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The Panorama of Matlock, 1827*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock

Panorama of Matlock


Section of the frontispiece from the 3rd edition, 1828
Panorama of Matlock
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MATLOCK is delightfully situated in a beautiful and picturesque ravine on the north side of the river Derwent, formed by rocks and mountains which rise abruptly from the water's edge, particularly on the southern or opposite bank. The approach from the Derby road is enchantingly romantic, its effect being heightened by the contrast presented in the sudden transition from fertile plains to rugged perpendicular rocks, projecting in all directions ; while the rapid stream of the Derwent rolls murmuring at their base, or sweeps along in solemn and inaudible flow, occasionally shaded by trees, of which tile profuse foliage exhibits a rich and exquisite variety of tints, especially when their verdure has been mellowed by autumnal suns.

THE new road from Derby extends along the margin of this noble stream, through the villages of Alestree, Duffield, Milford, and Belper. After leaving the last mentioned place, you arrive at an iron forge, situated in a gloomy ravine, enlivened by a beautiful break of the river; having advanced from thence to Hotstandwell bridge, a distance of two miles, you cross the Derwent, and proceed along a range of scenery which may be truly characterized as wild, romantic, and sublime, to the busy village of Cromford. Here you cross a ravine by a road formed on arches uniting two mountains, and proceed along a gentle declivity to SCARTHING NICK, which is a passage cut thirty feet perpendicular through a limestone mountain. This bold undertaking is deservedly the admiration of strangers.

ON the other side of the rock, you obtain a full view of that beautiful chateau, Willersley Castle, built by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, and now the residence of his worthy son, whose good taste and liberality are highly honourable and becoming in the possessor of such a mansion. The site could not have been more happily chosen ; and for varied picturesque beauty, it may indeed be deemed unique; almost at every turn of the stream a change of scene is presented in the various combinations of the mills, cottages, and lodging-houses, with the natural features of the landscape, until you pass the toll-gate, when three houses of public resort appear in view.

THE first of these is the NEW BATH; having passed this and proceeded a short distance to the right, you arrive at the OLD BATH, and THE TEMPLE, which are very near each other.

ON the left of the road below, is a pile of well built and commodious lodging-houses, among which is situated the celebrated MUSEUM. From hence you have the most interesting view of the river, the road continuing along its margin for about two miles farther, to Matlock bridge, where the mountains, ranging in different directions, form a termination to this beautiful valley, which offers an inexhaustible abundance of objects for contemplation to the eye and to the mind. From the foot of this bridge numerous roads diverge, to Chesterfield, Ashover, CHATESWORTH, Castleton, Buxton, and Manchester.

RESUMING our position at Matlock Bath, we have to notice, in this charming abode of HYGEIA, several houses appropriately adapted for the residence of strangers, The three already mentioned are the principal inns, to which the affluent generally resort : two of them only, the Old Bath and the New Bath, keep post horses.

THE OLD BATH, which is esteemed the first inn, has all the requisites and appendages that can be desired to render such an establishment complete - an extensive dining room, a spacious and elegant assembly room, numerous parlours and other apartments suitable for families or small parties, together with every domestic accommodation on so extensive a scale, that beds can be made up for one hundred persons. The reputation of the place, and the healthy situation of this and the other two houses, contribute to render Matlock a most desirable retreat during that portion of the year which is devoted to rural excursions, and as such it has been eulogized by writers of distinguished eminence, occasionally even by poets of the first order.

THAT pleasant hotel, THE TEMPLE, which I visited during my stay, is beautifully situated on the same range with the Old Bath, and attracts a considerable portion of visitants.

THE NEW BATH has a fine lawn before the door, and commands a delightful view of the river and the road.

THE gardens and grounds of these excellent houses are almost always filled with elegant company, especially during the summer months, when the season may be said to be at its height. The delightful walks and rides among the diversified scenes of this mountainous region, affording an almost continued view of the refreshing stream of the Derwent, present abundant exercise for the pencil, and tempt, while they set at defiance, the power of description by any pen, however eloquent.

THE regulations established by usage at the several inns are, generally speaking, uniform. You breakfast when you please; and, among the ordinary accompaniments of that repast, you maybe supplied with water-cresses of excellent quality. At half past four in the afternoon the first dinner bell rings, in order that sufficient time may be devoted .to the occupations of the toilette. At five it is again sounded, when those of the company who chuse to dine in public, assemble, and sit down to a table sumptuously covered. The courses are regularly served and replaced according to the order pursued in hotels of the first rank : each guest calls for what wine he may prefer, and rises from table whenever he may be so disposed. According to a custom which is now pretty generally prevalent, that visitant who has resided longest in the house takes precedence, and sits at the head of the table ; the other guests taking their places, and being entitled to the same distinguished post, according to their seniority.

I MAY here be permitted to allude to a remark often made by foreigners, especially by the French, who assert generally that the Englishmen are more unsocial, even among themselves, than persons of any other civilized country. Though this imputation would, on a candid inquiry, be found to proceed from an imperfect and erroneous estimate of the national character, yet it seems hardly possible to deny, that of all nations the English, when strangers to each other, are longest in becoming acquainted. This reserve, however, proceeds less from pride than from diffidence; and if in a mixed company the silence be once interrupted, the ice once broken, by some individual endowed with sufficient tact, good humour, and assurance, it will give way to a communicative and cordial openness of converse, more truly social than the complimentary, and often unmeaning garrulity that passes current among the southern nations of Europe. It often depends on the spirit of a single person, whether the partie quarrée of a mail coach shall be as cheerful as mirth can make them, or as melancholy as mutes at a funeral.

BALLS and assemblies are held once or twice a-week at Matlock Bath, but it is universally allowed with regret, that the music might be a great deal better than it is. Some attempts have been made to establish a band, and with a little more strenuous co-operation among the visitants for so great a desideratum, it is hoped that the effort will speedily be successful. Exclusive of its indispensable utility in the ball-room music would form a peculiarly delightful addition to the enjoyments of Matlock, especially in the cool of the evening and the stillness of night, when the waters of the Derwent would give a more potent charm to the concord of sweet sounds,

"And make heaven drowsy with the harmony."

BESIDES the Hotel, almost every house accommodates visitors with lodgings, at very reasonable charges; and among them may be particularly noticed the comfortable residence of Mrs. Smith, next door to the Museum Along the Parade are several other good houses, and up the hill are the Villa; and some cottages, beautifully situated.


Which originally obtained for this retreat its distinction as a watering place, are lightly tepid, as they issue from the springs, being about 68° Fahrenheit, and therefore extremely agreeable for bathing.

THE gradual increase of visitants has given rise to the erection of residences around these springs, collectively designated MATLOCK BATH, to distinguish this place from the village of Matlock, which is about two miles distant. The two principal houses as I have already observed, possess each a large and commodious bath, and are in summer much frequented. Hence they are respectively called the OLD and the NEW BATH.

THE Water is not taken internally for medicinal effect ; it contains a large portion of calcareous earth, with carbonic gas. The elevated ground which forms the site of these three houses, as well as the banks of the Derwent; consist of tuffa; a calcareous deposit. This substance being extremely porous, is considered highly favourable to vegetation, especially of vines and creeping plants, many of the latter are to be found here in the greatest luxuriance. A considerable number of tons of tuffa, are annually carried away for horticultural purposes. Desirous of making a present of some to the Earl of Mountnorris, a nobleman distinguished for his zeal and success in horticulture, I ordered a few tons from Mr. ValIance of the Museum to be sent to his Lordship's garden.

……… Water restrained gives birth
To grass and plants, that thicken into earth ;
Diffused, it rises in a higher sphere,
Dilates its drops, and softens into air.

[footnote on page 9]
.A Physician resident at Matlock some years ago, assured me that the waters, taken with a small portion of Cheltenham salts, a quarter of an ounce to a pint of the water, he considered to he a peculiarly mild aperient, equal to No.4 of the Montpelier Pump-room.

THE botanist will find the adjacent mountains a great variety of indigenous plants to compensate his diligent research. Many of the most curious are industriously collected, and with great care and order preserved by Mrs. Bown of the Botanic Garden, whose specimens pf the Orchi family, are particularly numerous and remarkable. There are few residents at Matlock who, during their stay, do not visit the Botanic Garden *, which is celebrated for producing the best fruits, especially strawberries, that are to be met with in this neighbourhood.

A MOST agreeable effect is produced on the reflecting mind, by seeing the visitors so intent on the pursuit of some branch of natural history, and busily occupied.- The volatile butterfly has many pursuers ; and here are some species said to be peculiar to the neighbourhood.- Entomology is extensively cultivated, especially among the juvenile frequenters of the Bath; and some are attached to botany: so that by all these ardent votaries of science, the environs in fine weather present an animated scene ;

[footnote on page 10]
*The road to the grand DEVONSHIRE CAVERN is through this garden. Mrs. Down provides tea, &c. for parties who require it.

and the heights are studded by the lovely fair, intent on collecting bulbs and indigenous plants, The rose is said to have, in some situations, peculiar fragrance; and that flower is here so attractive, as to have given rise to the custom, among the ladies, of decorating the hair with it, for morning dress.

In every flower that blooms around,
Some pleasing emblem we may trace;
Young Love is in the myrtle found,
And Memory in the pansy's grace.
Peace in the olive branch we see ?
Hope in the half shut iris glows;
In the bright laurel, Victory ;
And lovely Woman in the rose.

THUS mineralogy, botany, and entomology, enter into the circle of elegant amusements at Matlock, Every mine produces fine specimens of minerals, and every hillock may be searched to advantage. To the explorer a small hammer and a pick will be very useful and almost indispensable, as well as a net and forceps for catching insects.
[End of page 11]

*Transcribed by Ann Andrews in March 2004 from:
"The Panorama of Matlock and Its Environs; With the Tour of the Peak", by H. Barker, Esq. (1827), published by Longman & Co., London. From the copy held at Derby Local 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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