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Matlock Bath: From the Heights of Abraham to Crich Stand & Beyond
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This wonderful view from Masson was enjoyed by the earliest visitors to Matlock Bath. Ebenezer Rhodes described the scene in the early 1820s:

"The sky had been cloudy nearly the whole day, but as evening approached, the western horizon became clear and glowing ; we therefore returned to Matlock Bath, and ascended the Heights of Abraham to the top of Masson, for the purpose of enjoying the prospect of a splendid sunset from that commanding eminence. The extensive landscape beheld from this elevated position is full of beauty ; stupendous hills and open vallies, covered with wood and richly cultivated meadows, fill up the whole range of an almost boundless horizon ; the loftiest eminences gleamed with the rays of the setting-sun, and where they decline towards the east, they were covered with a broad mass of shadow, over which floated a transparent atmosphere of soft and beautiful light. Crich church, and the tower on the cliff, are pleasing features in the scene : on the right of Crich, the country retires into a far-off distance, until the remotest objects fade into the sky.

We ascended the heights of Abraham by the zigzag walk along the face of the hill ; we therefore reached the top with comparatively little fatigue. We returned by a different route, down the very face of the mountain, along a narrow path more toilsome than our ascent"[1].



Enlargement of the top image, showing Crich Stand and the Church Spire.


Rhodes was on one of four walking tours he undertook with his friend Montgomery[1]. The two men could see the original Crich stand, "the tower on the cliff", which was built in 1788. The Crich Stand on top of Crich Cliff here, almost invisible on the horizon on the top image but shown above, is the third stand. It is dedicated to those soldiers in Sherwood Foresters whose lives were lost in the two World Wars[2]. The spire of Crich Church is seen on the right.

This postcard dates from between 1924 and 1929 and the panoramic view from the Heights towards the south east looking over the two Tors (Hagg Tor and Cat Tor), shown at the top of this web page, is amazing. The title of the card is unfortunately somewhat misleading. "Matlock Bay" is undoubtedly a typing error by the publisher but the view itself is more likely to have been taken from what is today known as the Heights of Jacob as the view from the Heights of Abraham is slightly different. In Rhodes' time the whole area on the hillside where the photograph was taken was called the Heights of Abraham.

From about a third of the way down on the right of the picture and below Black Rocks is Derby Road, snaking its way from Cromford towards Ambergate. There is a bend on the A6, in the far distance, and the road disappears from view. What appears to be a straight line going up the hill is the former High Peak Railway. A tall building is close to the bend on the left hand side of the road; it is actually a pair of semi-detached dwellings that are still there today. The same properties can be seen on View of Lea and Bow Wood across the Derwent Valley.

In the bottom of the valley are the Cromford Canal, the River Derwent and what was then the mainline railway line between Manchester and London but it would not have been seen by Rhodes and Montgomery. The Midland Railway line would not be built for a further 20 years or so years[3].



Second enlargement, showing two goods trains travelling in opposite directions along the railway embankment in Cromford Meadows.
The left train has reached the bridge under the line.
Cromford Station must be just behind the trees in the valley, with the southbound train quite close to it.
Castle Top Farm is in the top left corner and Bow Wood is almost in the centre of this image.
 


The farm buildings close to the edge of Cat Tor are the buildings off Willersley Lane (Willersley Farm and Willersley Cottage) whilst those on the hillside beyond include Woodseats and Meadow View Farms, in addition to Castle Top and Bow Wood (mentioned immediately above).

In Matlock Bath, below where the photographer was standing to take the main picture, are several buildings parallel to or on the A6: Rhodes' would have seen the Old Bath Hotel (replaced by the the Royal Hotel, shown here), the Bath Terrace and New Bath hotels. Of later date were Matlock Bath Church, Portland House and Woodland terrace. A local bus can be seen on the main road beside the Derwent Gardens (below the Royal Hotel).


    
There is information about Crich Stand elsewhere on this web site.

 

1-3. "Matlock Bay [sic] from Heights of Abraham". Salmon Series, Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, No.9169. Real photo. Printed in England. Unused.
All images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
With grateful thanks to Susan Tomlinson who helped decide what we could and could not see on this postcard.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks are to information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Rhodes, Ebenezer (1824) "Peak Scenery" pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster Row. His map, highlighting where he went, is in the Derbyshire Maps section elsewhere on this site.

[2] Crich Stand, Sherwood Foresters War Memorial.

[3] See Matlock Station and Matlock Bath Station and High Tor. Each of these links goes to the first of two or more pages on the subject of trains.