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Hall's "Days in Derbyshire", 1863*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
Chapter the Third. Going to Matlock Bath.
pp.20-32, only partly extracted

The Villa, an illustration in Days in Derbyshire
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[L]ET us now walk to Matlock; and if you will allow me to be egotistical, I will tell you something of a trip to it in my youth, as we go along ...

[Transcriber's note: some pages have been missed out, simply because it is not my intention to include parts of Derbyshire that are not in and around Matlock Bath and Matlock]

Well, we have now passed the little Toll-house and the terminus of the High-Peak Railway, where it descends in an incline, like a parallel couple of ladders down the lofty hill side, to the Cromford Canal - its moving wagons making a strange clatter and awaking wildly the surrounding echoes. We have had glimpses of Crich Stand, CM House, Wakebridge mines, Holloway hamlet. Lea Hurst, and the subsidiary vale, with its factories, running up from the Derwent towards Lea and Dethick; and at length we begin to find ourselves surrounded by a sort of miniature Switzerland, in which the rushing river, the majestic hills, the hoary rocks and hanging woods, with rural homes peeping out on every hand, all conspire to reward the gazer, and fill his soul as with some lovely dream. And the life of the people naturally takes more or less its hue and character from their occupations and the surrounding objects. See you, far up to the right, on the ridge of the slope ascending towards the back of Riber, a little dwelling - a speck in space - yet a human link between earth and sky ? Once, as I was wandering up there with a friend, there came out of that cottage a little boy. He was going to a spring in the fields for water. We asked his name. He replied - "Feyther call me Frank, but mamma call me Francois - Francois Sills is my name," added he with some vivacity, after a pause. "Then how came you here?" we asked. He informed us, in reply, that his father, an Englishman, went to work on the construction of a railway in France, where meeting with his mother they were married. He (the little boy) was born in France, after which they all came to England, and being employed in the formation of the railway from Ambergate to Rowsley, which was then just completed, they had settled up in this lonely but romantic spot, from which the little fellow had to go down daily to school at Cromford. Hence it was that his language was an extraordinary mingling of English and French, most amusingly and grotesquely, but by no means disagreeably, spoken with a Derbyshire twist ! If ever you have occasion to go up from Lea Works to Horston or Riber, strike off a little to the left, and look from those fields, somewhat below that cottage, down upon the Vale of Cromford and Willersley - the river, the bridge, the rocks, and the scenes all around. There are not many prettier views in Derbyshire.

Our aim now must be to go by the end of Cromford town, leaving its famous mills on our right, and following the turnpike road as it penetrates the Scarthing Rocks by an artificial gap, when Willersley and Matlock Dale break suddenly on the sight with startling beauty and effect, and another half-mile or so brings us, with increasing wonder and joy at every step, to MATLOCK BATH.

There are many ways of reaching Matlock from Derby. To those who can enjoy it and have leisure, I should recommend walking : it is so pleasant to linger where you like, or sometimes wander a little out of the way for a better view. The distance is but seventeen miles, and ought to be done by any healthy man under middle age in a day, and leave time for looking about him. It was a great treat when our picturesque old friend Burdett, the last of all the Derby coachmen, drove the Manchester mail, to ride with him through the whole valley to Buxton, and return next day ; but, alas, that fine old fellow's occupation is gone, and there is no regular conveyance now plying on the turnpike road, so far as I am aware - unless

"The village -carrier's cart appear,
Which comes so slow it seems as't never would get there."

Still, there is the alternative of driving your own carriage, if you have one, or of hiring. Or if you be disposed to make up a party for a pic-nic, you have only to get your friends to club with you for a " break," and it may be cheaply done. But if you have not the means for that, there is for every one the " express " or the "parliamentary," and frequently during the months of summer and autumn, the " special " train, by which you may go, and after happily spending a few hours, return the same evening. Better still, if you can, to make Matlock your centre, for a few days at least, wandering forth at your pleasure. Of what is to be seen while in the neighbourhood, we shall presently have more to tell.

*Transcribed by Ann Andrews in Dec 2021 from:
Hall, Spencer Timothy (1863) "Days in Derbyshire ..." With sixty illustrations by J. Gresley (artist), Dalziel Brothers (illustrators). Simpkin, Marshall and Co, Stationers' Hall Court, London, and printed by Richard Keene, All Saints, Derby.
Image scans © Ann Andrews collection.
Intended for personal use only.