Bath: River Derwent, Masson Weir
|Matlock Bath : Twentieth Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
The Masson or south weir was built for the paper mill that was
erected in 1771 by Shore and White; permission to convey
water to this mill was granted in 1772.
The paper mill was operating on the banks of the River Derwent
before Masson Mill was built next door in 1783. However,
in relatively recent times the Arkwright Society have cast
some doubt as to whether the weir was built solely for the
The elegantly curved weir didn't meet with everyone's approval.
Fifty years after it was built Ebenezer Rhodes
questioned why Masson Mill had ever been built in the
valley; he thought the weir was "incongruous and out
but conceded that anywhere else it "might be a pleasing
At times of flood large trees have become stuck on
The top picture shows tree debris caught in the rocks
below the weir whereas on this image we can see
tree balanced on top of the weir.
The stonework has had to be repaired
occasionally. A relatively early repair was undertaken
in 1842. The Derby Mercury reported that labourers
employed by Richard Arkwright were getting stone for
the repairs of the weir at the Masson factory, presumably
from a local quarry, when a large stone on which one
of the men was standing gave way.
We learn more about the early construction of the
weir and its goit from
a report in December 1847. The Derwent had begun to
rise after heavy rain and there were serious concerns
about the damage that might be caused. Masson Mill,
then in the hands of Peter Arkwright, had a lucky escape
when a safety measure in the weir's construction did
not work in the way it was intended. "Some score
of yards above these extensive works, a head of water
is kept up on the Derwent for the supply of the wheel,
by means of a weir - permanent to a certain height
- but above that, built temporarily with loose stones,
which are intended to be washed away by any heavy flood,
which would otherwise become dangerous. This temporary
portion of the weir, which has hitherto always given
way under pressure of a certain height of water, stood
firm and for some time it was expected that the water
would rush over the shuttles". Fortunately the
water began to subside as rapidly as it had risen and
disaster was averted.
Whether the problem had been caused by too strong a
repair in 1842 is not known.
The weir has been the site of several fatalities involving
unwary oarsmen. There have also, over the years, been
some remarkably close shaves. In 1860 a husband and his
wife were on the river, enjoying the outing, until they
got so close to the weir that the force of the water
became too strong and they were unable to turn round
and retreat. Their boat was "borne alongside over
the embankment with fearful velocity". The couple
cried for help and fortunately their boat was washed
to the river's edge, where the "occupants were helped
by some of the employees of the paper mills ; but had
the boat, previous to its passing the weir, been forced
a few yards nearer the shuttle of the ghaut [goit] leading
to the Masson factories, their lives must have been sacrificed".
Six years later a party of four hired a rowing boat at
Walker's ferry. The current was again strong and they
rowed far too close to the weir but, as before, they
were saved because they were close to the riverbank. "As
it was they escaped with the loss of the men's hats and
an umbrella, added to a thorough drenching. The boat
was turned completely over and received great injury".
One can only hope that Mr. Walker was paid compensation
for the loss of his boat.
The inquest of an 1892 boating disaster provides more information
about the goitt and the area around its entrance. At that
time warning notices along the riverbank were placed about
50 yards above the weir, telling boating parties not to go
any further. The group involved in the 1892 disaster had
reached the point where they should have turned round
but, unfortunately, they saw that the water levels were low
and noticed that no water was going over the weir itself
so assumed themselves safe, ignored the signs, and rowed
closer. They did not realise that the water at that point
was, and still is, drawn into the large mill race (the goitt)
and they became caught in the current that was rushing down
into it. The entry to the goit was described as being ten
feet deep, and about four yards across; it was about twenty
feet below Derby Road.
From several of the images on this page we can see that
the goit then narrows by the sluice, thus forcing the water
through before it reached the shuttle in front of the wheel
at the mill. The second picture from the top gives us a good
idea of the speed and turbulence of the water, as we can
see it tumbling over the rocks. There was said to be 300
horse power of water going down it when the accident occurred.
The inquest recommended that the goit should be protected.
scene, revealing a boat house on Lovers' Walks on the
A disaster of a different kind happened in 1931, this time
for the mill workers. There was severe flooding in September
of that year. "The goyt, which conveys the water from
the river to the mills for power, is wrecked and the loss
is considerable". "The sluice which worked
the turbines was completely wrecked". The loss of power
to Masson Mill resulted in some 300 workers signing on at
the Employment Exchange. A disaster fund was opened for them
as it was expected that the mill would not open for some
weeks. It is
possible that the picture at the top of the page, which is
the most recent of the series of images, shows the wrecked
sluice as there are signs of debris amongst the greenery
where the sluice had been.
Close ups of the sluice are shown above and below, taken from
the postcards shown
immediately above and below them.
There was a handle to turn a worm and that drove a large, toothed
driving shaft that in turn regulated the sluice hidden
behind the wall.
The sluice structure was built of bricks capped with stone.
To reach the wheel the mill hand, or whoever's job it was,
had to go through a doorway
in the centre section.
On rare occasions Arctic conditions have caused parts of the
Derwent to almost freeze over. The winter of 1891 was one such
occasion when both the river near Matlock Bath station was
almost frozen across, and against the High Tor tunnel the
stream was covered over with ice.
The ice at the Masson weir, measured by Mr. William Jordan
of Masson Terrace,
was found to be an inch and three-quarters thick.
1. "The Weir, Matlock Bath". Copyright H, Coates,
Wisbech, No. 2390. Not posted, but could date from 1930. Another
card was posted in 1941. Image © Ann Andrews collection.
2. "The Weir Matlock Bath". Jackson & Sons, Publishers,
Grimsby, No.275. Written and posted at Matlock on 27 Oct 1912.
The writer was staying at "Woodfields" (see Kelly's
1912 Directory) and reported that there had been 3" of
snow but the weather was mild again. Image © Ken Smith
3 and 4. "The Weir, Matlock Bath". No publisher and not posted.
Image © Ken Smith collection.
5 and 6. "The Weir Matlock Bath. A photograph by TMH - Thomas
Meredith Henshall. Posted at Matlock Bath on
12 Aug 1913. Image © Ken Smith collection.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on
this web site):
 See The Wolley Manuscripts Vol.
6670 f.90d (Notes of the building of the paper mill,
by Shore and White, 1771) | Vol.
6671 ff.310-313 (Manorial deeds and papers ... to convey
water to the paper mill 1772).
 "The Derwent Valley Mills
and their Communities", published by The Derwent
Valley Mills Partnership, County Hall, Matlock, Derbyshire,
DE4 3AG, 2001. ISBN 0-9541940-0-4. "The earlier paper
mill on part of this site [i.e. Masson Mill] would not have
justified the construction of a weir on this scale".
 Rhodes, Ebenezer (1824) "Peak
Scenery" pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees,
Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster Row.
 "The Derby Mercury",
13 July 1842. The quarry man was, unfortunately, seriously
injured and had been taken home "where
he lies without any apparent hopes of recovery". The
quarry was not specified in the newspaper report.
 The noun "ghaut" seems
to have been used instead of goit or goyt (meaning the side
stream or mill race) on occasion in the 1860s. Bryan, Benjamin
(1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London
by Bemrose & Sons, Limited also used the spelling.
 "The Derby Mercury",
15 December 1847. Flood.
 "Derbyshire Courier",
8 September 1860. Remarkable escape from drowning. This was the
first record I have been able to find of the word "ghaut".
 "The Derby Mercury",
26 September 1866. Providential escape of four persons from drowning.
 "Nottinghamshire Guardian",
13 August 1892. Boating disaster at Matlock Bath. "The water
at this point is drawn into a large mill race or goyt to run
the motive power of the Masson Mills and the paper mills of Messrs.
Simmonds and Pickard, Nottingham".
 "Nottingham Evening
Post", 13 August 1892.
 "Derby Daily Telegraph"
and "Nottingham Evening Post", 7 September 1931.
 "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield
Herald", 24 January 1891.
 Mr. Jordan was living at 1 Masson
Cottages in the 1891 census.
This row of houses was later called Masson Terrace and was on
the opposite side of the road from the weir. His widow was still
there in 1901. William was buried at Holy Trinity : see
his MI. Also see Matlock
Bath: Winter Scenes, 1947 and Matlock
Bath: Winter Scenes, 1960-70