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Matlock Bath: Boating on the River Derwent, 1914
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The Church and Boat House



From Lover's Walk,
Jubilee Bridge, about 1900-05



Illuminations & Venetian Fête in the 1950s



For many years a favoured leisure activity, for visitors and locals alike, has been hiring a rowing boat and boating on the River Derwent. Rowers are able to travel for a reasonable distance both up and down stream before they need to turn round and row back. By following the current you can go down towards the weir at Masson Mill, where warning notices are suspended from wire that stretches across the river. It is the same if rowers venture upstream. The river looks peaceful and calm but it can be treacherous for the unwary.

The ladies in the fuller of the two boats are all wearing hats. Both rowing boats are close to the landing stage behind the Grand Pavilion (now the Mining Museum) and it is probable that they were hired from there, although there was more than one place where boats could be hired at that time. The entrance to the Derwent Gardens is behind the boating shed and the Switchback Railway sign is just beyond[1]. Lovers' Walks is on the opposite bank and the limestone outcrop of Cat Tor is downstream.

The landing stage was being re-surfaced when the picture was taken, paved for the first time.


Enjoying boating an afternoon's boating on the River Dewent
Sepia version of the card


The following was printed in a tourist guides that is roughly contemporary with this card:
"Boats are let out to hire, at 6d. per. hour, on the length of the river flowing southwards along the Parade at Matlock Bath, but the utmost care should be taken not to row beyond the board which gives notice of the peril incurred by those who pass that boundary mark. There is a Weir about a hundred yards below, which creates a strong undercurrent, and there have been several accidents of boating parties disregarding the warning"[2]. In the year these pictures were taken a visitor foolishly stood up in a rowing boat, threatened to drown everyone (possibly as a joke) and the boat then overturned[3].

Below is a list of those known to have accidentally drowned whilst boating on the River Derwent at Matlock Bath[4]:

  • 16 Jan 1852
    Dr James Cumming, aged 48 and his son James Macdonald Cumming, aged 13, of Buxton.
    Both buried Matlock 31 Jan 1852[5]

  • 11 Aug 1892
    Harry Marriott, aged 13. From Farnsfield, NTT, visiting with members of church choir and vicar.
    Buried Matlock Bath 13 Aug 1892

  • 16 Apr 1897 (Good Friday)
    Annie Holmes and Lizzie Holmes, her sister, from Higham. Orphaned, with one brother living.
    Arthur Whittaker and Henry Smith. Both from Westhouses, near Alfreton.
    Annie's body was never recovered.

  • 5 Apr 1901 (Good Friday)
    Luke Brown, aged 21 and Benjamin Brown, aged 18, brothers of Alma, Selston, NTT.

The final tragedy involved a young soldier, who took on a bet to attempt to cross the river via the ferry rope. A number of holiday makers, including the young man's father, witnessed what happened. He got half way across the river, but suddenly he shouted "Dad I am done" and dropped into the water. It took some hours to recover the body[6].

  • 21 Aug 1921
    Private Thomas William Seal. 9th Lancers of 70 Bridge Gate, Derby.
    His horse attended the funeral, taken there from Tidworth by a number of his comrades[7].

Although the above names only those who drowned at Matlock Bath, Matlock's parish register names others who have drowned[8].


1. "On the Derwent, Matlock Bath", Valentine's Series, No.JV-79514. First published in 1914. Not posted (colour).
2. "On the Derwent, Matlock Bath". Postcard published by Valentine's No 79514 J.V. (no postmark). First published in 1914 (sepia).
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
References:

[1] Read Matlock Bath: Derwent Gardens - The Switchback, (1) Rise & Fall
[2] Ward Lock & Co's "Matlock, Dovedale, Bakewell and South Derbyshire", Illustrated Guide Books of England and Wales (1911-2).
[3] Matlock Bath & Scarthin Newspaper Cuttings, 1914
[4] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited, pp.162-166
[5] See: Subscription for the relief of the Cumming children, 1852
[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 August 1921. Drowned at Matlock Bath.
[7] "Derbyshire Courier", 3 September 1921. Report of the funeral.
[8] See the memorial to a policeman who drowned at Matlock