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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Derbyshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Monsal Dale, the Bridges and River
Nineteenth century CDV. The image is not found in Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire by William Bray

One of the earliest descriptions of the Dale was written by William Bray in the 1783 version of his "Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire":

"The descent from the point of view [i.e. from Monsal Head] is steep and abrupt ; at the bottom stands a farm house, in a most picturesque situation, shaded by some trees, and just by is a rustic wooden bridge over the stream, resting on some rocks, and forming a communication with the opposite ground. The river [Wye] runs through meadows mixed with a few corn fields, sometimes of a considerable width, sometimes narrowed by banks ornamented with fine trees ; widening again it runs round a small island ; here is breaks over rocks ; there it steals loftily along, ... A horseman may cross the water by the farm house, and will find a track on his left, by which he may pass through the little vale to Ashford".[12] ...

The hamlet of Upperdale, possibly 1890s. CDV by William Potter.

The first three pictures of Monsal Dale on this page are CDVs published by the Matlock Bath photographer William Potter, probably in the 1890s. Images one and two are of the hamlet of Upperdale and the very pretty rustic foot bridge over the Wye, shown as below Monsal Dale Station on old maps and connected to it by a track[2]. There was a ford crossing the Wye to the right of the bridge and stepping stones can be seen in the river on its left.

A description of Upperdale was given in a Derby paper by "J. W." in 1886, who had clearly arrived at Monsal by train:

"How crisp and pure the air feels! How clean the country looks after the recent rains. Below, nestling amid the trees which shade the entrance to a natural opening in the gaunt slopes which form the far sides of the valley is the picturesque hamlet of Monsal, with the silvery Wye in front, forded by the lane by which we are making our descent from the station, and crossed by a fragile looking footbridge. Nor, as we near it, is the old-world look entirely dispelled by the few match-box looking refreshment shanties, erected for the delectation of cheap trippers"[3].

Whilst J. W. can't have thought of him or herself as a tripper, visitors would arrive by train, in wagonettes or brakes and later by charabanc, motor landaulettes or touring cars and they needed to be catered for. Some of the "refreshment shanties" are clearly visible both in the garden of the stone built farmhouse (there is a sign on one of the buildings), on the hillside behind it and possibly in the garden next door (where there is another sign).

The "fragile" bridge would have been repaired from time to time and in 1914 the Upperdale footbridge was found to be in a very bad condition when it was inspected by the local Surveyor. It was suggested that it would be a great advantage to the district if a cart bridge could be erected instead though later in the year the project seemed unlikely so the existing bridge was repaired[4].

CDV of Netherdale Bridge. Two people are looking over the far side of the bridge.
There is a sheepwash on the right hand side.

A footpath follows the river and connects Upperdale to the second footbridge, Netherdale Bridge, which is closer to the railway viaduct and below Monsal Head. There was also a ford crossing close to Netherdale Bridge.

This picture of the footbridge over the River Wye dates from about 1902 or so.
On the brow of the hill (extreme right) are the properties at Monsal Head.

The valley at the beginning of the twentieth century (below) is best summed up by J. B. Firth, writing in 1908:

"The undistinguished valley becomes, when viewed from above, a thing of beauty. We see the narrow river as it really is, with green strips of meadow fringing it on either side and clean-cut banks. ... The only dwellings visible in the vale are a large farmhouse midway, and a smaller one at our feet with a tiny wooden bridge at its side set on stone piers"[5].

Sneaths' early twentieth century postcard of the Monsal valley shows Netherdale and the farm
mentioned by Firth in the foreground with Upperdale a little further away. The scar on the
hillside caused by the railway cutting is less stark by this time. Vegetation is taking
hold in the crevices in the limestone.

In the enlargement of Sneath's card (below) we can see beyond the railway cutting to Monsal Dale station and the tunnel. At the far end of the cutting is a narrow footbridge connecting the Netherdale Bridge to the former Monsal Dale Spar Mine, which you can see on the left, and joined the lane/trackway from the mine down to Monsal Dale station that went under the railway and then down to Upperdale. Old OS maps show both an old lead mine and the larger lead and spar mine on Putwell Hill[2]. The mine is now disused, but the path and lane still survive.

In the corner of the field where the text is printed on the image is what looks like a large lorry perhaps with a trailer of some kind. Maybe for hay?

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Matlock & Matlock Bath

Old Derbyshire Maps

Bakewell and the Wye Valley, 1908

Matlock & Matlock Bath Photographers includes William Potter

Both bridges across the River Wye seems to been repaired, rebuilt or altered several times in the twentieth century. There are postcards dating from the 1930s that describe the "new" bridge at Upperdale and it was structurally different from the bridge of the early 1900s although it had still wooden sides. The new bridge was far more substantial, both wider and better supported - this time by four stone piers which presumably were designed to take the weight of vehicles[6].

The family photograph of Netherdale Bridge above shows the attractive wooden structure shown on the earlier images had been replaced by a more utilitarian metal bridge. Not so attractive, but requiring less maintenance!

This second family photo shows the weir in Monsal Dale below Fin Wood which is shown on old OS maps as a weir, though later images (i.e. postcards) describe it as a waterfall. It is reached by crossing the Netherdale bridge and walking under the railway arches.

Monsal Dale is mentioned in the following on-site transcripts:
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811, Parishes M, which mentions the then recent discovery of ancient bones in a barrow on top of Great Finn.
"The Panorama of Matlock and Its Environs; With the Tour of the Peak", by H. Barker, Esq. (1827)
"The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868", p.49 (near bottom of page).
It is listed under Great Longstone in Kelly's 1891 Directory.

Images 1, 2 and 3. Photographs by W. Potter, Matlock. Copyright. Published as Cartes de Visite. The CDV is an albumen print mounted on a small card measuring 6.3cm x 10.4cm.
4. Postcard of "Monsal Dale". No publisher. Posted 27 May 1904. Franked twice, firstly in Ashford, which is on the stamp, and the second time in Bakewell some one and a half hours later. Part of the message says "it is very wet".
5 and 6. Photographs taken by Frank Clay.
7 and 8. Postcard "Monsal Dale, Derbyshire". Published by R. Sneath, 16 Change Alley, Sheffield, "Peak" Series Real Photos. No.2245 Unused.
Images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Bray, William (1783) "Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire" (Second Edition) London, Printed for B. White at Horace's Head, in Fleet-Street. The first edition was published in 1778.

[2] Monsal Dale Station can be seen on all County Series OS maps until 1955. It was later demolished.

[3] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 20 August 1886 (from Less Known Derbyshire, by J. W.).

[4] "Derbyshire Courier", 7 March 1914, suggested New Bridge for Monsal Dale. "Derbyshire Courier", 28 July 1914, Monsal Dale's Bridge. In 1882, at a meeting of the Bakewell Sanitary Authority, the attention of the members was drawn to the dangerous state of the footbridge over the river Wye near Monsal Dale, in consequence of the decayed state some of some the foot-boards ("Derbyshire Courier", 25 November 1882). The following year it still required attention as, although it had been temporarily repaired, it remained in a dangerous condition ("Derbyshire Times", 29 September 1883).

[5] Firth, J.B. (1908) "Highways and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 12 July 1924. The cart bridge suggested in 1914had been built at some stage as the Surveyor quoted the County Council, saying there wasn't a great deal of traffic over it and it was unlikely they would pay all the repairs of for reconstruction.