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Holmes Hand Book to Matlock Bath & Neighbourhood, 1866*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
Matlock Bath pp.6-19

Willersley, 1802
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Early History

Of the early history of the place very little is known, for previous to the discovery of the warm springs, Matlock Bath was an insignificant hamlet, the residence of a few miners, whose houses, or rather huts, were not much larger than the coes over their mines, and the roads merely rugged paths on the hill sides, the whole of the valley to the river's edge being covered with trees and tangled brushwood, and the river spreading across the valley to more than twice the width of its present bed. Of the discovery of the medicinal properties of the waters history is also silent, for it is not till the year 1698 that any mention is made of it as a watering place, and at that time it appears that a small wooden structure lined with lead was reared over or near the newly discovered warm spring. This original structure was removed, and replaced by a more substantial building by the Rev. Mr. Fearn, of Matlock, and Mr. Haywood, of Cromford. These gentlemen not finding the concern so remunerative as they anticipated sold their right to one George Wragg, who, to confirm his title, obtained from the lords of the manor a lease for ninety nine years, for which he paid them a fine of £150 and a yearly rent of sixpence each. Having secured his title, he erected a few small rooms adjoining to the baths, for the accommodation of those who came to take them. About 30 years afterwards Wragg parted with his lease and property to Messrs. Smith and Pennel, of Nottingham, who paid for them the sum of £1000. The new proprietors made considerable improvements and additions to the place. They erected two spacious buildings with stables and other conveniences, (the Old Bath Hotel) constructed a coach road from Cromford, and improved the horse-road leading to Matlock Bridge. These improvements being made, and the fame of the waters for their healing virtues getting yearly more spread abroad, brought each season an increasing number of visitors.

A short time after the completion or the above improvements, a new warm spring having been discovered, a New Bath, (now the New Bath Hotel), with lodging house and other conveniences, were erected. A few years later still, a third spring was found, which gave rise to another very commodious lodging house, or hotel (now the Museum Parade), being built, but not answering the expectations of the parties speculating, was, in a few years, sold in separate lots. This has since been much improved and added to, and forms what is now called the Museum Parade. The spring and baths, once connected with it, are now known as the "Fountain Garden Baths," which has recently been much improved and beautified, and are constantly used by parties from the Hotels and Lodging Houses.

The Waters

Where, as proud Masson rises rude and bleak,
And with mis-shapen turrets crests the Peak :
Old Matlock gapes, with marble jaws beneath,
And o'er scar'd Derwent bends his flinty teeth.
Deep in wide caves below the dangerous soil,
Blue sulph'rous flame, imprisoned waters boil,
Impetuous streams in spiral colums rise
Through rifted rocks, impatient for the skies;
Or o'er bright seas of bubbling lavas blow,
As heave and toss the billowy fires below;
Condens'd on high, in wandering rills they glide
From Masson's dome, and bursts his sparry side
Round his grey towers, and down his fringed walls.
From cliff to cliff the liquid treasure falls.
In beds of stalactites, bright ores among,
O'er corals, shells, and crystals, winds along ;
Crusts the green mosses, and the tangled wood,
And sparkling plunges to its parent flood.

The temperature of the waters, which first obtained for Matlock Bath the distinction of a watering place, is 68 degrees Farenheit, and are therefore extremely pleasant at all seasons of the year for bathing in. They may be also taken inwardly to great advantage in bilious complaints, the first stages of consumption, and in all cases of debility, arising from nervous affections. Dr. F. Armstrong, and Dr. Granville, the author, of the " Spas of England," and a host of other medical celebrities speak highly of these waters for their curative qualities. The following is Dr. Turner's analysis-

  Free Carbonic Acid.
Muriates and
Sulphates of
 Magnesia, Lime, and Soda.
In very minute quantities not yet ascertained.

The waters are beautifully clear and grateful to the palate. The best time for bathing and drinking the waters is before breakfast, or between breakfast and dinner.

Hot, cold, swimming, and shower baths can be had at the Fountain Garden Baths, and swimming or plunge baths at the New Bath Hotel. The charges are-

  s.   d.
Swimming or Plunge Bath ... ... 1 0
Hot Bath ... ... ... ... ... 2 6
Cold Shower Bath ... ... 1 0
Hot Shower Bath ... ... 2 6

Petrifying Wells.

These wells, of which there are four in number, are interesting objects of curiosity and beautiful illustrations of the mode in which the vast beds of calcareous tufa has been formed in time past. At a remote period the warm springs have spread over the base of the mountain and formed the tufa, which is a limestone deposit but extremely porous, and like the tufa of volcanic countries, highly favourable to vegetation. In this stratum, if it may be so termed, the Petrifying Wells are situated. Mr. Mawe says, "The water filtering through a mass of tufa, drops from the roof and sides, and losing a part of its carbonic gas, precipitates earthy particles upon the substances on which it falls." It is thus they become incrusted with the calcareous deposit, which in time assumes the hardness of a stone. In these wells are placed all manner of things, or nearly so, viz. :-birds' nests, eggs, baskets, trees in pots, the antlers of the deer, and a host of other articles, undergoing the process of petrifaction. The price of admission to the Wells is 3d. each person, but excursionists, coming by special trains, and large schools are admitted at Id. each. The four wells are-

Mr. Walker's, near the Ferry.
Mr. Pearson's, near the Old Bath Obelisk.
Miss Smedley's, near the Church.
Mr. Boden's, opposite the Post Office.

Specimens of the petrifactions may be purchased at the wells, and also at the various Museums and spar shops in the place.

The Caverns.

"With thy caverns of crystal, by fancy gemm'd o'er,
From nature's own treasure sparkling bright,
As though some new region untrodden before,
Had just woke out of chaos and burst on the sight.

"The Caverns are the great wonders of Matlock, and should be seen by all visitors. They are partly grand natural openings and partly the work of miners, who have delved into the bowels of the earth, and discovered these great natural openings, whose sides and roofs are most wonderfully adorned with stalactites, crystals of spar and ores, and when lit up with Bengal lights or crimson fires, the effect is magnificent and truly enchanting.

THE RUTLAND CAVERN, on the Heights of Abraham, is considered the largest in Matlock, indeed it is so spacious that 10,000 men might find a hiding place in it. One part, called the Roman Hall, is pointed out as worked by the former conquerors of our country. Jacob's Well is also an object of interest, as the water is so clear that the explorer of the cavern generally finds himself stepping into it, quite unconscious that the limpid stream is here, till made aware of it by a well saturated boot and stocking. In the cavern are some excellent specimens of zinc ores, cadmiferous calamine, and a beautiful species of green carbonate and other minerals. Mr. E. Wheatcroft, is the lessee of the Cavern and Heights. Guides. &c., can be had at the Lodges, leading to the Heights of Abraham, and at the entrance to the cavern.

THE CUMBERLAND CAVERN, situate on the hill behind the New Bath Hotel, is the oldest and most natural one in Matlock, and viewed geologically, it is by far the most interesting. It consists of immense openings entirely the production of nature. The Long Gallery extends upwards of 100 yards in length and 18 feet high. At the end of this gallery, rocks of the most gigantic proportions are thrown in the wildest confusion, and one mass of many tons weight is seen resting on a mere point. In this part of the cavern is found the snow fossil, a carbonate of lime, and the selenite, a sulphate of lime, with a number of other beautiful minerals.

This has been shown as a cavern for upwards of eighty years and is the property of Messrs. Smedley. Guides, &c., may be obtained at W. Smedley's Cottage, near the Romantic Rocks, at Miss Smedley's Spar-shop, opposite the Church; and at Mrs. Smedley's, New Bath Green.

THE DEVONSHlRE CAVERN, which is situate not far from the south entrance to the Heights of Abraham, was discovered in the year 1824. It is beautifully adorned with a profusion of minerals, and has a spacious opening of 200 feet long, and 40 feet wide, and from the top and sides hang pendent, a large number of what is termed "water icicles." Mr. E. Wheatcroft is the proprietor of this cavern.

THE NEW SPEEDWELL MINE, Upper Wood, near the Romantic Rocks, is an exceedingly interesting cavern. The crystals of dog tooth and cubic fluor spars, which line the various cavities that occur in the mine, have a most brilliant and pleasing effect. For a considerable distance one of the sides is beautifully adorned with stalactites of the most exquisite whiteness, disposed in folds as well as pendent, which in some places are so remarkably grouped and florid as to assume the appearance of a cauliflower. The owner of this cavern is Mrs. Froggat.

THE GRAND FLUOR SPAR CAVERN. The entrance to this cavern is near the road side leading to the Upper Wood. By descending about fifty steps which is perfectly easy of descent, the visitors come into the interior of the cavern, which extends in various directions for upwards of six hundred feet, containing many large and remarkable openings, which chiefly consists of beautiful cubic fluor spar, for which this cavern is much celebrated. In this sequestered retreat the neighbouring families are known to have concealed themselves and their most valuable effects, when the Pretender and his adherents having penetrated to Derby, a general panic pervaded the nation, more especially this part of it, in the year 1745. This cavern is well worthy a visit. Proprietor, Mr. Thomas Pearson.

THE HIGH TOR GROTTO and Crystallized Cavern is situated immediately at the base of the bold perpendicular cliff from which it derives its name. It will well repay a visit, the principal beauties of the grotto consisting in its splendid groups of crystallized spar, commonly called the dog-tooth spar, and other minerals. The guide, a skilful and experienced miner, points out to strangers the various veins of ore, &c., and explains the method of working them. The proprietor and guide is Mr. Thos. Carding, who has also a very extensive and beautiful collection of minerals on sale at very moderate prices.

The charge of admission to each of these caverns and mines is exclusive of the guide, and blue or Bengal lights, when used.

Walks and Places Worth Seeing.


"Here in wild pomp magnificently bleak,
Stupendous Matlock towers amid the Peak ;
Here rocks on rocks, forests on forests rise,
Spurn the low earth, and mingle with the skies.
Great Nature slumbering by fair Derwent's stream,
Conceived these giant mountains in a dream."

The walks and drives in and around Matlock Bath are full of interest and varied. The visitors may either luxuriate in the shady bowers of the Lovers' Walks, or glide down the smooth surface of the dusky Derwent ; they may botanize and geologize in the Romantic Rocks; or they may scale the Heights of Abraham and Masson, and inhale the mountain breezes, and enjoy the beautiful prospect of country, there spread before them.


The ascent to these Heights commences from the Museum Parade, at Hodgkinson's Hotel, up Waterloo Road, past Wellington house, to the lodge gates at the entrance to the Heights where visitors must procure tickets 6d. each for admission to the grounds, and then contine their route up the zigzag, which leads to an alcove, affording an excellent resting place, and where a splendid view of the vale below may be obtained. Mr. Rhodes in his "Peak Scenery" thus describes the view from the summit of the Heights of Abraham. The sky had been clouded nearly the whole of the day, but as evening approached, the western horizon became clear and glowing; we therefore returned to Matlock Bath, and I ascended the Heights of Abraham to the top of Masson, for the purpose of enjoying the prospect of a splendid sunset from that commanding eminence. The extensive landscape beheld in this elevated situation is full of beauty. Stupendous hills and open valleys covered with wood, and richly cultivated meadows fill up the whole range of an almost boundless horizon. The loftiest eminences gleamed with the rays of the setting sun, and where they decline towards the east, they were covered with a broad mass of shadow, over which floated a transparent atmosphere of soft and beauteous light." Crich Church and the Tower on the Cliff are pleasing features in the scene. On the right of Crich, the country retires into a far-off distance until the remotest objects fade into the sky.

From the summit of Masson the visitor may continue his route by Ember House, where a lane will lead him down to the village of Bonsall, a small pastoral village with a neat Church, and a curious old cross; and so round by Cromford to Matlock Bath.

In passing from Bonsall to Cromford we are presented with a succession of scenery rarely to be met with, and seldom equalled. Here hills and dales so greatly abound that every step we take becomes more interesting. Via Gellia with its beautiful mountain stream, with mimic lakes and waterfalls skirted by high mantling rocks or rough stony mountains, with a variety of foliage intermingled, and where grows luxuriantly that sweet and lovely flower the Lily of the Valley. Cromford Moor, with its pine-clad ridges and magnificent Black Rocks, with Matlock and Tansley Moors in the far off distance, are splendid objects of beauty.


This singular group of disjointed and massive rocks, which are very interesting and well worth seeing, are situate behind the Old Bath Hotel, in a place as wild in its character as it is abundant in wild plants ; the way to them is by the Old Bath Terrace, and past Stonnis Cottages. They consist of great masses of rock, some of them 60 feet high, and of great breadth, torn by volcanic action from their parent bed, find scattered in the wildest confusion, exhibiting a perfect ruin; these are surrounded and over-shadowed by self-sown trees and shrubs of many kinds, which gives to them, even in summer, a sombre and gloomy appearance. The price of admission is sixpence. Lessee, Mr. W. Smedley, Stonnis Cottage.


"Tor, pale and huge, with breast that time has braved,
With verduous mantle low, and feet stream-Iaved,
Thou standest in thy greatness, solemn stone
Kingly, - not solitary, - yet alone.
At mortals and periods thou do'st mock ;
Oh, for a history of thine own times-rock !
For thou art or a world that knew not man,
Creation of a time, ere time began,
I deem thou wast, a denizen of that sea
The spirit mov'd on, in whose depth and gloom
Thou grewest into marble."

The High Tor is one of the first objects which must arrest the attention of the stranger on his arrival at the Matlock Bath Station. It has long been celebrated for its presenting a lofty perpendicular mass of solid limestone, being nearly 400 feet in height. Over its rugged sides and on the top, too, a series of very beautiful walks have been made, and a carriage drive is also open from the hamlet of Starkholmes, so that those who are too delicate to climb may ride near to the summit, and enjoy the fine scenery from the Tor. One walk, the lady's ring, is made along the face, and immediately under the highest part, which leads to the top of the perpendicular face, and to what is termed the "Fern Cave," a portion of the High Tor vein, into which you may descend to the depth of one hundred and fifty feet; this is well worth seeing, as well as some parts of the cross vein which, the guide will point out. The scenery from the top is very beautiful. The price of admission is 3d, each person, and to see the Fern Cave 6d. extra.


Dip the smooth oar, and bid the light boat glide,
And place me on the Derwent's rocky side,
Where nature reigns and the deep stream is dumb;
Where but the gentlest sounds - an insect's hum -
The voice of birds-or oar's light plash invade
The quiet walks for thought and lovers made ;
For lovers fond of solitude and sighs,
Who muse on subjects weighty if not wise.
Where dreamy trees stand nursing their own gloom,
And o'er the river's brink the hawthorn bloom
Falls light, like summer's snow, where old roots strike
Across the path-way, black and ;
And from the rugged banks each flower looks up
To catch the scattered sunshine in its cup :
Save where the azure bell hangs its mild head,
Like beauty hiding tears even she must shed.
Love seeks the scenes bow-arched like these - the bowers,
For murmur'd converse, and uncounted hours."

The Boat Station or Ferry, leading to the Lovers' Walks, is opposite to the Old Bath Hotel. Here the visitor may be rowed across the river for the moderate sum of threepence, and enjoy the beautiful walks and shady bowers of the Lovers' Walks ; or he may engage a boat and have a sail on the placid waters of the Derwent, and catch its cool and refreshing breezes for the small sum of six pence.

Mr. Thomas Walker, of the Centre Museum, is the lessee of the walks and river, which have been in the family for nearly a century.

Hotels, Inns, &c.

OLD BATH HOTEL. - This famous old hotel, once the pride and glory of the place, is now no more. The whole of it has been razed to the ground, and near its site is being erected a spacious and elegant Hydropathic Establishment, at an estimated cost, when finished, of upwards of £20,000.

NEW BATH HOTEL, (Ivatts and Jordan,) is beautifully situated at the south end of the dale, and is an excellent hotel. The accommodation is superior and the house replete with every comfort. The garden and terrace attached to the hotel are great objects of attraction, and being always kept in the neatest order possible, are favourite places of resort, and the magnificent lime tree in the garden, the largest of its species anywhere to be found in this country, affords an ample shelter from the schorching rays of the noon-day sun. Altogether this hotel is of first-rate pretensions. Post horses and carriages.

TEMPLE HOTEL, (Mr. Evans') is certainly the best situated hotel in the place. It is built on an elevated and most charming spot, overlooking nearly all the houses in the Bath, and commanding one of the most extensive and sweetest landscapes that can please the eye or fascinate the soul. The majestic trees and magnificent rocks, verdant hills, and a valley of surpassing loveliness, lit up with the strong rays of a brilliant evening sun, form altogether one of the loveliest views it is possible to conceive.

WALKER'S BATH TERRACE HOTEL, (Mr. R. Walker,), is an excellent hotel, and beautifully situated at the northern end of the New Bath Terrace, and commands a delightful view of this exquisite part of the dale. The accommodation at this house combine the convenience of an hotel with the comfort and quietude of a private boarding house. Post horses and carriages.

HODGKINSON'S HOTEL, and Commercial House, (Mrs. W. Brooker,) is most centrally situate on the Museum Parade, and is an excellent house, affording every accommodation for visitors and commercial gentlemen, in fact, second to none in the place for first-rate fare and choice wines at moderate charges. It commands fine views of the scenery, with Parade garden in front, adjoining the river Derwent.

DEVONSHIRE ARMS HOTEL, (Mr. G. Ellis,) is central and pleasantly situate on the North Parade, and commands a beautiful view of the river Derwent and the fine scenery around. It is an excellent house for good accommodation at moderate charges. Post horses and carriages.

RUTLAND ARMS HOTEL, (Mr. J. Holmes,) south end, is well situated, and commands a fine view of the surrounding scenery. Visitors and day parties will find excellent accommodation with moderate charges, at this hotel. Attached to this house is a large garden adjoining the river Derwent, where parties may have some good trout fishing. Post horses and carriages.

THE GEORGE AND COMMERCIAL HOTEL, Derwent Parade, (Mr. Anzani,) is most pleasantly and conveniently situate, being only about three minutes walk from the railway station. The house is most commodious and replete with every comfort, and visitors, commercial gentlemen, and day parties, will find every accommodation with moderate charges.

PRINCE OF WALES' HOTEL and Family Boarding House, (Mr. Gordon's,) is most charmingly situate, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the neighbourhood, in one of the most elevated and commanding positions, it affords prospects which for variety and magnificence, cannot be surpassed. The accommodation of the house is also excellent, and the charges most moderate. The refreshment rooms and tea gardens afford every requirement for day parties and excursionists, and the attention of the host and hostess to their patrons is unexcelled.

THE MIDLAND HOTEL, (Mrs. Smedley,) is also an excellent house of call, and being near the station, is very convenient for day parties and others.

Post horses and carriages may be hired for excursions at all the hotels, and also from
Hardy, S. Waterloo Road and Old Bath Stables.
Smith, W. Woodbine Cottage, near the Ferry, and Old Bath Stables.
Pearson, W. near the Rutland Arms Hotel, South End.
Smedley, J., near the Old Bath Terrace, (pony and carriage.)

Any other information required by visitors will be gladly given at Holmes's Library, Derwent Terrace.

Places of Worship, &c.

TRINITY CHURCH, Matlock Bath. Service half-past ten in the morning, and half-past six in the evening: winter, three afternoon. Lecture on Thursday evenings at seven o'clock. Incumbent, Rev. C. Evans, M.A.

GLENORCHY CHAPEL, (Independent.) Service half-past ten in the morning, and half-past six in the evening. Lecture on Wednesday evenings at seven o'clock. Minister, Rev. Bellamy.

OLD MATLOCK CHURCH. Service half-past ten in the morning, and three in the afternoon. Rector, Rev. W. R. Melville, M.A.

CROMFORD CHURCH. Service half past ten in the morning, and three in the afternoon. Incumbent, Rev. R. M. Jones, M.A.

WESLEYAN CHAPELS, Cromford and Matlock Bridge. Service half-past ten in the morning, and half-past six in the evening. Ministers, various.

A spacious and elegant Wesleyan Chapel is now (1866) being erected on Derwent Parade, which, when completed, will be a very beautiful building, and a great ornament to the place.

POST OFFICE. - The Post Office is at Derwent Terrace. Letters delivered about eight a m. Letter box closes for despatch of letters at half-past six p.m. ; but letters may be posted until seven p.m, with extra stamp. Post-mistress, Miss E. Travis.

There is also a Pillar Letter Box on Woodland Terrace, which is cleared every evening a half-past 6 p.m.

Walks, Drives, &c.


"Then seek the banks where flowering elders crowd,
Where scattered wild the lily of the vale
Its balmy essence breathes, where cowslips hang
The dewy head, where purple violets lurk
With all the lowly children of the shade."


These gardens and grounds, which are open to the public every Monday, from the first of May till the end of October, are well worth a morning's stroll to see. To proceed to the grounds take the road to Cromford, by Masson Mill, and so to the lodge gates, opposite the castle, at Scarthin Rocks, here the grounds may be entered into the chapel walk, a road leading by a gentle descent underneath the awful weather-beaten front of Scarthin. It faces the castle, but is separated from the grounds by the river, which rushes over a rocky channel with a ceaseless rumble. Looking up at the impending masses of limestone, amazement and fear fill the mind with such wavering ideas as for a while confuses the imagination. Turning the eye from this, we see opposite a more tranquilizing object, the direct front of Willersley Castle. The design and proportions of the building are altogether so pleasing as not to raise a desire that any part was otherwise than what it is. The architect has here displayed a design at once novel and pleasing. The mansion consists of a centre body with wings connected with it by a small corridor; the wings, contrary to the usual practice, rather recede instead of advancing before the main body of the edifice; a round tower rises through the roof in the centre of the building, and on each side the entrance is also a small round tower that rises to the whole height of the front; each angle of the wings has likewise a small round tower, and the whole is embattled. The road now leads by the church, which was built and endowed by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, and has recently been much improved by Peter Arkwright, Esq. at a considerable cost, and is now a very elegant commodious structure.

A little beyond the bridge, the grounds are entered at a small but neat lodge, from where the road ascends gradually to the Castle, close to the left of which the visitor will observe a guide-post directing the way to the gardens. The green solitude and shady walks which are now entered upon are exceedingly beautiful. Having arrived at the gardens, the gardener will conduct the visitor through the kitchen gardens, and afterwards through the peach-houses, vineries, pineries, &c., the whole of which, both as regards construction and the excellent management ever visible, reflect the greatest possible credit on the taste of the proprietor, and the skill and industry of the gardener.

The peculiar and chief attractions of these grounds still however remain, namely, the views from the Wild Cat Tor, "Lover's Leap," and other giddy heights, on which the visitor finds himself suddenly standing as if by magic, the ascent having been so gradual, and the mind so fully occupied by the various objects of interest and beauty during the ramble, that he is perfectly astounded when he comes to discover that he has arrived at the summit of a (now) perpendicular rock, 200 feet above the river Derwent, and from this romantic and fearful eminence the sublime scenery of Matlock Dale is revealed in all its glory. Several other views, each possessing its own individual charms, are pointed out by the gardener ; after which he conducts you to a private door leading to the "Lovers' Walks," with every necessary information to proceed to the boats.


"Heavens! what a glorious prospect spreads around."

No visitor being in the neighbourhood should fail seeing the Black Rocks. The way to them is through Cromford, on the road to Wirksworth, When near the top of Cromford hill the road divides, the left hand one being taken: a little way from this will bring the party opposite a large mine hillock over ...

[The section continues, but has not been transcribed]

There is an 1863 advertisement for Holmes' Handbook in Hall's "Day's in Derbyshire".

*Transcribed from:
"Holmes Hand Book to Matlock Bath & Neighbourhood, including Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, Dovedale &c." (1866)
London : G. Vickers, Strand. Matlock Bath : T. H. Holmes
From the copy held at Derby Loca Studies Library (ref DLSL 143) and published here with the librarian's very kind permission. Also very grateful thanks to Jane Steer for generously providing copies and all her help and interest.
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