Picture Gallery> Derbyshire Pictures Index> This page
The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Derbyshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Rowsley, The Peacock Hotel

The Peacock, the subject of this 1869 wood engraving, was built by John Stevenson in 1652: its style is Jacobean[1]. Perhaps to emphasise this, the engraver (unknown, but probably John Joseph Briggs of Melbourne) has included two gentlemen in Jacobean dress close to the front entrance.

The gables are symmetrical and the windows are mullioned and transomed. Of note are the semicircular pediment over the centrally placed door[1] and the "fine stone peacock" above it, over the embattled porch, indicating the association with the Manners family of Haddon Hall[2]. The OS map of 1879 (1:2,500) reveals that the gritstone arched structure on the left hand side, behind the wall was, and still is, a drinking fountain. It was constructed in 1841 by Mr. Fearn of Bakewell and Mr Bath of Haddon had carved the basin underneath. He had also carved the peacock for the hotel[3].

An earlier engraving had been published in 1858 when the hotel was described as "the beau ideal of a snug country hostelry. It was our lot to be travelling through Derbyshire a few days ago when fortune brought us under the shade of its roof". At that time Rowsley was the terminus of the railway from Ambergate and coaches from here took travellers to Buxton, Manchester, Chatsworth and Haddon[4]. In pre-railway times, ten coaches a day, five up and five down, changed horses at the Peacock, but "the iron horse" altered the character of the place, and it was a then quiet resort until the motor car once more made it a busy house of call[5].

"The prettiest hotel in England"[3] (1892).
By the early 1900s a two storey wing had been added to the hotel's left hand side,
replacing the single storey structure in the 1868 engraving.

The property was originally the home of gentleman farmers, with Mrs. Goodie the last farming tenant[3]. Samuel Severn and his wife Ann were the innkeepers after It became an inn in the 1820s. A letter published in 1849, during Mr. Severn's tenancy, stated that it was "a large and commodious establishment, and long and extensively known as the Head Quarters of Isaac Walton's gentle art" (i.e. fishing)[6]. When Mrs. Severn announced that she was retiring from business in 1857 she had been at the Peacock for thirty years. Her successors were Mr and Mrs John Cooper[7].

In the 1880s the Peacock was thought of as one of the "old fashioned of roadside hostelries ... still remaining in the county ... the Chatsworth Inn, at Edensor ; the Wheat Sheaf at Baslow ; and the Peacock... where glittering plate glass, bright new mahogany furniture and brazen 'bar fittings' have not destroyed the comfortable old-world flavour which still clings about them"[8].

Thirty years after the date written on the card the hotel's grounds were still lovely:
"An exquisite old-world garden, and as we walk under its magnificent trees our eyes delight
in the magnificent flowers that scent the air, the old sun dial surrounded by shrubs, and the
velvety lawns that slope down to the river Wye [sic]"[9] (1936).

John Cooper's daughter Sarah, who was assisted by a Miss Dawson, retired in 1908[10], ending the family's management of the hostelry. First John, then his widow Mary Ann and finally Sarah had run the premises for a total of 51 years. Sarah's obituary in 1914 stated that she was "a lady who was known the world over to tourists, who in times past had visited the Peak and during their tours have called at the famous Peacock Hotel"[11]. The next proprietor was Walter Bucknall Cooper, who does not seem to have been a relative[10].

Visitors in 1861 included the Archduke Maximilian of Austria and his suite who ate lunch at Mr. John Cooper's hotel before visiting Chatsworth and Haddon. The Archduchess was also to have been in the party but in the event she stayed in London so the Archduke did not stay overnight[12]. In October the same year Maximilian was invited to become the Emperor of Mexico, a post he did not at first accept.

Also in 1861 a Count Labroma, who was said to be influential on the continent, signed the visitors' book. Amongst others who came were Henry W Longfellow, his wife and family who stayed there in 1868 whilst exploring the Peak District. Members of the Manners family also visited. The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones gave Miss Cooper a black and white picture twenty of more years before her retirement and she thought that the Earl of Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli) had called at the hotel. Another politician, Mr. Chamberlain, had also visited. A Colonel Inglewood Smith presented her with a signed watercolour of Filyfoot Bridge whilst Russell Greeley from "across the herring pond" drew a picture of the garden in the visitors' book[11]. [Lieutenant] General Baden Powell and his brother spent a few days fly fishing in 1907 and stayed at the hotel[13].

In 1936 Mr. Whitehead, whose shop was near the hotel, recalled more of the hotel's visitors including Joseph Chamberlain (who may have been the Mr. Chamberlain above), the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. Douglas Fairbanks came with Mary Pickford, who was there whilst filming "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall". It was a silent film made in 1924 and Mr. Fairbanks was not a member of the cast[9]. Lily Langtree and Edward Landseer are two more names mentioned.

Print of a pen and ink drawing of the hotel

To return briefly to the well beside the hotel. Well Dresssing is not a long established custom in Rowsley, as it is in Tissington and elsewhere in rural Derbyshire[14]. It began here in the 1970s as part of a flower festival, following on from the centenary celebrations of Caudwells Mill in June 1974. For a number of years afterwards there was a village festival but today only the Well Dressing has remained as an annual event[15].

Rowsley is mentioned in the following on-site transcripts:

Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811, Parishes G - Great Rowsley

Kelly's 1891 Directory

There are two documents that mention Rowsley in the Wolley Manuscripts, Matlock, Vol.6666 - ff.147-9 and 6666 ff.250-5.

Frank Clay painted The Peacock, with the carriage and horses from the Red House at Darley in the foreground.

1. "The Peacock at Rowsley". Wood engraving published in "The Reliquary, Quarterly Archeological Journal and Review", Vol. 10 (1869-70, Ed. Llewellynn Jewitt, F.S.A. Published London: Bemrose & Sons, 21 Paternoster Row; John Russell Smith, 36 Soho Square Derby : Bemrose & Sons, Irongate. It had been first published in the tour guide "The Peacock at Rowsley ..." 1869) by John Joseph Briggs, F.R.S.L. London.
2. "Rowsley - Peacock Hotel". Queen Series, T. T. & S., Scarbro. Unused
3."Rowsley. Peacock Inn". Photochrom Co., Ltd., London. Unused, but with the date 2-3 Aug 1906 and the words "Our hotel" written across the top, which was when it was originally bought.
4. "The Peacock, Rowsley". Pen and ink drawing by the late Frank Clay of Matlock.
All four images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Pevsner, Nikolaus (1953), "The Buildings of England, Derbyshire", Penguin Books. The date means that it was built in the Commonwealth period of Oliver Cromwell.

[2] Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1937) "Derbyshire: The Peak Country",The King's England Series, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.

[3] "Derbyshire Times", 17 September 1892. Gleanings of the Peak.

[4] "Illustrated London News", 27 March 1858. The Peacock at Rowsley.

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 November 1928. Town & Country Gossip. Famous Derbyshire inn. The journalist was using as his source an article from the parish magazine by Canon Prior, then vicar of Rowsley.

[6] "Derbyshire Courier", 15 September 1849. The comments were in a letter written by "The Daily Observer".

[7] "ibid", 30 May 1857. "MRS SEVERN begs to thank her numerous Friends and the Public for the very liberal support she has received during the thirty years she has conducted the above Hotel". Her last advertisement/entry in a trade directory was in White's Directory of that year.

[8] "ibid", 14 July 1883.

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 10 July 1936. The Peacock, Rowsley. Happy Blend of The Atmosphere of a Bygone Age With Modern Hotel Amenities. The river running behind the hotel is the Derwent, not the Wye. The Wye joins the Derwent just to the south of Rowsley Bridge.

[10] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 8 August 1908. Mr. Cooper of the Royal Victoria Hotel, St. Leonards, took over on 28th September.

[11] "Belper News", 31 July 1914. Death of Miss Cooper, formerly proprietress of the Peacock Hotel, Rowsley. She had moved to The Avenue, Bakewell where she died on 20 July 1914.

[12] "The Derby Mercury", 21 August 1861 and "Derbyshire Courier", 17 August 1861. Maximilian was the brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. His reign as the Emperor of Mexico was short lived and he was executed in 1867.

[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 16 May 1907. Whilst the article refers to him as General Baden Powell, he was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1907, not to the rank of General (Encyclopedia Britannica).

[14] In the summer of 1966 I researched Well Dressing in Derbyshire and wrote a thesis on the suject the following year..

[15] Ted Mellor, a local resident, has said that the Mill celebrations were enjoyed so much that a committee was formed to hold a village festival in 1975, with a reference to a Well Dressing and Church Flower Festival being included. The festival ran successfully for a number of years, but enthusiasm eventually wained and the Well Dressing is the only activity that is still continued. With grateful thanks to Ted.

Derbyshire Pictures Index
Next page
Previous page
Also see
Our Genealogy
Images of
Matlock & Matlock Bath

Chatsworth and Vicinity, 1864

Rowsley Bridge

Matlock & Matlock Bath

Michael Fay: "The End of a Long and Winding Road
" has two excellent images of the bridge widening close to the hotel

Snitterton Hall

where Mrs. Goodie's daughter lived