"Monsal Dale may with peculiar propriety
be termed the Arcadia of Derbyshire."
When viewed from Monsal Head Monsal Dale is one of those
places that takes your breath away. In 1827 Richard Ward described
how any traveller standing "on the brow of a lofty and
steep mountain, and casting his eyes to the bottom of it, if
he is not utterly destitute of a taste for the beauties of
nature, he will be struck with the highest admiration by a
complete view, suddenly presented, of the charming Monsal Dale,
stretching to the right and left immediately beneath him".
The same could still be said today.
The first picture is looking downstream, over the railway
viaduct towards Fin Wood on the valley's side and Fin Cop,
where there used to be an old lime kiln.
The building of the Rowsley to Buxton extension of the Midland
Railway, begun in 1860, completely changed the Monsal valley.
By the mid autumn of that year work had started and a hundred
men were employed near Bakewell, with stabling put up for 50
A viaduct was to be built across the dale, 100 yards in length
and with arches 60 feet high and a 50 foot span.
From the outset the Rowsley and Buxton Railway was said to
be one of the most picturesque in England, with the view
at Monsal Dale the most
imposing. At one end it was to be accessed from a tunnel
said to be of solid black marble and the traveller, on emerging
from it, was expected to be struck with amazement at the beautiful
sight before him. The viaduct over the River Wye was being
built of black marble removed from the tunnel;
some of the blocks weighed four to five tons. The line then
went into another tunnel, going on to Cressbrook Dale. When
one of the Monsal piers was nearly finished in April 1861 it
was said that the black marble "gives it a very noble
and firm appearance". The head engineer was A. Chambers,
Esq., who worked for Messrs. Rennie and Co. It was Mr. Chambers
who supervised the work on all the tunnels and viaducts.
One minor incident occurred in August 1861 when Joseph Timm's
hen roost was broken into and fourteen of his fowls were stolen.
The culprits scattered feathers in front of the huts
near the viaduct where the navvies were housed, undoubtedly
a ruse to blame the railway workers for the birds' disappearance.
In January 1863 there was a far more serious incident. A stone
fell from one of the arches and hit the head of a 25 year old
labourer from Tideswell called William Sutton who was working
on the viaduct. He was killed immediately, and a verdict of
Accidental Death was recorded at the inquest that followed.
The new line between Hassop and Buxton was opened in June 1863.
A special train, with its engine decorated with flags and evergreens,
left Derby at 10a.m., picking up a few people en route to Hassop
where the Duke of Devonshire and a party from Chatsworth embarked,
plus Mr. Thornhill, M.P. who had travelled up by train from
London. The journey to Buxton perhaps took longer than expected
as it did not reach its destination until after 1p.m. because
there were pauses along the way to admire various things of
interest. It had taken approximately two years and three
months to build, with the number of navvies averaging about
John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, was scathing: "That
valley where you might expect to catch the sight of Pan, Apollo
and the Muses, is now desecrated in order that a Buxton fool
may be able to find himself in Bakewell at the end of twelve
minutes, and vice versa" (Fors Clavigera).
In his 1890 guide R. N. Worth described the journey by
"After leaving Longstone we soon enter a tunnel [Headstone
tunnel], emerging from which we find ourselves in the beautiful
scenery of Monsal Dale. Looking down to the l[eft] the view
of the Wye winding round the base of Fin Cop is very fine".
Charles Cox, in 1915, thought the Dale remained mostly unspoiled,
despite express trains whistling through every few minutes.
He recommended actually visiting in person, rather than rushing
through it in a train, as it was well worth the journey.
The Headstone Tunnel, re-opened in the last few years,
is just out of shot on the left.
There had been plans to erect another viaduct at Monsal. In
1891 the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway Bill
was being considered and it was proposed that a second viaduct
should be built here, about 200 feet above the
Midland Railway line. If built it would be the highest in
England and the estimated cost was £73,000,
with building work expecting to take about two years.
The three photos that feature the viaduct (above) show that
this plan did not reach fruition.
Following the Beeching closures of the 1960s the defunct line
was converted into Monsal Trail, something enjoyed by many,
and is now part of the Peak District National Park.
 "Black's Tourist Guide
to Derbyshire" (1888) pub. Adam and Charles Black
Edinburgh. The quote is unattributed.
 Ward, Reverend Richard (1814) "The
Matlock, Buxton and Castleton Guide, containing concise accounts
of these and other remarkable places ... in the ... County
of Derby", Derby.
 "The Derby Mercury",
17 October 1860.
 "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield
Herald", 27 April 1861.
 "Derbyshire Courier",
31 August 1861.
 "The Derby Mercury",
28 January 1863.
 R. N. Worth, F.G.S., (1890) "Tourist's
Guide to Derbyshire", Edward Stanford, 26 & 27,
Cockspur Street, Charing Cross
 Cox, John Charles, (1915, 2nd edition,
revised), "Derbyshire" - Illustrated by J.
Charles Wall, Methuen & Co., London, p.197. Cox was then
Rector of Holdenby, Northampton.
 "Derbyshire Courier",
25 April 1891.
 Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1937) "Derbyshire:
The Peak Country", The King's England Series, Hodder
and Stoughton Limited, London.