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Matlock Bath: River Derwent & Heights - a CDV from the late 1800s
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River Derwent

Devonshire Hotel, 1890

The Derwent, 1950


Here is a Carte de Visite (CDV) taken by the Matlock Bath photographer William Potter. It is possible that he was sitting in another boat to take the picture. As well as the backs of the properties on the Parade we can see the hillside below the Victoria Tower on the Heights of Abraham, including the Lower Towers with its castellations. Of particular interest are the properties bordering the river; a section of the top image is enlarged below to show what the buildings looked like in the 1890s or thereabouts. The boats in the foreground were moored at what later became Smith's landing stage.

This stretch of the river was the scene of a minor drama in 1891. At 10p.m., with the excursionists gone from the village but still hundreds of people on the Parades, the alarm was raised that a man had fallen into the Derwent from the promenade opposite the Fountain Baths, a few metres up river. It was pitch black. As the boats at the landing stage were by then locked up rescuing him was almost given up, but he eventually cried out that he had reached the other side further downstream. A rope was lowered from the Devonshire Hotel gardens and he was hauled to safety. The rescued man was a Mr. Gibbs from Cromford and he was said to have had a lucky escape as the previous year a local tradesman had drowned[1].

One of the long standing residents of the properties on the river bank was William King, whose linen drapery close to the Devonshire Hotel overlooked the river[2]. Mr. King was a keen fisherman and one story about him was that he put out lines in the river and fastened them to a bell in his room. When the bell rang he would go out and haul in the catch, whatever the time of day or night[3]. Stories about his fishing exploits were often recounted in the local press. In 1890, for example, he captured "one of the largest trout ever known in the county". It appears that he was "trolling" with a minnow from the balcony of his house at half-past nine in the evening when he hooked a heavy fish. It turned out to be a 7½lb. trout, 25" long and with a girth of 16". The fish was sent to London for preservation by the Cromford & Matlock Angling Club[4].

Not long before he died in 1914 the octogenarian gave a fascinating account of the vast changes he had seen in Matlock Bath during in his lifetime. "I can remember when there were very few houses on the Parade, although at that time, when there was less accommodation than there is now, more people stayed in Matlock Bath for long periods than is the case today. There were no day trippers when I was a young man". He added that the first trippers arrived in coal barges, disembarking at Cromford Canal. They continued to Matlock Bath on foot and Matlock Bath residents returned with them to Cromford to see them safely on their homeward journey. He also said that, in 1849, to celebrate the opening of the railway, barrels of beer were placed where the Kursaal now stands (the Grand Pavilion today) and the residents could refresh themselves free of charge. When the railway company began running trips in 1853 the first people came from Leicester[5].

back of hotel  
The Devonshire Hotel is partly hidden by a tall wall. There seems to have been a roof top garden at first floor level.
We can see several properties on Waterloo Road, including Wellington House.
The house at the top, where the chimney pots touch the top of the image, is Belle View where Mrs Bentall lived in 1899[6].
The dwelling later became the home of the Donegani family


1 and 2. Both images © Ann Andrews collection. A couple of bad blemishes have been repaired, but one could not be repaired completely.
The CDV is an albumen print mounted on a small card measuring 6.3cm x 10.4cm.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "Derby Mercury", 1 April 1891.

[2] References for William King include:
William with parents and sibling in 1841 | in the 1881 census | in the 1891 census | in the 1901 census |
Kelly's Directory 1876 (Matlock Bath section) | Kelly's Directory 1895 | Kelly's 1908 Directory
William King's MI | MI of his parents, brother and sister

[3] "Belper News", 10 April 1914.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 14 June 1890. Monster Trout at Matlock Bath.

[5] "Belper News", 17 April 1914

[6] See her name listed amongst the Private Residents in Kelly's 1899 Directory.