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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 which were run by Isaac and Mary Shaw; Isaac was an Engineer and Boiler Maker[2], so presumably it was Mary who did most of the work[3]. The Heights of Jacob Fluor Spar Cavern was some 200 metres down the hillside, although it had its own tea area. The Zoo Tea Gardens would probably have served visitors to the Cricket Ground and the Cumberland and Speedwell Caverns which were also nearby.



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[4]. 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[3]. Willow, birch, or alder saplings are all suitable for this type of furniture[5]. However, it was probably created by Isaac Shaw to amuse his young daughters, whoever made the furniture.

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



Zoo Tea Gardens, Upperwood


The second postcard shows the Shaw family outside the front door of their Upperwood home. More rustic furniture is featured, including large plant pot stands in the same style as the seats. The crates, bottom right, probably contained water bottles but could equally have been full of ginger beer or soda water which was made locally.

Isaac, who was considerably older than his wife, was christened at Sutton cum Duckmanton on 19 Jul 1840[6]. He had been married before and his first wife was Emma Haywood, whom he married at the Independent Salem Chapel in Wingerworth in 1863. By 1871 the Shaws were in Brampton with their eldest daughter Elizabeth Ann[7]. Rosa followed in 1878[8]. In 1890 Isaac Shaw and Samuel Fidler of Chester Street, Brampton applied for a patent for "Improvements in miners' picks, axes, hammers, and other similar articles and in the mode of securing the same to the shaft"[9]. We learn for a court case in the early 1890s, after Emma was verbally abused by a local man, that Isaac also owned properties in Brampton.

Emma died on 3 June 1893[10]. Isaac continued in partnership with his two daughters and eventually Elizabeth's husband Charles Etchells until 1898 when he retired[11]. They traded as Shaw and Co., ironfounders and stove and grate manufacturers and salesmen.



This enlargement of the image above shows, from left to right, Harriet Shaw (born 1904),
her mother Mary, sister Nelly (born 1907) and father Isaac.
The trestle tables are laid for tea, with a large fruit cake waiting to be eaten.



Mary Rowbotham became Isaac's second wife, marrying him at St. Helen's Darley Dale on 13 Feb 1904, and Harriet was born later that year. Presumably both girls were educated at Matlock Bath School. Nelly is definitely remembered attending the school[3]. The Shaw family were well settled into village life by 1907: "Messrs James Boden and Isaac Shaw combined resources for the Venetian Fete land competition and won maximum points for their Adam Bede's Cottage"[13].

It is not known when the family left Matlock Bath but Isaac passed away at Chesterfield, aged 90, in 1931[14].


1. "Zoo Tea Gardens". Photograph, taken by Thomas Meredith Henshall of Matlock Bath, on a postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
2. 3. and 4. No title or publisher. Rare photographic postcard, likely to have also been taken by Tom Henshall, probably about 1911. © Ann Andrews collection.
Images scanned for this website and information written, 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 the late Mrs. Lorna Aspey.

[2] 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] 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. Nelly Shaw was a little older than my late father, but he recalled her being a pupil.

[4] 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.

[5] The interesting web site, Build-Rustic-Furniture.com , which showed you how to make similar furniture, is unfortunately no longer available.

[6] He was a son of George and Ann Shaw and the family moved to Chesterfield. They are shown as residing in Cock Alley in the 1851 census.

[7] The 1871 census.

[8] The 1881 census. Isaac was described as an Engineer (Owner).

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 26 July 1890. Applications for Patents. The application was dated 7th July 1890.

[10] "ibid.",10 June 1893. At Chester St Brampton, June 3rd, Emma, beloved wife Isaac Shaw, aged years, interred at St. Thomas' Church, Brampton, on June 7th.

[11] "ibid", 28 May 1898. Partnership between Isaac, Rosa, Samuel Etchells, Elizabeth Ann Etchells dissolved as far as Isaac was concerned. Their business was at West Bars and Chester Street, both in Brampton. The 1901 census shows them at West Bars, and Isaac as a Retired Ironfounder.

[12] Mary was born in Warrington in Lancashire, the daughter of Joseph and Matilda Rowbotham. The Rowbothams returned to Derbyshire around 1884 and settled in Bridgetown, Darley, close to where Joseph had been born (Bakewell).

[13] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 13 September 1907.

[14] "Derbyshire Times", 23 April 1932. "In loving memory of a dear father and grandfather, Isaac Shaw, who passed away 21st April 1931. Rosa and children".