, and newly formed embankments"[8].


The Boat House Bridge, about 1955
The Boat House Bridge, about 1955.
In 1848 a coffer dam had to be erected in the Derwent in preparation for the bridge
to be built. Whilst constructing the dam the miners working on the project discovered
a number of horns in blue clay under four feet of gravel in the river bed[9].


Earlier the same year the commencement of the extension of the line to Rowsley had also been celebrated by a feast - a supper at the Grouse Inn at Darley Dale[10]. Those involved with railway building clearly liked their food.

Rowsley was as far as the line reached for some years but it eventually went on to Manchester. "At first there was a service of six trains each way on week-days and two each way on Sundays"[1]. With Matlock easier to access the Water Cure industry was able to flourish, outstripping the rival resort of Matlock Bath just down the road. Proposed links to Ashbourne, which were discussed on several occasions in the railway building era, were never implemented.

By the 1880s, almost forty years after the station had been built, locals had begun to grumble about the inadequate passenger facilities at Matlock Bridge and the railway company's failure to do anything about them. An anonymous penman who referred to himself as Simple Simon complained in 1883 that "I often wonder how much longer the Midland Railway Company will inflict upon their customers and patrons the miserable and inadequate accommodation provided by the present station at Matlock Bridge". He added that both visitors and inhabitants discussed the issue and went on to say that the platform had no shelter. He thought that the aspect was uninviting for those arriving at the station and described the waiting room as a "dingy hole ... unfit for a sick dog never mind a poor despicable Christian. He also mentioned something that would undoubtedly have irritated Matlock's traders. "What a convenience it would be if the fast train to London, which passes in the morning, would stop instead of as at present compelling everyone who wishes to go by it to go two miles on to the next station"[11] - i.e. they then had to travel to Matlock Bath to board the train.

A little later the same year there was a rumour that the Matlock Bridge station was about to be rebuilt at last[12] but clearly nothing happened. The following year a petition with 3-400 signatories regarding the unsatisfactory state of the passenger accommodation at Matlock Bridge was presented to the railway company. Many of those using the station were invalids who were seeking hydropathic treatment and the lack of covered platforms and covered cab stands meant the travellers were exposed to the elements. It was claimed that it was the worst provided station at any health resort in the kingdom[13]. The building itself was later described as a cold draughty old shed called a station and difficult for a stranger to find[14].

At the beginning of 1888 something finally happened as a result of the frequent complaints to the Midland Company - so some progress was made. It was decided to pull down the inspector of permanent ways offices and to erect waiting rooms, station master's offices, &c. Another waiting room was to be added on the down line side and the platform lengthened[15]. Two years later things were further improved as the passenger footbridge over the line was roofed over[16]. The same year the "Derbyshire Times" observed somewhat pointedly that "Workmen have been pottering about Matlock Bridge station for two or three years, and were still engaged a few days since. When will the Company conclude the patching of this piece of folly?"[17]. In 1895 the journalist responsible for "Gleanings of the Peak" despaired when he informed his readers that a covering of three or four yards had been made on the up platform. "It might almost have been left undone for the use it will be. If this is all the Company intend doing, then the boasted improvements of which we have heard when the deputation went to see the officials might have been among the things left unsaid"[18].

Another problem was the vehicular approach to the station and the increasingly heavy traffic trying to access both the station and its yard. The long approach from Dale Road began at the right-angled bend close to the County Bridge - where Snitterton Road joined the A6. In 1890 traffic was blocked for some time when a drug pulled by fifteen or sixteen horses, together with its load (a huge stone of a dozen tons or more), had very great difficulty in making it through the entrance to the station yard from the County Bridge. The driver was reported as saying that "we cannot get in with a decent load"[19].

An amusing story was recorded in May 1896 when "within the past few days the Midland Railway Company have made a better approach to their premises at Matlock Bridge Station by removing several yards from the street end of the wall. The work is finished, and now has assumed a curious phase. On Thursday Mr R. Farnsworth, who has the adjoining land, commenced to erect a large stone pillar on the spot where the company had moved one from"! The railway company had not consulted him and he was quite within his rights to replace what had been removed[20].

Following a petition from local traders and a deputation organised by the Matlock District Improvements Association, in 1905 the Midland Railway Company decided to rename Matlock Bridge Station and it became simply Matlock Station[21].

In the mid twentieth century Dr. Beeching reviewed the railway system in Britain and many lines were deemed to be unviable. Matlock's line was considered to be a main railway route but stations to the north of Rowsley closed in 1967 with the line closing to the north of Matlock on 14 July 1968[22].


Matlock Station in 2004
2007


Those with railway ancestors might like to see:
Matlock & Matlock Bath Lists: The Twentieth Century: Matlock Station Staff, 1911 - 1966, A - J
Matlock & Matlock Bath Lists: The Twentieth Century: Matlock Station Staff, 1911 - 1966, K - Y


The two canopies can be seen in other images on the site:


The Vernon Lamb Archives - VLA 5068, A National Reservist and his family

4th Matlock Scout Camp, 1949/51 (first picture is at Matlock Station)


Black and white photographs © Ann Andrews collection. Whilst part of my collection, the original copyright holder is not known for the top image.
Coloured photograph, © and dated 2004, in private collection and taken especially for this web site.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.

[2] "The Derby Mercury", 16 September, 1846. Report of first meeting of shareholders.

[3] "Daily News", 31 December, 1846.

[4] "The Standard", 21 October, 1847.

[5] St. Giles' Burials are on this site.

[6] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 16 September, 1848.

[7] "Illustrated London News", 24 Nov 1849.

[8] "The Morning Post", 17 May, 1849.

[9] "Derbyshire Courier", 30 September 1848. Portions of the horns were a short time later in the possession of Mr Campbell of Matlock, the engineer, and Mr. Benjamin Bryan, the proprietor of the Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath.

[10] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 20 January, 1849.

[11] "Derbyshire Times", 5 May 1883. Letter to the Editor from Simple Simon of Matlock Bridge.

[12] "ibid", 8 September 1883.

[13] "ibid", 21 June 1884. A group of eminent Matlock men took the petition to Mr. Noble, the general manager of the railway company, and presented it to him in his offices at Derby. Other stations had been improved, so why not Matlock. Mr. Noble did not seem to know anything about the town as he asked about the hotels.

[14] "ibid", 29 October 1887.

[15] "The Derby Mercury", 29 February 1888. Matlock Bridge. The Railway Station.

[16] "Derbyshire Times", 15 February 1890.

[17] "ibid", 19 July 1890.

[18] "ibid", 16 November 1895. Gleanings of the Peak. Matlock Bridge Railway Station is being improved (?).

[19] "ibid", 20 December 1890. A drug was a low truck suitable for transporting timber and other goods, in this case stone.

[20] "ibid", 2 May 1896. Station Improvement at Matlock. The same story was reported in "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 8 May 1896.

[21] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 23 June 1905. A report also appeared in the "Sheffield Daily Telegraph" of 22 June 1905 quoting Mr. Challand, the Chairman of the Association, who hoped that the distinctive titles given to sections of the district would all come under the one name of Matlock.

[22] Dates from Kingscott, Geoffrey (2007) "Lost Railways of Derbyshire", Countryside Books, ISBN 978 1 84674 042 8.