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The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868
English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
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[Page 48]

The Peak.

[1780, pp. 563, 564.]
If the sketches I have delineated in the subsequent tour through the Peak can convey the faintest idea of the original scenes, I shall and have attained the utmost of my ambition.

August 14, 1779.- Arrived at Ashbourne, a neat market-town on the confines of Derbyshire. Rode over in the afternoon to Dovedale, which receives its name from the Dove, a shallow rapid stream that runs through it. At the entrance stands Thorp Cloud, a conical mountain, spotted with sheep. The dale winds continually, the rocks on each side shooting to a very considerable height in the, most fantastic shapes. Those on the left are diversified with wood. Observed several caverns here, one of which particularly attracted our attention, a perforated crag rising just above it in the form of a magnificent arch. About a mile from the entrance the dale, suddenly contracting its dimensions, is no wider than the rocky channel of the river, and soon after opens into the meadows where the cattle were grazing. Returning, we descended to Ilam, the residence of Mr. Porte, situated at the entrance of a little vale, beautiful as the Vale of Tempe. A hanging wood in front forms a noble amphitheatre, and behind towers Thorp Cloud, with a rude chaos of mountain behind mountain. A cliff rises on the right, whence the Hamps and the Manifold emerge, having engulfed themselves at a considerable distance. They unite in this sequestered spot, and pre-

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sently flow into the Dove. Above is a seat in which Congreve composed his comedy of "The Old Batchelor."
August 15.-The scene beyond Ashbourne is dreary and desolate ; the hedges are of stone,* and not a tree is visible, except a few circular plantations on the mountains. The celebrated medicinal springs of Buxton rise here in a bleak valley, near which is Pool's Hole, a cavern above 200 yards in length. The entrance is small, but soon opens into a lofty vault, decorated with stalactites, spars, and petrifactions. The air, however, within is intensely cold, and the passage craggy and dangerous.

August 16.-Having passed Fairfield, we proceeded on the left through enclosures to Tidswell, a singular pool that ebbs and flows. Soon after our arrival the water gushed from several cavities at once for the space of five minutes. The phenomenon is occasioned by the discharge of a subterraneous reservoir, supplied by springs through a channel in the form of a syphon. Hence we directed our course to Elden Hole, a dreadful chasm, near 80 fathoms deep, not far from which rises Mam-Torr, or the Shivering Mountain, so called from the shivers of stones swept by the wintry storms from its summit. Through a wild and romantic avenue, the correspondence of the opposite sides of which suggests the idea that they have been separated by a convulsion of nature, we at length descended into a fertile valley, encircled by mountains. On the right appears Castleton, near which is a noble cavern, 750 yards in length; the mouth, in which are a few huts, is 40 yards wide, and 14 high. We entered, and, having passed two rivulets, advanced, by a gentle declivity, till we arrived on the banks of a considerable stream, to the surface of on of which the rock descends. The proprietor of this curious cavity dale, having concluded from the sound that there is another at no great distance, is endeavouring to effect a communication by gunpowder. It was now dry, but in the rainy season the water rises in it above 6 feet. The light, faintly glimmering in our return, had a fine effect. Omiah, when he accompanied Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander hither in the year 1775, broke off a protuberance of the rock to preserve as a memorial. On the brow of the mountain above we observed the ruins of a castle. The ascent from Castleton is exceedingly steep, a small vale appearing beneath, in the centre of which spires Hope Steeple on the margin of a meandering brook that issues from the tattle cavern. From a precipice on the right, within a mile of the village of Ashford, we saw Monsall Dale, green as an emerald, winding between the mountains, and fertilized by the lively river Wye, on the brink of which stands a picturesque farmhouse, shaded by a few trees. Passed through Bakewell, beyond which Haddon Hall, belonging to the Duke of Rutland, presents its venerable front on an

[Page footnote]
* See this expression in Johnson's " Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland," p. 22.


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eminence in a grove of oaks. Arrived in the dusk of the evening at Matlock Bath.

August 17.- The scenery of Matlock Dale, through which the Derwent thunders in a continual cataract, is inconceivably sublime. Lofty rocks, fringed with foliage of the liveliest verdure, rise perpendicularly on each side. Visited Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, a grand stone fabric delightfully situated. The shrubbery is disposed with taste, but the jets-d'eau are extremely puerile. The bleak summits of the mountains appearing above the woods form an agreeable contrast.

August 18.- Through a pleasant country we proceeded to Derby, situated on the Derwent, in which are a china manufacture and a silk-mill, erected by Sir Thomas Lombe, who imported the model from Italy.

August 19.-Rode over to Kedleston, an elegant modern structure, the seat of the Earl of Scarsdale. The situation, however, is not fine.

S.R .

[1764, pp, 570-572.]
Peaks Hole, commonly called the Devil's A--se, is a stupendous cavern approached through an avenue that appears to be the effect of some violent convulsion of nature; the rock, which is of marble, having divided asunder, and receded to the right and left, (as it were) to expose to the view of the curious inquirer the most solemn and capacious recess that has hitherto been discovered in this or perhaps any other country.

The perpendicular height of this rock is said to be 240 feet, on the right and left there is a gradual declivity from the summit, which terminates in the level of the adjacent plain, and in the sides of sides of these declivities are sundry crevices, of irregular dimensions, that were once filled with some kind of metallic matter, but are now exhausted of the ore, and afford a clear idea of the form in which your those substances lie concealed in the womb of nature.

The entrance into Peaks Hole is at the extreme part of this awful avenue, which the two declivities form, and somewhat resembles an irregular Gothic arch. The first apartment has a vaulted roof, and perhaps 60 feet high and 200 feet wide, and out of it flows a your stream of water, which is greater or less as the season is wet, or otherwise; at this time* it was small, the summer having been remarkably dry. At other times, I am informed, it has been almost instantaneously so great, as not only to sweep away the huts of the packthread spinners,† which are here scattered on the floor, but endanger the lives of those who inhabit them.

In this apartment (which indeed is the only one where the rays of

[Page footnote]
* The third of August, 1762.
† Many families of poor people reside here and spin pack thread for a livelihood.

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the sun, since the creation of light, entered) you are entertained with variety of figures on the sides, and in the roof, produced by the petrifactive quality of the water oozing through the rock, which the imagination of the observer is to finish into such resemblances as his own ideas suggest. For my own part, that which has obtained the name of the bacon flitch appeared to resemble the drooping of a festoon curtain - and so of the rest.

The figure, or shape of this apartment, resembles the concavity of a scollop shell, the lofty entrance gradually diminishing to a height of about 2½ feet which obligeth you to stoop almost double to pass. But this strait is of no considerable length, for, advancing a few yards, you are released from the uneasy posture, by a well extended space, and to this second apartment are accompanied by the inhabitants a numerous family, of different ages and sexes, who, to the number of fifty, and upwards, attend you with small tapers. The grotesque figures of your attendants, moving with solemn pace to the music of the hautboy reverberated from the roof, has somewhat so awful and unusual in it that it cannot be described.

Having proceeded thus far, a new and almost dreadful scene ensues, for here you are stopped by a stream of water, 24 feet wide, and 5 feet deep, which, issuing out of the side of the rock to the right band, is engulphed on the left without your being able to perceive either the aperture from whence it flows, or that through which it passes to the mouth of the cave (the place of its discharge), into the neighbouring valley. On this rivulet you separately embark in a kind of oval tub, the sides whereof are about 8 inches deep, the length sufficient to receive the tallest person; and on a bed of straw, with which the bottom is covered, you lie prostrate on your backs, with candles in your hands, committing yourselves to the direction of a pilot, who goes into the water and pushes the float forward till the depth of the stream obstructs his progress, then with a strong percussion he drives the tub from him through a pass where the distance between rock and water does not exceed 18 inches. The well-exerted energy of your pilot's arm having thus driven you across the stream to the opposite shore, you are received by another person, who stands ready to aid your debarkation; here you land on a very unhospitable coast abounding with large stones, covered with a slimy moisture, which renders your steps precarious, and perseverance hazardous, and the cave immediately expands to the height of 60 feet, by more than thrice that width. To this gloomy region you are welcomed by a set of choristers, who, having by some concealed avenue clambered up a sort of natural gallery in the summit of the cavern, chant doleful ditties suitable to the occasion, with tapers burning in their hands ...


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Passing a considerable space over this irregular pavement of loose stones, separated from the roof, perhaps many ages past, by causes we cannot investigate, assisted by a person at each arm to aid your steps, you arrive at a second rivulet, which, from the dryness of the season, was now fordable, on the backs of the guides, who accustomed to such burdens, seldom make a false step. At some distance from this brook you come to a sandy hill thrown up by the vast confluence of water that at certain seasons of the year rises in this place to the height of 5 or 6 feet perpendicular, flowing from a third rivulet mentioned below. This sand-hill forms a declivity of 50 yards in length, and is, I suppose, a deposit of the floods occasioned by heavy rains which, passing through the crevices of the mountain with great precipitation, sweep along the sandy particles the rock, and the rapidity of the water receiving a check in this part of the cavern the heavier bodies have time to subside.

At the foot of this hill the cave forms an acute angle to the right having a rill of water running between two sandy banks, which leads you to the extremity of these dreary regions, at the distance of 750 yards from the place of entrance. The extremity terminates in a kind of natural semicircular vault, whose elevation, I presume, may be 4 feet and diameter 8. Here, likewise, is a rivulet, which, issuing from one side of the cave, is partly absorbed by the rock on the other side, and partly flows between the sandy banks, I have just now mentioned, to the foot of the sand-hill, where it is swallowed up. This vault is almost filled with water, how far it extends I cannot precisely determine; but believe it to be of no great length, for having impressed the water, contained therein with a progressive motion, a noise deep and sonorous succeeded, that greatly heightened the horrors of the place, and must have been occasioned by the repercussion, which the sides and extremity of the vault gave to the agitated water. The, vibration thereby produced, impressing the circumambient air with a corresponding motion, it was returned to the ear from every part of this vast concave with a sound resembling distant thunder; the time in which this was effected being no more than a few seconds, it may reasonably be concluded the length of this arch is not considerable. ...

(1772, pp. 518, 519.]
Having heard much of this wonderful curiosity in Nature, I was long ago desirous of seeing it, but never had the wished-for opportunity till in the beginning of October, when my business led me through that part of the country where it is, and the following account is the best I can give, from short notes taken down in the different parts of it, as my conductor or guide informed me, who seemed to be very intelligent, and behaved with the greatest degree of civility.

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The entrance into this complicated cavern is through an almost regular arch, 12 yards high, formed by Nature at the bottom of a rock whose height is 87 yards. Immediately within this arch is a cavern of the same height, 40 yards wide, and above 100 in length. The roof of this place is flattish, all of solid rock, and looks dreadful overhead, because it has nothing but the natural side-walls to support it. A packthread manufactory is therein carried on by poor people, by the light that comes through the arch.

Toward the farther end from the entrance the roof comes down with a gradual slope to about 2 feet from the surface of a water 14 yards over, the rock in that place forming a kind of arch under which I was pushed by my guide across the water in a long, oval tub as I lay on my back in straw, with a candle in my hand, and was for the greatest part of the way on the river so near the arched roof that it touched my hat, if I raised my head but two inches from the straw on which I lay in the tub (called the boat), which, I believe, was not above a foot in depth.
When landed on the further side of this water and helped out of the boat by my guide, I was conducted through a low place into a cavern 70 yards wide and 40 yards high, in the top of which are several openings upwards, reaching so high that I could not see to their tops. On one side of this place I saw several young lads, with candles in their hands, clambering up a very rough, stony ascent, and they disappeared when about half-way up. I asked my guide who they were, and he told me they were the singers, and that I would soon see them again, for they were going through an opening that led into the next cavern.

At 87 yards from the first water I came to a second, 9½ yards broad, over which my guide carried me on his back. I then went under three natural arches, at some distance from one another, and all of them pretty regular; then entered a third cavern, called Roger Rain's House, because there is a continual dropping at one side of it, like a moderate rain. I no sooner entered that cavern than I was agreeably surprised by a melodious singing, which seemed to echo from all sides, and on looking back I saw the above-mentioned lads in a large round opening called the chancel, 19 yards above the bottom where I stood. They sing for what the visitors please to give them as they return.

At the top of a steep, rugged, stony ascent on one side of this cavern I saw a small irregular hole, and asked my guide whether there was another cavern beyond it? He told me there was, but that few people ventured to go through into it on account of the frightful appearance at the top of the hole, where the stones seemed to be to almost loose, as if ready to fall and close up the passage. I told of him that if he would venture through, I would follow him. So I did, creeping flat, the place being rather too low to go on all fours.

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We then got into a long, narrow, irregular, and very high cavern, which has surprising openings, of various shapes at top, too high see how far they reach.

We returned through the hole into Roger Rain's house again, and from thence went down 50 yards lower, on wet sand, wherein steps are made for convenience, at the bottom of which we entered into a cavern called the Devil's Cellar, in which, my guide told me, there had been many bowls of good rum punch made and drunk, the water having been heated by a fire occasionally made there for the purpose. In the roof of this cellar is a large opening through which the smoke of the fire ascends, and has been seen by the people above-ground to go out at the top of the rock : but this opening so irregular and crooked that no stone let down into it from the top was ever known to fall quite through into the cavern.

From this place I was conducted a good way onward, under a roof too low to let one walk upright, and then entered a cavern call the Bell, because the top of it is shaped somewhat like the side of a bell. From thence I was conducted through a very low place into a higher, in the bottom of which runs a third water, and the roof of that place slopes gradually downward, till it comes within five inches of the surface of the running water under it. My guide then told me that I was just 207 yards below the surface of the ground, and 750 yards from the first entrance into the rock, and there was no going any further. Throughout the whole I found the air very agreeable, and warm enough to bring on a moderate perspiration although in less than a fortnight before all the caverns beyond the first river (where I was ferried under the low arch) had been filled to a considerable height with water during a flood occasioned by great and long-continued rains.


[1764, pp. 572, 573.]
Pool's Hole is said to have taken its name from one Pool, a notorious robber, who, being outlawed, secreted himself here from justice ; but others will have it that Pool was some hermit, or anchorite, who made choice of this dismal hole for his cell. It is situated at the bottom of a lofty mountain called Coitmos, near Buxton. The entrance is by a small arch, so very low, that such as venture into it are forced to creep upon their hands and knees, but it gradually opens into a vault more than a quarter of a mile long, and, as some have pretended, a quarter of a mile high. It is certainly very lofty, and looks not unlike the inside of a Gothic cathedral. In a cavern to the right, called Pool's chamber, there is a fine echo though it does not appear of what kind it is ; and the sound of a current of water, which runs along the middle of the great vault,

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being reverberated on each side, very much increases the astonishment of all who visit the place. Here, on the floor, are great ridges of stones ; water is perpetually distilling from the roof and sides of this vault, and the drops, before they fall, produce a very pleasing effect by reflecting numberless rays from the candles carried by the guides. They also, from their quality, form crystallizations of various forms, like the figures of fretwork; and in some places, having been long accumulated one upon another, they have formed large masses, bearing a rude resemblance to men, lions, dogs, and other animals.

In this cavity is a column, as clear as alabaster, called Mary Queen of Scots Pillar, because it is pretended she went in so far ; and beyond it there is a steep ascent for near a quarter of a mile, which terminates in a hollow in the roof, called the needle's eye, in which, when the guide places his candle it looks like a star in the firmament. If a pistol be fired near the queen's pillar, the report will be as loud as a cannon. There is another passage by which people generally return. Not far from this place are two springs, one cold and the other hot, but so near one another, that the thumb and finger of the same hand may be put into both streams at the same time.


[1792, Part I., p. 409.]
Repton, 4 miles east of Burton-on-Trent, and 7 miles south-west of Derby, is a large and good country town, with a handsome church, particularly eminent for a tall taper spire (see Plate III.), which, as it emerges above the hills and woods from most part of the surrounding country, forms a very beautiful object. A different view of this church, and of a famous brick tower of the priory, with a particular history of that ancient religious house, may be seen in the "Topographer," vol.ii., pp. 249, 263.


[1811, Part I., pp. 105, 106.]
I request a place for a. short description of Repton Priory, and the school now founded on Its site (see Plate I.).

At so distant a period as the Saxon Heptarchy, Repton (or "Reopandun" as it was then called) is mentioned in the scanty chronicles of the times, as we learn from the extracts preserved by Leland, and given in his Collectanea. It was not only the palace of the Saxon monarchs of Mercia, but the seat of a noble monastery of religious men and women before the year 660 ; of which palace, or monastery considerable foundations are discoverable, both in the priory and adjoining churchyard, when any alterations have been made in the school-buildings, or vaults been dug in the churchyard. The palace and monastery being laid waste and destroyed by the Danes, the priory was re-edified in the year 1172, by Matilda, widow of

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Ranulph, second earl of Chester, and continued in a flourishing condition till the dissolution by Henry VIII., when it was found be possessed of revenues to the amount of £167 18s. The site of the priory, and its possessions in Repton, were granted to Thomas Thacker, Esq., servant to Henry VIII., in whose family it continued till the year 1728, when, by the bequest of Miss Thacker, heiress to Gilbert Thacker, Esq., the Priory estate in Repton was conveyed to the family of Burdett of Foremark, in which it still continues.

Sir John Port, of Etwall, Knight of the Bath (so created at the coronation of Edward VI.), who was possessed by marriage and inheritance of great property in the counties of Stafford, Derby, and Lancaster, having lost his two sons at an early age, and being minded to bestow some part of his estates in charitable foundations for the repose of his soul, in the year 1556 devised to his executors, Sir Thomas Giffard, Richard Harpur, Esq., and others, certain estates, in the counties of Derby and Lancaster, for the foundation of an hospital at Etwall, and a Free Grammar school at Repton. These institutions were accordingly established after his death, in the year 1557, and continued by Queen Mary's license, under the direction of the Harpur family, till the year 1621, when, by an agreement between Sir John Harpur on the one part, and the Earl of Huntingdon, Lord Stanhope, and Sir Thomas Gerard, Bart., on the other, the three several descendants of Sir John Port's three daughters, the superintendence, after the death of Sir John Harpur, was conveyed to the right heirs of the founder. By the petition of the co-heirs, the hospital and school, in the year 1621, were made a body corporate, by the style and title of "The Master of Etwall Hospital, the Schoolmaster of Repton, Ushers, Poor Men, and Poor Scholars;" and, in consequence of that settlement, the estates were conveyed by Sir John Harpur to the Corporation, and in that body are now vested. The foundation, from the improved state of its revenues, at present maintains a Master of the Hospital (in whom the power of receiving the rents, and paying the stipends, is vested), a Master of the School, two Ushers, sixteen Poor Men in the Hospital, and nineteen Poor Scholars at Repton. The entire superintendence of the school and hospital is hereditary in the families of the Earls of Chesterfield and Moira, and Sir William Gerard, the representatives and co-heirs of Sir J. Port's three daughters, who have the power of regulating the Corporation, and electing the Master of the Hospital, Schoolmaster, and Ushers; but a grant of a fourth turn with them in the appointment only of poor men and poor scholars was made by the charter to the family of Harpur of Calke.

The village of Repton is pleasantly situated in a valley, washed by a rapid trout stream that rises in the Pistern hills, about six miles distant southward. At the northern extremity of the village, on an elevation overlooking the adjacent country and river Trent, stands

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the parish church, of which a view is given in your Volume LXII., page 409.

Adjoining to the church stand the remains of the priory, now converted into a grammar-school and houses for masters. The entrance from the village to the monastery is through a gateway with a Pointed arch, into the schoolyard (formerly called the Infirmary Yard) ; the eastern side of which is occupied by a long range of building, with habitations at the northern end for the schoolmaster ; and the southern, for the first usher. In the middle is the schoolroom, ascended by a flight of steps at the south end, which was once the hall, or refectory, of the Priory. It was formerly lighted on each side by plain round-headed windows, in the Norman style, without mouldings or architrave, with narrow apertures outwardly, but inwardly more widely expanding. The hall was supported by a row of massive round pillars, in the Saxon style, ornamented with capitals, carved in various patterns, evidently of very ancient date, which formerly extended to the end of the hall; but several were removed some years since, by alterations made in the first usher's house.

The dormitory was at the north end of the hall, in which is remaining a small room, with a coved ceiling of stone, in the Saxon style, and a carved keystone in the centre. On the eastern side of the Priory was placed the cloister, the area of which is now converted into a garden, with some faint traces of apertures and doorways in the surrounding walls; one of these, in the north-eastern corner, opened from the prior's lodge into the cloister; the other, on the east, into the Priory-church, which stood on the south side of the cloisters, and, from the pillars now laid open, appears to have been an elegant structure, in the light florid style that prevailed in the reign of Edward III.

At the west end of the church is a square massive tower, apparently of very ancient date, now forming the entrance into the school, with narrow round-arched windows. Whether there was a corresponding tower on the opposite side of the entrance to the church cannot now be ascertained, as much devastation has been made at the western extremity of the church. The Priory-church was built in the form of a cross, with four large clustered pillars between the nave and choir; the lower part of three of which, about five feet high, are still remaining. By admeasurement made from the remains, the church appears to have extended 180 feet, and upwards, from west to east; the length of the transepts, from cross walls built on them, and ruin made of them, cannot be ascertained.
This structure was demolished in the beginning of Queen Mary's reign, by Mr. Thacker, as we are informed by Fuller, in his "Church History," p. 358. In the adjoining paddock, inclosed on three sides by a strong stone wall, extending over several acres, are the founda-

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tions of other buildings belonging to the Priory. One vault only is remaining perfect; in which is a round-headed doorway, leading into the cloisters. At the northern end of the Priory-yard, on a deserted channel of the Trent, and appearing in the view through the trees, is a mansion, rebuilt by the Thackers about a century ago, upon the foundation of the Prior's lodge. The only unaltered part of original building is a brick tower, of the age of Henry VI., which is to be ranked among the earliest specimens remaining, built with such materials as bricks. The lower room in it, now a kitchen, exhibits a ceiling divided into square compartments, the intersections of which are ornamented with crests and badges of different priors, carved in oak; one of these is the rebus and initial letter of Overon, prior in the reign of. Edward VI. In the windows are remaining several pieces of painted glass, all charged with the figure of an eagle, the crest, perhaps, of some prior or benefactor. The Prior's lodge, of late years, has been rented of Sir Francis Burdett, and appropriated to the residence of the headmaster of the school.

That part of the Priory now remaining, and closely adjoining to the mansion-house, was sold by Mr. Thacker, in Philip and Mary's reign, to the executors of Sir John Port ; and with some of the old possessions of the Priory, appropriated to the advancement of learning; which, as was the case in several other religious houses, had, doubtless, some encouragement among the canons at Repton; and which, by the care of the pious re-founder, has again taken root, and continued to flourish in the plate, till the present time.


Transcriber's Note:
Reptonensis, who wrote part of the information about Repton, was the Reverend William Boultbee Sleath, headmaster of Repton School. There is more information on The History of the Boultbee family.