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Matlock Bath: River Derwent, about 1877
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The river, with thre men fishing
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Devonshire Hotel & North Parade, 1870s - CDV

CDV from late 1800s

Devonshire Hotel, 1890

The Derwent, 1950

Engraver not known

The engraving, dating from the second half of the nineteenth century, is of the River Derwent at Matlock Bath. The hand colouring was a later addition. It was published in an undated American Guide, "England Illustrated with Pen and Pencil[1]", which was written after Matlock's hydros - mentioned in the text below - had become established.

"At this junction, too, [i.e. Rowsley] the traveler comes upon the railway, and will be tempted to pass only too rapidly by the beauties of the Derwent Valley between Rowsley and Ambergate. We can but assure him that he will lose much by so doing ; that Darley Dale and Moor are very beautiful, and that the tourist who rushes on to Matlock Bath without staying to climb Matlock Bank does an injustice to Derbyshire scenery ; while, if he be in pursuit of health, he can find no better resting-place than at the renowned hydropathic establishments which occupy the heights. Still, most who are in search of the picturesque will prefer to seek it at Matlock Bath, where indeed they will not be left to discover it for themselves. In this famous spot the beauties of nature are all catalogued, ticketed, and forced on the attention by signboards and handbills. Here is the path to 'the beautiful scenery' (admission so much); there 'the romantic rocks' (again a fee) ; there the ferry to 'the Lovers' Walk,' a charming path by the river-side, overshadowed by trees ; and so on. Petrifying wells offer their rival attractions, and caves in the limestone are repeatedly illuminated, during the season, for the delight of excursionists. The market for fossils, spar, photographs, ferns, and all the wonderful things that nobody buys except at watering-places, is brisk and incessant. But when we have added to all this that the heights are truly magnificent, the woods and river very lovely, and the arrangement of the hotels most homelike and very satisfactory, it will not be wondered at that the balance of pleasure remained mostly in favour of Matlock. It would be certainly pleasanter to discover for oneself that here is 'the Switzerland of England,' than to have the fact thrust upon one's attention by placards at every turn ; but perhaps there are those to whom the information thus afforded is welcome, while the enormous highly colored pictures of valley, dale, and crag, which adorn every railway station on the line, no doubt perform their part in attracting and instructing visitors. They need certainly be at no loss to occupy their time to advantage, whether their stay be longer or shorter. Everything is made easy for them. Practicable paths have been constructed to all the noblest points of view : the fatigue of mountain-climbing is reduced to a minimum ; and the landscapes disclosed, even from a moderate elevation, by the judicious pruning and removal of intercepting foliage, are such as to repay most richly the moderate effort requisite for the ascent. Lord Byron writes that there are views in Derbyshire 'as noble as in Greece or Switzerland.' He was probably thinking of the prospect from Masson, from which the whole valley, with its boundary of tors, or limestone cliffs, is outspread before the observer, while the river sparkles beneath, reflecting masses of foliage, with depths of heavenly blue between ; and, beyond the scarred and broken ramparts of the glen, purple moorlands stretch away to the high and curving line of the horizon.

The traveler southward, who has accompanied us thus far, if yet unsated with beauty, will be wise in walking or driving by road from Matlock to Cromford, the next station, instead of proceeding by railway. The pass between the limestone cliffs, although the great majority of passengers leave it unnoticed, is really, for its length, as fine as almost any of the dales in the higher part of the country[1]".

Most of the above is fairly flattering about Matlock Bath and some of the criticism undoubtedly justified. The warnings on the entry fees to see the various attractions in the above extract were repeated by other guide writers and newspaper journalists but it is only fair to point out that locals were only trying to earn a living from what they had. Plus someone had to pay for the maintenance of a particular site as paths didn't stay charming on their own and it is hardly ever mentioned who cleared up the rubbish after the visitors had gone!

The buildings on the riverside, demolished in the 1960s, included the Devonshire Hotel. Wellington House on Waterloo Road is the large property with the unevenly spread windows. Behind, slightly higher up the hill, are the embattled Lower Tower and Guilderoy.

The three males in the boat are fishing; the right hand figure is lifting a net out of the water.

Engraving in the collection of and provided by and © Bernard Gale.
Researched by and © Ann Andrews
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Quotation from: Manning, Samuel, L.L.D.& Green, S. G., D.D. (no date), "England Illustrated with Pen and Pencil", published by Hurst & Company, New York. From the section on "The Peak of Derbyshire". Two advertisements have been found (2018) for this book; the first in 1887 and the second in 1877 and the second in 1878.