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Matlock: Riber Castle & High Tor, Views from Masson
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1903 map of Riber

High Tor Grounds Entrance

High Tor Grounds,
Fern Cave

The High Tor Grounds, from Masson

Starkholmes and Riber from a Path to High Tor

From the Vernon Lamb Archive



This lovely view of Riber, seen from across the valley of Matlock Dale, is by Salmon and shows us the Castle, Riber hillside, High Tor and a little of Masson in the foreground. The wild flowers, bottom right, seem to be Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota or wild carrot).

Masson had numerous lead workings over the centuries that, unfortunately, a number of people have fallen into. The rather large pile of rocks are probably where a disused mineshaft had been capped for safety reasons.

Riber was opened to the public on the August Bank Holiday of 1927 to raise funds for a stall at the League of Nations bazaar. A journalist wrote at the time that although John Smedley's ideas for his castle were probably over magnificent, "the greatness of a brain which accompanies such a work cannot be questioned". The castle's massive walls had been constructed of hand cut gritstone whilst its roof covered a quarter of an acre. The ladders in his great well, supplying the castle with water, had just had to be rebuilt - over 60 years after they were installed[1].

Ramblers were by this time enjoying the countryside in ever increasing numbers and in 1928 a group from Derby caught a train to Ambergate and then made their way entirely by grassy lanes and footpaths to Riber Castle before descending the hill and catching the train home[3]. One can only hope that they stopped off in Matlock Bath to enjoy the culinary delights of one of the numerous cafes in the village.

In 1903, Heywood's Guide tells us that a large cricket ground had been made on the summit of High Tor and there was a walk along the cliff edge to Matlock Town, enabling visitors "to command a view of the Dale and open up much of its delightful scenery[2]. The walk leading up to the summit can be seen in the enlargement below.

High Tor was then leased by Matlock and High Tor Grounds Recreation Company. They charged twopence to visit the grounds, with an extra penny added for those wanting to visit the cave (Fern Cave).

In 1924 the 32 acres of the High Tor Recreation Ground were bought from the Arkwright Estates by Matlock Council[4].They paid £1,000[5] to preserve it as an open space and natural beauty spot.; it was then sub-let to the High Tor Recreation Grounds Co. Ltd. for £200 per annum on a lease that expired in 1946[6].

Riber Castle and High Tor from the grounds of the Heights of Abraham, Masson.

The second view of Riber Castle shows Starkholmes and Ward's End above the limestone crags of the southern side of High Tor. The highest part of the Tor is out of shot in both pictures, between the two views. In the early days of postcards most of the images of the Tor were what we could call the classic view, in other words the scene from either the river bank or from Pic Tor and showing the rock rising up from its base beside the Derwent. What we can see from the Heights of Abraham is different, of course, but is no less magnificent.

1. "Riber Castle from Masson". Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, No.15115. Real Photo. Unused.
2. "High Tor and Riber Castle, Matlock". A. W. Gessey, Stationer, Matlock, No. 9. This is a real Photograph. Printed in France. Unused.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 29 July 1927.

[2] Heywood, Abel (1903) "Abel Heywood's Guide Books, With Cycling, Walking and Driving Routes. Matlock Illustrated".

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 14 August 1928. The Rambler's Association was formed on 1 Jan 1935 and its first conference was held at Cromford Court.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 13 March 1924. Arkwright Estates. Matlock Council Buys High Tor Grounds. First day of the auction, held at the New Bath Hotel.

[5] "Nottingham Journal", 14 March 1924. Arkwright Sales. ... Total to date £100,000.

[6] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 18 March 1927. The Matlocks Bill.