"To the eastward of Matlock is a hill called Riber
and on the far side is a very good stone house which was the seat
of the family of the Woolleys".
William Woolley, about 1712
This very pretty card shows the nineteenth century "folly" of
Riber Castle dominating the skyline above Matlock. It was built
by John Smedley and after Mrs. Smedley's death the castle became
a boys' school.
Although the Wolleys in the sixteenth century and John Smedley
in the nineteenth are the two surnames we mostly associate with
Riber today, in the later eighteenth century another gentleman
with an interest in medicine lived in the hamlet. His name
was Fairfax Moresby, an Apothecary in Derby where in 1744 he was
to be found
"Under the Town Hall in Derby [his] shop selling all Kind
of Druggs, Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate ; Medicines Simple and Compound,
fresh and faithfully prepared".
He married Mary Kirk in 1745 and the couple had several children.
We know he was living at Riber in the 1780s, at least for some
of the time, as he was very forgiving to one John Wragg who had
been very rude about him. Wragg was forced to publish an apology
in "The Derby Mercury":
Riber, 19th May, 1784.
WHEREAS I JOHN WRAGG, of Riber, in the Parish of Matlock, in
the County of Derby, Farmer, have at various Times falsely & maliciously
charged Mr. FAIRFAX MORESBY, of Riber aforesaid, with having
committed a Forgery, and have propogated and reported the same
on many different occasions .. Now I do hereby declare that
such charge was totally without foundation ... I hereby Publicly
beg pardon ... thanks for lenity he has just shewn ... by withdrawing
the action against me.
Whether it was on part of Moresby's land or that of a neighbour
is unknown, but in 1778 a sale notice announced that "THE
GRASS growing on Forty computed Acres of Land at Riber, near Matlock,
[is] in Quality as good as that on the Banks of Dove".
High praise indeed.
Fairfax Moresby died at Riber on 18th November 1788; his obituary
notice said he was "a tender husband, and an indulgent Father;
respected by every one who truly know him".
He and one of his daughters were buried at St. Giles.
The postcard shows the scattered farmhouses on the hillside below
the castle and their fields boundaries are enclosed by dry-stone
walls, a method of wall building commonly used in Derbyshire.
Walls in England (opens in a new window)