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Matlock Bath: Zoo Tea Gardens, Upper Wood
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Upper Wood, about 1890

Heights of Jacob
Fluor Spar Cavern

Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

This wonderful but slightly eccentric building, possibly the ultimate curiosity in garden shed design, used to be in Upper Wood near the Sports Field[1]. Thirsty walkers or cavern visitors were served tea and refreshments at the Zoo Tea Gardens. The gardens were run by Isaac and Mary Shaw; Isaac was an Engineer and Boiler Maker, so presumably it was Mary who did most of the work[2]. The Heights of Jacob Fluor Spar Cavern was some 200 metres down the hillside, though it had its own tea area. The Zoo Tea Gardens would probably have served visitors to the Speedwell Cavern and the Cricket Ground.

The wooden building is decorated with interpretations of wild birds and animals. On the side adjacent to the stool, for instance, is a man on a horse who is smoking a pipe and the horse is being chased by a reindeer. There is a crown just below the apex of the roof and snakes, more animals and another pipe smoker are on either side of the fretwork window[3]. Similar designs surround the doorway and the other two windows. To the side is a rustic sunshade which is decorated in similar style with a reindeer head and antlers; it is rather small for the real thing but could be, otherwise it is purely decorative and probably carved from wood.

It is likely that the rustic garden seating provided for the customers was made from the many trees and saplings in the vicinity, possibly by William Widdowson who was a jobbing gardener in 1901 and would have had the skills to make it[2]. Willow, birch, or alder saplings are all suitable for this type of furniture[4].

It is even possible that the windmill on the top served as a wind generator.

Photograph, taken by Thomas Meredith Henshall of Matlock Bath, on a postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Image scanned for this website and information writtten, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Conversation between the late Ken Smith and thr late Mrs. Lorna Aspey.
[2] From the recollections of the late Mr. Frank Clay. It is from private papers and notes owned by Mrs. Doreen Buxton, some of which were written in 1992 and are still within copyright. The Shaws were living in Upperwood in the 1911 census, which is available on FindMyPast - see Links in the footer. Their daughters were born in Matlock Bath.
[3] It is difficult to tell whether this is fretwork. It could equally be strips of wood stuck on the glass or may even be lead. A few panes are coloured.
[4] There is an interesting web site,, which shows you how to make similar furniture.