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Matlock Bath: Fluor Spar Cavern, Heights of Jacob
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The Heights of Jacob
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Upper Wood, about 1890



Upper Wood



Zoo Tea Gardens,
Upper Wood



Matlock Bath from the Heights of Jacob, 1908




Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers
(Henshall)



Here are two early twentieth century cards of the cavern on the Heights of Jacob, one of the exterior and the other of the cavern itself. In 1903 Benjamin Bryan wrote:

"There are other caverns now exhibited which have opened out much more recently. One of these is situate by the side of the road from Matlock Bath Station to Upper Wood, on a site known as the "Heights of Jacob". From hence a wide spreading prospect is available over the Pavilion grounds, which are immediately below the spectator's feet, and extending to the rocks beyond the river and northwards to the High Tor, with a large part of the Bath visible as it lies in the hollow below. The features of the cavern include spacious cavities or openings, grottoes, spar archways, a "rising gallery", and veins of lead ore and barytes. Mr. Jacob Raynes is the lessee"[1].

Numerous familiar views of Matlock Bath that were featured on postcards over the years were taken from the vantage point of the Heights of Jacob. The name "Heights of Jacob" didn't appear on maps until around 1900 by which time Jacob Raynes had been the cavern proprietor in Matlock Bath for just over thirty years[2], but the Heights of Jacob were undoubtedly named after him. It cannot be co-incidental. Although he didn't advertise until 1895, Mr. Raynes had been in Matlock Bath since before 1871[3] and the cavern was described in 1866 when Mr. Pearson was there[4]. The Heights of Jacob, as opposed to the cavern, were mentioned in newspaper reports in the mid 1880s when several large groups visited Matlock Bath[5].

Jacob Raynes died at the end of 1904 and in 1907 Messrs. Else & Son advertised the "FLUOR SPAR CAVERN, known as the "Heights of Jacob", with sale shop" for sale[6]. It was bought by George Adam Craig[7], who owned it for about 10 years. These photos date from the time the Craigs were running the cavern; they are probably the couple in the photo. Sadly, nothing more is known about them.

The signboard propped against the stone in the top image advertises the "FLUOR SPAR CAVERN, HEIGHTS OF JACOB", and lower down it mentions the Fluor Spar Grotto. Behind where the lady is seated is a box with nine holes in it. Any ideas about what the box was used for would be gratefully received - please email the web mistress. Thoughts have included a box that people stuck their heads through for a novelty photograph, but the holes don't look big enough.

"There are few places where the loveliness of the view, both in extent and in detail, is more apparent than from the little platform outside the entrance to the celebrated Fluor Spar Cavern with its interests geological and chemical. ... a cursory inspection is made of the many pretty trifles carved from the local minerals which are shown in a neat little shanty by the proprietor of the mine and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Craig". There was Blue John in various shades, specimens of fluor spar (calcium carbonate) and of the calcite or "dog tooth" spar - called that because of the resemblance to a dog's tooth. "One of the prettiest sights is the fluor spar (calcium fluoride) seen in a bright light when the refraction by each tiny crystal gives exquisite rainbow tints and an outline of the whole clearly marked in the prismatic colours. Also of interest was a piece of rock, a polished cube of about six inches, on which was struck the Royal Charter in 1859"[8].

Below is the interior, lit by candles. The fluor spar and lead ore would have glittered in the candle light. The man on the left was possibly Mr. Craig whilst the man on the right could be Mr. Henshall.


Inside the Fluor Spar Cavern
"The cave is partly natural, partly artificial, having been broken open, and in may places expanded, by the
lead miners of old times. It winds for many hundreds of yards under the hill" and had one opening, closed by
1913, in the grounds of the Royal Hotel. The cavern is best described as a series of lofty chambers
" with roofs
of irregular masses of stone, in one instance a huge block of many tons. At one time the cave was well worked
by the miners, and even now (1913) small pieces of lead are seen interspersed amongst the crystals. Unlike
many caves, this has a pure atmosphere and an even temperature"[8].


The cavern was for sale once more in 1917:
"SMALL BUSINESS for Disposal; Fluor Spar Cavern and Cottage attached. - Craig, Heights Jacob, Matlock Bath"[9].

Thomas Meredith Henshall, who also a photographer[10], was the proprietor post war, though he did not own it. When "Jacob's Cavern" was next offered for sale in 1923, this time by Bagshaw's of Ashbourne and Derby, it was described as a "show place for trippers" and somewhere that "the owner would simply have to sit listening to the clicking of the turnstile to gain a good living". At the time Thomas Henshall was paying a rent of £6 and the Royal Hotel also paid a guinea a year for the privilege of using a road over it. Despite £180 being offered, the property was not sold[11].


1. "Heights of Jacob". No date but the image was in published in several editions of the "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" in July 1913 and on 2 January 1914.
2. "Fluor Spar Cavern, Matlock Bath". No date.
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Images scanned for this website and information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited . Bryan was comparing the "more recent" caverns with those on the Heights of Abraham and the Cumberland Cavern, all of which had been open to the public for many years.

[2] Ordnance Survey Map (1903), pub H.M.S.O.

[3] See "Holmes Handbook, 1866", description of the Grand Fluor Spar Cavern. It was also mentioned in Gem of the Peak of 1840.

[4] Jacob Raynes or Raines was listed as a cavern proprietor in Upper Wood in the following : the 1871 census | the 1881 census | 1891 census | 1901 | Kelly's Directory 1895 | Kelly's Directory 1899.

[5] Reports in "The Derby Mercury".

[6] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal",17 May 1907.

[7] He advertised in Kelly's Directory, 1908 and Kelly's Directory, 1912 | Kelly's 1916 Directory.

[8] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal",25 July 1913. On the Heights at Matlock Bath.

[9] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 23 June 1917.

[10] Thomas Meredith Henshall advertised as a photographer in Kelly's 1916 Directory but between 1922 and 1942 he advertised as a cavern proprietor at the Heights of Jacob. Mr. Henshall was born in Bulkeley, Cheshire and in 1901 he was living in Salford and working as a photographer.

[11] "Derbyshire Times", 2 June 1923. Sale of local estate of Alderman H. A. Hubbersty of Burbage Hall, Buxton. Both the Upper Wood Fluor Spar Mine, then let to The Peak Mining and Mineral Co., and the fluor spar cave known as "Jacob's Cavern" and land - let to T. M. Henshall - were withdrawn from the sale. Advertised initially in the "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" 12 May 1923.