High Tor has been the subject of countless paintings and photographs
over the years but this old postcard, dating from about
the 1920s, is very different as there is no soft landscape
surrounding the Tor. The sheer, stark rock face is totally
dominant and, clearly, nothing else mattered to the photographer
but the hard stone and the long drop of the cliff face.
It is a powerful image.
"It [High Tor] has furnished the subject of many a picture,
and even in our school-boy days has been used as an arithmetical
question. In the lapse of years since it was first noticed,
it has lost none of its interest, and it continues at the
present time as undiminished a source of attraction, as if
it had only just emerged from the overflowing waters. It
is 396 feet in height, but being composed of solid limestone,
looks massive in the extreme".
Although he was writing about High Tor a hundred and fifty
years ago, Jewitt's description is true today, even if local
schoolchildren are probably not set maths questions about
It was not until 1903 that climbers were successful in scaling
High Tor. For
several years beforehand "experienced cragsmen"
had looked at the rock, but all attempts to climb it had failed.
This changed on Saturday 12 December 1903 when three young
men decided to try their luck. The leader was Mr. James William
Puttrell of Sheffield, who was accompanied by Mr. W. Smithard
from Duffield and Mr Arnold Bennett from Sheffield.
The three of them went to the foot of the cliff at noon on
the day of they had set for their challenge, a point which
was reported to be 250 feet above the River Derwent and 200
feet from the summit. The plan was to climb up the High Tor
Gully, which is a long black line that appears to split the
Tor in two. The top of it can be seen on the above image -
the first large indent from the left hand edge.
It took four attempts before the leader worked out how to
approach the climb and the climb itself took them almost three
hours to complete.
The feat was described as the "most
prominent, and undoubtedly finest rock-climb in Derbyshire".
It most certainly set a precedent for future generations of
 ed. Jewitt, Llewellynn "Black's
Tourist Guide to Derbyshire"
(1864) pub. Adam and Charles Black Edinburgh, pp.239-40. Quoting
from his "Matlock Companion". The height of High
Tor seems to vary in the sources. However, the Ordnance Survey maps
show the 600 foot contour around the top of High Tor.
 "Sheffield Evening Telegraph",
Tuesday 15 December 1903. Record climb at Matlock. Ascent of the
High Tor Gully.
 The 1911 census tells us that James William
Puttrell, then aged 42 and single, was a house decorator (an employer)
who was living with his parents at 2 Hanover Square in Sheffield,
though he had earlier (1901) been a table cutler manager. It is uncertain
who the other two young men were, but it is possible that Arnold
Bennett was a married bricklayer who lived at Dronfield Woodhouse
and was then aged 35. The 1901 census has also been checked, but
 Although the days in winter are short,
the climb took place before changes to the clock, with the introduction
of British Summer Time in 1916, occurred in Britain.