The Cumberland Cavern is roughly at the same level on the hillside
as the former Royal Pavilion (Palais Royal); it is no
longer open to the public. The cavern used to be
reached by an extremely steep footpath from Clifton Road,
although before Clifton Road was developed the bottom of
the path was described as being beside the Bath Terrace
Hotel. It could also be accessed by going up the Wapping
or from Upperwood.
One unnamed Victorian visitor wrote that "entrance
to the Cumberland Cavern ... is not gained without difficulty,
and those who explored its dark circuitous passages marched
in irregular procession, each carrying a lighted candle,
without which we should have been in great danger of losing
ourselves in the intricate windings through which we passed.
The measures are quite dislocated, and immense pieces of
rock are thrown into most extraordinary positions., one piece
of many tons weight - which our guide seemed specially proud
of, and most anxious that the ladies, at all events, should
inspect it carefully - resting on a mere point".
The Victorians loved a touch of melodrama. The Cumberland
was described in many nineteenth century guide books and
in 1903 Heywood recorded that it was "very
extensive and abounds with fossils, and is one of the most
interesting of the Derbyshire caverns".
The Cumberland had opened in the late eighteenth
was owned for many years
by various members of the Smedley family.
When John Smedley, "the son of the late Mr Wm.
Smedley", died at Portland House in 1900 at the age
of 63 it was said that he belonged to one of the oldest
established families in the district. He
was a well known local businessman who, as well as owning
the cavern, quarried for tufa in the Via Gellia.
John Smedley's widowed sister, Mrs. Mary Brocklehurst,
then became the proprietress and
after her death her
daughter, Edith Nash, took over.
In March 1927 the Cumberland Cavern was sold at public
auction, with adjoining
land, to Mr Frank Taylor of Hope Terrace for £400. This
was the first time one of the caverns had been auctioned.
It was then said that the cavern had been discovered by lead
miners some 200 years before [a slight exaggeration], and
disturbances in the cavern had left large blocks of dislodged
rock. One detached from the roof weighs 40 tons, and stands
poised on two points of rock".
This was presumably the same rock noted by the Victorian
Cyril Edmonds of Portland House bought the cavern in the
1930s. Mr. Edmonds is on the left in the photograph
above, wearing a cap. His son, Cyril Rowland Edmonds, was
to die in a flying accident in the second World
The cavern was advertised for sale once again in May
was not sold until a year or so after Mr. Edmonds' death
in 1954. His
two assistants ran the cavern for Mrs. Edmonds for a while,
but then took over the tenancy and purchased the cavern around
It remained open for the rest of the 1950s and for some
of the 1960s but has been closed for a long time. One thing
still exists from Cyril Edmonds time. When the Matlock Bath
Cricket Pavilion was no longer needed by the club it was
removed to the Cumberland Cavern and acted as a shelter.
It was still there a couple of years ago.
Another view of the Wishing Well, said
to have very clear water and in 1907
"lighted up by magnesium
This picture also dates from the time of Mr. Edmonds' ownership
visitors were offered a drink of spa water from the Wishing
Cyril Edmonds told his family that the water from the Wishing
Well travelled underground
and re-emerged in the New Bath's pool
Advertisement and Flyer
This flyer from 1936 was handed out to Matlock Bath's visitors
The Long Gallery
The first photograph of the Long Gallery was taken and published
by Cyril Edmonds in the 1930s
whereas the second picture was from Francis Frith and taken
Frith was using better lighting than that available to Mr.
Hodgkinson's Guide (1907) repeated the
earlier comment about access to the Cumberland Cavern not
being easy, but advised early twentieth century visitors
that they would find it well worth the effort. "Each
visitor is supplied with a candle, and the guide lights about
one hundred, which he places at intervals on
the sides of the rocks. After passing about fifty steps and
travelling along a passage the cavern proper is
reached. Along this passage ... calcite and small glistening
cubes of fluor spar are to be seen ...
This is known as the "Long Gallery" and it has
a remarkably flat roof extending about 100 yards"
Harpsichord or Grand Piano Rock
The pair who are well lit are the same
two men who were photographed in the image at the top of
It is harder to see the man in the shadows on the left, but
is probably Mr. Edmonds.
He would have set up the photo, even if he didn't press the
button to take it.
The Harpsichord was "a curious block
of magnesium limestone in the shape of a harpsichord"
Cyril Edmonds is in the centre of the group in the Frith photo,
the identities of the other two people are not known.
The Cavern's Romantic Rocks
"The gallery leads into
a large hall, where loose blocks lie about in various positions.
These are called
the Romantic Rocks. When struck by another stone by the guide,
give out sounds of various tones"
At first glance, because the top of the chamber seems so low,
it almost looks as if the Frith photograph
is upside down! The Romantic Rocks in the
cavern took their name from the
or Dungeon Tors
, beloved by the Victorians,
that were only a few yards away.
The geologist William Adam had catalogued the Rocks, Marbles
and Minerals of Derbyshire around 1840.
His list of zinc ores found in the Cumberland
Cavern and elsewhere included Carbonate of Zinc, also known
as Smithsonite; Silicious Oxide of Zinc [sic, Siliceous
Oxide of Zinc] was present in both the Cumberland and Rutland
caverns. He also listed the Fluor Spars Arragonite [sic, Aragonite]
and Selenite, Sulphate of Lime, occurring in the
Cumberland Cavern. Twentieth century research by Roger Flindall
and Andrew Hayes mentions
three other minerals in the cavern: Hemimorphite which is
associated with Smithsonite, Chalcopyrite, and Siderite.
In 1912-13 the the Matlock Naturalists' Association
discovered a "pocket" filled with rare cave pearls
in the Cumberland Cavern.
They were described as being a creamy colour, in comparison
with others found in the Great Masson cave which were brown.
"The pearls were in a hole which there poured a big
stream of water, and when broken with a hammer the pearls
disclosed a tiny portion of a gritty substance, to which
the pearl had been added during generations". They were
found by Mr. J. C. Goodall, the hon. secretary of the Association,
and five of the members.
William Smedley wrote a
poem called Matlock Bath, Derbyshire (scroll down the