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Riber Hill and Castle, Matlock
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1903 map of Riber

Riber Castle

Riber Hall

Mr. Chippett's School at Riber

Pic Tor and Riber Castle, 1935

Pic Tor & Riber Castle

"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[1]

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"[2]. He married Mary Kirk in 1745 and the couple had several children[3]. 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"[4]:

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 1780 Wragg was joint occupier with him on land Moresby owned. 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"[6]. 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"[7]. 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.
Drystone Walls in England (opens in a new window)

"Riber Hill and Castle, Matlock". Postcard published by C. Colledge, Stationer, Matlock. Inland ½d. Stamp. Foreign 1d. Unused.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews
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] Glover, Catherine and Riden, Philip (edited by) (1981) "William Woolley's History of Derbyshire" Derbyshire Record Society Volume VI, p.200. The house he referred to is now known as Riber Manor House.

[2] "The Derby Mercury", 23 November 1744. Advertisement.

[3] Fairfax Moresby and Mary Kirk were married at Kirk Ireton on 10 Jun 1745. Their children were baptised in Derby.

[4] "The Derby Mercury", 13 May 1784 and 10 June 1784.

[5] Eighteenth Century Lists: Matlock Land Tax, 1780 records him as an owner and occupier, although it does not specify where his land was. The Land Tax list for 1787 show him still at Riber, with the occupiers "self and others".

[6] "The Derby Mercury", 31 July 1778. The person dealing with the sale of the hay was Mr. Whitehead of Matlock.

[7] "The Derby Mercury", 20 November 1788. His daughter Gertrude was buried at St. Giles' in 1783 (see transcript) and Fairfax Moresby was buried in 1788.