The railway arrived in Matlock in 1849, opening on 4th June and
celebrated by lunch at the Old Bath Hotel in Matlock Bath.
Matlock Bridge Station, as it was first known, was one of
three stations to be built within the parish, the others being
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.
George Stephenson was appointed resident-engineer for the
line, with Messrs. Wheatcroft and Co. being awarded the contract
for the High Tor tunnel.
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".
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 but
his name is not recorded in the parish register so he clearly
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
|The Matlock end of the High Tor Tunnel,
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.".
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
|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.
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. Those
involved with railway building clearly liked their food.
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".
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
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 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.
The building itself was later described as a cold draughty old
shed called a station and difficult for a stranger to find.
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.
Two years later things were further improved as the
passenger footbridge over the line was roofed over.
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?".
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".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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
Vernon Lamb Archives - VLA 5068, A National Reservist and his
Matlock Scout Camp, 1949/51 (first picture is at Matlock Station)
 Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History
of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons,
 "The Derby Mercury",
16 September, 1846. Report of first meeting of shareholders.
 "Daily News", 31 December,
 "The Standard", 21
Giles' Burials are on this site.
 "The Sheffield & Rotherham
Independent", 16 September, 1848.
 "Illustrated London News",
24 Nov 1849.
 "The Morning Post",
17 May, 1849.
 "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
 "The Sheffield & Rotherham
Independent", 20 January, 1849.
 "Derbyshire Times",
5 May 1883. Letter to the Editor from Simple Simon of Matlock Bridge.
 "ibid", 8
 "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.
 "ibid", 29 October
 "The Derby Mercury",
29 February 1888. Matlock Bridge. The Railway Station.
 "Derbyshire Times", 15 February 1890.
 "ibid", 19 July 1890.
 "ibid", 16 November 1895. Gleanings of the Peak. Matlock Bridge
Railway Station is being improved (?).
 "ibid", 20 December
1890. A drug was a low truck suitable for transporting timber
and other goods, in this case stone.
 "ibid", 2 May 1896.
Station Improvement at Matlock. The same story was reported in "Derbyshire
Advertiser and Journal", 8 May 1896.
 "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.
 Dates from Kingscott, Geoffrey (2007) "Lost
Railways of Derbyshire", Countryside Books, ISBN 978
1 84674 042 8.