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Matlock Bath: From the Heights of Abraham, the Changed Landscape
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Black Rocks and Cromford Moor form a magnificent backdrop to the southern end of Matlock Bath and this view is somewhat clearer than on other postcards. Old maps show there were numerous former shafts on the hillside and there are several bumps that look as if they were the remnants of the spoil heaps of the lead mines. The line of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, now the High Peak Trail, is close to the top of the hill. This section of the railway was dismantled in stages in 1967 [1]. Cromford Hill, top right, climbs the hillside towards Steeple Grange, Wirksworth and Middleton; it is exceptionally steep in places. A few houses had been built on Barnwell Lane by this time and Newclose Farm can be see further along the hillside.

Parts of Matlock Bath took some time to recover after the Second World War. The Royal Hotel had not been rebuilt and its annexe, the west wing, was the only part of the building to survive the 1929 fire. It was divided into flats in 1947. The building was seemingly ill-fated as, when plumbers were testing gas fittings following the conversion, there was an explosion that partly wrecked the building. Fortunately, neither tenants nor workmen were hurt although extensive damage was reported[2]. It was to survive for a further 8 to 10 or so years before it suffered the same fate as the main hotel.

The hotel's grounds never recovered from the fire and during the war the Army moved in, laid down concrete and erected Nissan huts which were removed post war. The grounds themselves were not properly cleared and were an eyesore for some time (mentioned in The Royal Hotel and Garden) but things changed in the 1960s and 1970s. The Vicarage moved from the house on Brunswood Road to a new, architect designed property close to the church but within the hotel's former grounds. The grounds were also given a make-over; they were covered in tarmac and became a much needed public car park. Whilst it was disastrous for the village's economy that the Hotel was never rebuilt, the parking in Matlock Bath had been totally inadequate for the number of visitors that flooded in and the car park was something that was desperately needed by the tourist industry.

The hillside behind the former hotel was densely wooded by 1950, when this picture was published. The majority of trees had been planted when the Old Pavilion (Palais Royal) was built in the 1880s and had grown to maturity. The Old Pavilion, for which there were such high expectations at the beginning of its life, can be seen on the hillside but was another building that was not in a good state.

This photo doesn't really show us the Derwent Gardens, another part of Matlock Bath used by the Army during the war, but its Cafe had survived unscathed. You can just about see it between the Matlock and Bath of the card's printed title. We also can't see much of the A6 but the New Bath's road house was still standing although the two properties between it and the bottom of Clifton Road had gone. Just the garage remained and that was also to be demolished when the road was widened in the 1960s.



The annexe and grounds of the former Royal Hotel, and what the Army left behind post war.
The picture isn't perfect, but it makes the point. The Hotel's formerly lovely grounds were now covered in concrete and a
dilapidated shed stands roughly where the main doorway had been. There were other derelict buildings close to
the church gate. All that remained of the hotel's main building were a few basement rooms.
The bath house had a very noisy torrent of warm thermal water going through it but was unsafe.
Look carefully at the rectangular concrete area past the annexe. The bases for the Army huts can still be seen.

 

1866-78

1892

About 1914

1920s

Matlock Bath
Today (2)

Upper Tower,
Heights of Abraham

Victoria Prospect
Tower

Victoria Tower,
from Masson,
1907-09
 

Matlock Bath From Heights of Abraham. Valentine & Sons, Dundee and London, H.9629. Printed in Gt Britain. This is a real photograph. [Registered 1950]. Unused.
Postcard in the collection, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] The railway line was shown on Ordnance Survey Maps of 1955 but the 1969 version stated it was dismantled. Colin Goodwyn confirms the 1967 date for the line between Cromford Junction and Parsley Hay which closed in stages, mostly during 1967. He adds that the track was lifted by Henry Boot and the materials and equipment scrapped by T W Ward, the process taking place probably during 1968 and '69 although this may have happened a little later.

[2] "Birmingham Daily Gazette", 11 October 1947.