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The Pig of Lead Inn, Via Gellia, Matlock Bath, 1903
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Via Gellia, shown on
Firth's 1908 map




Pig of Lead and
Via Gellia Road



In 1884 Edward Bradbury wrote that the "Pig of Lead," ... is now called The Via Gellia Inn" a hostelry that reminds us that we have reached Bonsall"[1]. Some eighteen or nineteen years later, when this photograph was taken, we can see that the inn used both names as the signboard between the first floor windows reads "Pig of Lead, Via Gellia Inn" whereas the gas lamp above the front door has the words Via Gellia Inn on the glass shade. The landlord at that time was Josiah Oliver, a farmer and a pigeon fancier as well as a publican. It is quite probable that the man sitting on the trestle bench outside the inn with some of his children was Josiah[2].

When he filled in his return for the 1911 census Josiah added a comment on the form that "on bottom three rooms, second floor two, third floor two"[3]. Just over a hundred years earlier, in 1809, the Pig of Lead had been advertised for sale. At the time it was in the possession of James Hallam and tenanted by him as a Public House. The house was then described as having a spacious entrance, house place and parlour on the ground floor, two lodging rooms on the second, and two in the attic storey, the same number of rooms as in Josiah Oliver's day. It also had "a good brewhouse and cellars, with large store rooms over, a dairy and a pantry", which also had lodging rooms over them. In 1809 there were approximately fifteen acres of land attached, which were then in the possession of William Knowles. The property also had stabling for six to eight horses and was being sold by the Wirksworth Attorney, James Swettenham[4].

Over the intervening years there were several landlords. We know of William Peat[5]; James Briddon who farmed and was also a blacksmith[6]; Mary Knowles[7]; John Boden, an Innkeeper and limestone merchant, and his daughter Dorothy[8]. The 1883 advertisement for the Via Gellia Inn, when Josiah Oliver took over, was glowing about the Inn's setting: "at the foot the beautiful and picturesque valley of Lillies, and amidst the romantic scenery of Derbyshire. A Pianoforte for the musically inclined. Tariff very moderate"[9].

Writing under his nom de plume of Strephon, Edward Bradbury was equally as complimentary. Bradbury enjoyed walking and on one such trip in 1877, that took in Bonsall and ended in Matlock Bath, he said that "Presently we pass a primitive public-house yclept [called] the "Pig of Lead" respecting which the Punster, in a weak moment indulges in some hoggish remarks. This road-side tavern is the threshold of the Arcadia of our ramble-the Via Gellia. The Gellia is one of the most delicious of Derbyshire valleys. We expected a pretty scene, but the enchanted loveliness of this secluded spot surpasses our most ardent anticipations. ... the place is surely the perfection of all that is picturesque - an emerald gem in the Derbyshire diadem"[10].

Clatterway, the steep road up to Bonsall, is on the right of the photograph. When there was extensive flooding in Derbyshire in 1884 the stream coming down from the Via Gellia was swollen and damage to the merino factory in the valley was reported. In addition, "the culvert bringing the water down from Bonsall also became stopped up, and a fearful mass of water poured right through the Pig of Lead Inn"[11].

Nineteenth century Ordnance Survey maps show the Inn on the edge of the Cromford and Newhaven Road, with the frontage facing the wide triangular sweep at the bottom of Clatterway as shown above. In 1902 Bonsall Urban District Council discussed the County Council's road improvement scheme for the the Via Gellia, as it was part of the Cromford and Newhaven Road, and for widening it near the "Pig o' Lead." The work was to cost £50, this including the purchase of the land, the cost making the road and kerbed footway and removing and rebuilding a wall[12].

Josiah Oliver died in 1916, aged 65. The "Pig of Lead" is no longer an Inn, though you can still get a bed for the night (see Pig of Lead website).


The Pig of Lead was mentioned in Bemrose's 1869 Guide. See: Walks Round Matlock Bath & Places of Interest.


"Matlock Bath The "Pig of Lead" Inn Via Gellia". Stengel & Co. Ltd., London E. C. 39 Redrose Street. No. 16035. Undivided back. Posted 17 Oct 1903 in Canterbury and sent to France.
Postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 4 June 1884. "All about Derbyshire", by Edward Bradbury.

[2] Josiah Oliver married twice, first to Mary by whom he had three sons and a daughter (1891 census) and later to Phoebe Goodall, who had worked for him and by whom he had one more son (1901 and 1911 census). He can be found at the Pig of Lead in Kelly's 1887 Directory | Kelly's 1891 Directory, Bonsall | Kelly's 1895, 1899 and 1912 Directories.

[3] 1911 census return. Josiah Oliver wrote that he was residing at The Pig of Lead on the form he filled in, but on the Enumerator's list the property is down as the Via Gellia Inn. He said the Pig of Lead had 7 rooms.

[4] Derby Mercury, 16 November 1809. Valuable Freehold Estate, Situate at Bonsall.

[5] William Peat can be found at the Pig of Lead in Pigot's Directory, 1828-9.

[6] James Briddon had taken over by 1931. His name appears in Pigot's Directory, 1831 | Pigot's Directory, 1842 | Freebody's Directory, Matlock: Taverns & Public Houses, 1852 | 1851 census, when he was also farming 7 acres | 1861 census, when he was also employed as a blacksmith.

[7] Mary Knowles advertised in Harrod & Co.'s Directory of Derbys, Leics ... , 1870, when she was also shown as a shopkeeper. She was still was there at the time of the 1871 census. She died at the Pig of Lead on 26th December, 1874, aged 65. An inquest was held following her death.

[8] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 26 March 1881. Claims against the Estate of John Boden, late of the Via Gellia Inn, Pig of Lead, Bonsall. Mr. Boden's wife, Catherine, had pre-deceased him (this from his great grand-daughter with grateful thanks). The 1881 census shows Dorothy Gregory, Innkeeper. Kelly's Directory or the same year shows the innkeeper as Dorothy Boden but they are the same person. Dorothy was widowed.

[9] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 30 June 1883. To Let. Excellent Private and Hotel Accommodation at the Via Gellia Inn, Bonsall.

[10] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 16 June 1877. Sunday in the Sunshine, by Strephon.

[11] Derby Daily Telegraph, 4 February 1884. The Floods in Derbyshire. The culvert, or aqueduct, is mentioned on the next page.

[12] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 19 November 1902. Bonsall's new Water Scheme and Increased Rates.


There is more on site information about Bonsall on this website:
The Andrews Pages : Picture Gallery has several photographs and old cards