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Matlock Bath: Great Rutland Cavern, Old Oak Tree & Engraving
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Living at the Heights



Heights of Abraham, Great Rutland Cavern, 1912



Upper Tower, Heights of Abraham



Victoria Prospect Tower



Victoria Tower, View from Masson, 1907-09



Vista Views of the Heights



A few years after the "discovery" of the Great Rutland Cavern on the Heights of Abraham the following was published in an article in "The Derby Mercury" in 1817. It underlines how important a find the cavern was considered to be, most especially to the Scientific World of the day.

"The discovery and opening of this tremendous Cemetery of Nature has given to this country a rich treasure of the most brilliant gems, rare fossils, and numerous minerals, forming the most splendid natural Grotto in the World. Philosophers, Mineralogists, Geologists and the public may now avail themselves of a visit to this Treasure. ... A Mineralogical Survey of this Wonder of Nature, and of these Kingdoms, has been lately made by the first Mineralogist and Geologist of the age, MR. MAW ; and his report confirms the reputation of the RUTLAND CAVERN being the most valuable Classical Mineral discovery known[1]".

The Cavern was opened in 1810[2] and has been mentioned in every tourist guide about Matlock Bath. For example, in 1864 "The Rutland Cavern, known as the Old Nester Mine, on the Heights of Abraham, approached from the Museum Parade by the roadway by Hodgkinson's Hotel, is the largest in Matlock, and has the advantage of having the finest openings. ... The mine is dry and easily penetrated, and is extremely rich in fossils and minerals. The spars are extremely fine and brilliant[3]". Once Holme Road was built, tourists had an alternative route up to the Lodge, where they would be charged admission for entry to the Heights. Everyone uses the cable car now.

The Old Oak Tree (above) is one of several features within the cavern* and the people on this old postcard, dating from the 1950s, help to provide a sense of scale.

By 1903, when the image of the Roman Hall (below) was published, the cavern was lit by gas[4]. It was then being advertised by Samuel Sprinthall, whose descendants were still running the cavern in the 1950s. The image itself dates from about 1850[2], however. Interestingly, of the group at the very top of the steps one gentleman is holding a candle aloft, perhaps to show off some of the sparkle in the rocks. Various other people on the steps are peering at the rock surface and a man and woman are standing beside a table at the bottom of the picture. They appear to be studying samples of rocks and minerals displayed on the table and a book is open.


cavern
Roman Hall, The Great Rutland Cavern[4]
showing the Roman Staircase and Druid's Altar.
1903 copy of an engraving dating from about 1850[2].


*Not all areas in the cavern that were shown to the public in the past are viewable today.


There is a great deal of information about the Rutland Cavern in the various on site nineteenth century guides:

Moore, "Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath", 1818: Engraving of "Romantic Bridge Rutland Cavern" (bottom of page)
Moore, "Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath", 1818: Description of the cavern
Moore, "Picturesque Excursions From Derby to Matlock Bath", 1818: Minerals found there
Barker's "The Panorama of Matlock", 1827: section on caverns
William Adam's "Gem of the Peak", 1840: Caverns & Mines
Bemroses' Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869: see page 12
Holmes "Hand Book to Matlock Bath & Neighbourhood": scroll down to section on The Caverns
Advertisement from "On Foot Through the Peak", 1868
Description in "On Foot Through the Peak", 1868: Chapter 15


1. "The Old Oak Tree, Rutland Cavern, Matlock Bath" A Salmon CameraColour Postcard, J. Salmon, Ltd., Sevenoaks, 1-19-01-11. Unposted. Postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
2. Engraving from "Abel Heywood's Guide Books,..." (1903) (see below) in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched by and © by Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only

References:

[1] "The Derby Mercury", 24 July, 1817 - part extract only. The cavern would have been known about locally before it was "discovered".
[2] Flindall, Roger and Hayes, Andrew (1976) "The Caverns and Mines of Matlock Bath, 1 The Nestus Mines: Rutland and Masson Caverns", Moorland Publishing Company
[3] ed. Jewitt, Llewellynn "Black's Tourist Guide to Derbyshire" (1864) pub. Adam and Charles Black Edinburgh, pp.233-4
[4] "Abel Heywood's Guide Books, With Cycling, Walking and Driving Routes. Matlock Illustrated." (1903) Abel Heywood & Son, Manchester & London.