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Matlock Bath Station and High Tor
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Matlock Bath's Swiss Chalet style station, which was was extended in the 1890's
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The Railways of Derbyshire, 1903
(Old Maps of Derbyshire)

Midland Railway Distances

Snow 1960-70

Kelly's Directory of 1848 reported that "The Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands railway, now in the course of construction, will have a station at Matlock Bath[1]". The Ambergate to Rowsley length of the line, which passed through Matlock and Matlock Bath, opened in 1849 and a local paper announced that "A small station has been erected at Matlock Bath"[2]. Before then the nearest station to Matlock Bath was at Ambergate and there was an omnibus connection which left Matlock Bath for Ambergate four times a day; this had been in operation since 1840. The fare was One [shilling] and Sixpence each, including luggage.

A few years later, in 1855, Kelly's noted that "The Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands railway, which is open to Rowsley, has a station at Matlock Bath; and the Midlands company run frequent excursion trains in the summer season, thus rendering this beautiful locality accessible to the artizans &c. of Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and other neighbouring towns[3]".

The station's main building was designed in the Swiss chalet style, probably by Sir Joseph Paxton, "to suit its surroundings and had large overhanging eaves at the gables supported on brackets. The main building and roof ran parallel to the platform but, midway, was crossed by a higher roof with similar projections, apparently making the building cross-shaped in plan but not in reality. Extending along the platform at either end of the building were pent-roof, passage-like shelters, not unlike supermarket car park approach shelters. To the north, an extension was erected in the 1890's having two large gables facing the platform in sympathy with the first building[4]".

In 1890 it was announced that waiting rooms were to be constructed on the up platform and both side of the line were to be covered. According to one journalist, these projected improvements were not before time[5]. Two years later Mr Rowland, a member of Matlock Bath Local Board, stated that he had visited Derby and ascertained that tenders for the new waiting rooms at the station were about to be considered[6]. A couple of weeks later the Board members were pleased to note that new waiting rooms had been given the go-ahead. Attention was drawn to the necessity of the station platforms being covered in. "The difficulty about the buildings on the railway had been made right, and the Bath would now receive the same facilities as the Bridge"[7]. But some details were missed - there was a complaint in 1902 about the absence of a fire-place in the waiting room[8]. It must have been pretty bleak in the winter!

The black and white photograph above shows the 1890's extension. Whilst an exact date for this photograph cannot be provided "the platforms have been extended, the new buildings erected and signal box moved which ... makes it after the mid-1890's but ... could be anywhere between then and the First World War[4]". It is possible it was taken slightly before 1906 as Michael Bentley says the coaches are a mixed bag, as used on slow or local passenger trains, with possibly a Class 1. 2-4-0 engine on the front[9].

The backs of the seats all have the words Matlock Bath on them and the two sign boards that are jutting out from the building are for the Gentleman's and Ladies' Waiting Rooms (the Gents is the closer of the two). Behind the Station Master, below the sign for Mason's Extract, is a public weighing machine with hand rails and beside it is a drinking fountain. The station was lit by gas lamps.

One little known fact is that the station had its own small reservoir, owned by the railway company, not far from where the gasometer used to be. The reservoir, or pond as it is referred to on some maps, was used to fill the boilers of the locomotives[10]. It is unclear exactly when it was constructed.

The waiting rooms today, from the platform.

Viewed from a different angle.

The booking hall, from the Approach

One slightly amusing story came to light in 1911. Mr. Lovatt, then the station master, had found a dozen cardboard discs about the size of a penny in the automatic sweet machine that was installed on the down platform. The machine's inspector, John Rowland, who worked for the British Automatic Co. Ltd., also discovered that several more discs had been put into similar machines at other stations as well as those on Matlock Bath's Promenade. Because of the way the machines worked they blocked the machine, so other people lost their money. Three local teenage boys were apprehended; they had stolen two packets of sweets, valued at 2d. One of them claimed they had been playing a game called "Dickery Dock" but having pleaded guilty and expressed how sorry they were, they were fined 5s. costs and given a stiff warning[11].

In the 1920's "the Railway Guard was a Mr. Wright who quelled all complaints about going before time and not waiting for stragglers by remarking "I follow the right time not the Wright time". ... The railway was busy, businesslike, efficient and social. It was used for local travel and for children growing up at that time was used to travel to the Picture Palace Cinema on Saturday afternoons. During the week locals commuted to Derby on the ten to eight passenger train which stopped at all stations en route, returning home at 6 o'clock[12]".

There was a fascinating article about and colour scale drawings of the station in the August 2002 issue of Railway Modeller; this was especially interesting for those wishing to build a replica for their model railway.
Railway Modeller (external link, so will open in a new window)

Also see, elsewhere in the Matlock section of this web site, Bemroses' Guide, which dates from about 1869:
Vignette engraving of High Tor Tunnel, showing the railway station building (see bottom of the page) which shows the pent-roof, passage-like shelters at either end of the station building
Tourist Tickets on the Midland Railway
Weekend Fares on the Midland Railway

More information about the railway elsewhere on this website:
Railway Cards of Derbyshire Scenes - more Midland Railway cards, but not the same publisher
The Railways of Derbyshire, 1903 - a map

Those with railway ancestors might like to see the following, as some Midland Railway employees moved from Matlock to Matlock Bath station:
Matlock & Matlock Bath Lists: The Twentieth Century: Matlock Station Staff, 1911 - 1966, A - J
Matlock & Matlock Bath Lists: The Twentieth Century: Matlock Station Staff, 1911 - 1966, K - Y

Read Betjeman's poem that describes the station as half timbered on Matlock and Matlock Bath: Inspiration of Poets

View even more about the station by clicking on the images below:


19C stereoview1

19C stereoview2


Tunnel, 19C


Station House

Today, image3

Postcard "Matlock Bath Station and High Tor". Published by Kingsway Real Photo Series (WHS logo), No. S 2758. Not used.The stamp box indicates it was published befoore 1918. In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Recent photographs adapted from originals taken in 2008 © Paul Kettle.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (the coloured links are to onsite transcripts):

[1] "The Post Office Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutlandshire", Pub. Kelly and Co., London (1848)

[2] "Buxton Herald", 16 June 1849.

[3] "The Post Office Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutlandshire", Pub. Kelly and Co., London (1855)

[4] Description by Colin Goodwyn, with grateful thanks.

[5] "Derbyshire Times", 6 September 1890.

[6] "ibid.", 4 June 1892. Improvements.

[7] "ibid.", 18 June 1892. Matlock Bath Local Board (ordinary meeting).

[8] "ibid.", 13 September 1902.

[9] With grateful thanks to Michael Bentley, an expert on the Midland Railway, for his advice and help to provide a more accurate date than I originally had (added August 2008).

[10] Although the reservoir/pond is not show on the 1848/9 tithe award is is shown on all Ordnance Survey maps since then. It is mentioned in a number of newspapers in 1938 as "the small reservoir owned by the L.M.S. Railway Co." and "a reservoir at the rear of Matlock Bath Station, used for filling locomotive boilers".

[11] "Belper News", 3 November 1911. Boy's Ingenuity.

[12] Reminiscences of the late Mr. Frank Clay, from his private papers and notes owned by the web mistress.