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Matlock Dale: The High Tor Grounds, from Masson
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High Tor Grounds Entrance

High Tor Grounds,
Fern Cave


Riber Castle & High Tor from Masson

In 1907 a board stood outside Matlock Bridge Station directing visitors to some of the beauty spots of the locality or, more specifically, to "the High Tor Grounds, Fern Cave, Switzerland view and the refreshment-room". A newspaper reporter commented that "the latter direction is a delicious touch of human nature"[1]. There were a number of routes to access the grounds from that station, shown in the advertisement below. Before this there had been a basic charge to enter the grounds and a further penny would admit you to the caves.

Advertisement for the grounds, about 1917-18.

Francis Clay Statham of Starkholmes was manager of the pleasure grounds from 1887 to at least 1911[2], and Robert Hall served as the secretary for many years[3]. Job Smith was Chairman of the High Tor Recreation Ground Company Limited when he passed away in 1907[4]; it was one of many enterprises he was involved with. Although not all the directors from that time are known, Tom Wright, J.P., of Darley was also a director that year[5].

In 1916 the grounds needed a new manager. Rather tellingly, " Men of military age not accepted"[6]. Mr. F. Atkinson was manager in 1923. Walter F. Dakin had taken over as secretary from Robert Hall.

The ground's manager in the mid-1930s was Albert John Fudge. In 1935 he summoned a lead miner who lived on Church Street and had been seen with a ferret on High Tor; it was said he was searching for conies (rabbits), so he was presumably poaching. A local constable had found him with a bag, a ferret and some rabbits which was something of a giveaway. Despite claiming he was trying to train the ferret, the culprit was fined and advised the leave the rabbits well alone in future![6]

Two years later, in 1937, the management of the Recreation Ground possibly had a sudden rush to their heads as they erected an aluminium coloured sign, with the words High Tor on it; it was placed right in the centre of the rock face! It seems a bizarre thing to have done. Needless to say, there were a number of complaints and the matter was debated by the Council who then wrote to the Company. There was a second discussion following the Company's response; Councillor Beddington commented that the rock advertised itself and a second letter requesting the removal was sent[6].

1. A Picturesque Walk, Matlock. [Don Lion Series] Empire View Productions, No.25.38?. Real Photo by Charles M. Jamson (Copyright Empire View Productions, Doncaster). Not posted.
2. Advertisements from "Guide to Matlock and Matlock Bath". Printed and published by Geo. Hodgkinson, Matlock Printing Works. No date and originally thought to be about 1907 but one of the advertisers was not in Matlock until 1917.
Postcard and guide in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] "Nottingham Evening Post", 3 August 1907. Items of Local Interest.

[2] References to Francis Clay Statham's involvement: Kelly's Directory 1887 | Kelly's Directory 1891 | Kelly's Directory 1895 | 1901 census | 1911 census. Also see his MI.

[3] Robert Hall passed away in 1922. His son, Gilbert Sudbury Hall, had died in WW1. As well as his involvement with the High Tor Company, Robert Hall he was secretary to or director of a number of other business undertakings within the county. The Hall family can be found in Matlock in the 1891 census.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 15 May 1907. Death of Job Smith.

[5] "Belper News", 22 November 1907.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 15 February 1935. Training a ferret. Matlock Man with Rabbits on High Tor.

[7] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 20 May 1916. Matlock. High Tor Grounds- MANAGER WANTED. ... Apply Robert Hall, Secretary. Dale-road, Matlock.