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Matlock Bath from the Heights of Abraham, 1892
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The Old Bath, 1806,
showing Old Bath Hill

Fish Pond Stables 1907

The view shows Cat Tor, on the left, with the River Derwent below the limestone cliffs. There is a boat on the water. On the right hand bank of the river are the Derwent Gardens, although they were undeveloped in 1892, with Mr. Buxton's Switchback railway within the grounds. The Royal Hotel is just below the centre of the picture, seen here before the large annexe was built at the back. A little higher up, on the right, is the Royal Pavilion (later the Palais Royal), built and opened just 10 years before, and in the distance is Cromford Hill and Black Rocks.

Even in inclement weather visitors to Matlock Bath in 1892 were determined to enjoy themselves. The journalist known as the Eckington Jackdaw, one of a party of excursionists from the north Derbyshire village, arrived on a particularly wet day in July. "Matlock Bath in a deluge of rain ... did not strike me as being especially attractive. ... A slight abatement in the water supply tempting me, I ventured upon a walk. The main street in Matlock Bath was thronged with more or less bedraggled visitors, wandering aimlessly about with no apparent object beyond that of getting wet through. A few young people bent upon pleasure at any price, patronised the switchback railway, and for a time some life was put into our otherwise dismal surroundings by feminine shrieks - half in fun and half terror - as their carriages rose and fell in their eccentric course. Despite the rain, a limited number of individuals persisted in boating". Having observed the behaviour of some of those in hiring boats, Jackdaw was unsurprised to learn of a fatality on the river only a few days later[1].
Boating on the River Derwent, 1914

Amongst the guests staying at the Royal Hotel that year were the Right Hon Joseph Chamberlain, M.P., and his wife, who visited many of the nearby "show" places. Apparently, when it became known that he was staying in Matlock Bath many people were anxious to see him. The Derbyshire Times reported that some of the curious could not believe their eyes when they saw the slim, grey suited visitor[2].

During November Mr. Tyack, "the esteemed proprietor of the New Bath and Royal Hotels", hosted several distinguished visitors who stayed at his hotels over a period of three days. Derby races had brought them to Matlock Bath. Several people "of title" were amongst the visitors, as was a Mr Dunn, the "Chesterfield of the Turf", who the newspaper journalist described as a leviathan amongst bookmakers[3].

The black and white version of this photograph of the southern part of Matlock Bath, taken from the Heights of Abraham, was published in a guide book some forty years after it was taken. The Royal Hotel, or to be more accurate the section of it that is shown here, had been destroyed by fire in 1929, which makes it even more of an oddity that Ward Lock included such an out of date picture in their 1932 guide. I (web mistress) have several guides published before the First War and this picture is not in any of them.

This photograph was very out-of-date when it was published in Ward Lock's 1932 guide
Matlock Bath from the Heights of Abraham, from Ward Lock's 1932 guide.

The central section, from the River Derwent to the far side of the grounds of the Royal Hotel, is enlarged below.
At the bottom of all three images are the former Fish Pond Stables (centre, opposite the Fishpond Hotel).
They were demolished and the site was redeveloped to make way for the Grand Pavilion (Kursaal).

Old Bath Hill (Fishpond Hill today), a wide thoroughfare connecting the main road with Temple Road, can be seen next to the Fish Pond Hotel. It narrowed at the top by this time, where Temple Road crossed over, although it did not do so originally (see The Old Bath, 1806, which shows Old Bath Hill). The bridle path led to the hotel and Temple Walk, to Upper Wood and eventually to Bonsall. It was also the principal approach to the Pavilion grounds.

In the 1880s and 1890s the ownership of Old Bath Hill caused considerable controversy. When a guest at the Royal Hotel fell down on the hill and broke his arm in 1885 the hotel's manager contacted the Local Board to complain about the condition of the hill, something he had done before. However, the Board's Chairman pointed out that the matter was out of their jurisdiction as the accident was caused by some steps owned by Mrs Sellors, the owner of the Fish Pond Hotel[4]. So whilst the road had been used by the public for many years, the land it was on was owned by Mr. William Pearson of Mount Pleasant, his daughter and son in law[5]. Two years later Mr. Peters described it as a "man trap" and the Board agreed that something must be done[6]. A wooden pillar had been put in at the top of the hill and had even been renewed, causing a good deal of ill feeling. By 1887 the pillar disappeared without trace so the owners replaced it. That met the same fate and a stone one was installed, only to be dislodged as well. The next step was to pay Mr. William Askew, the Matlock builder, to set a fairly massive replacement some 4 - 5 feet into the ground and surround it with concrete. Undaunted the pillar objectors took matters into their own hands. About 4.30 a.m. on the morning of 4th October 1887 a fairly large explosion was heard, followed by another about 5 minutes later. It wasn't until 6a.m. that it was discovered that the pillar had been partially blown up, so not an explosion at the local gasometer that some feared had been the cause of all the noise[6]. In January 1888, under cover of dense fog, the remaining post on Old Bath Hill was removed[7]. Mr. F. B. Sellors, who lived at Tewksbury, didn't bow to public disapproval and in the spring of 1888 two strong iron pillars, weighing about 10cwt., were installed in barrels of concrete[8]. Mrs. Sellors was served with another removal notice in 1893, but did not comply. She even erected a fence. There was clearly no love lost between the Sellors family and the Local Board as, when the new gas main was eventually laid in 1905, she objected once more[9].

More views from the Heights of Abraham: More views from the Heights of Abraham:

19th century

the Heights

About 1914


After WW2

Cat Tor, 1913

Modern times

Ward Lock Guide
Cover, 1932/3 Guide
Also from this Guide

Lover's Walk
Riverside Path

1. Postcard of "Matlock Bath from Heights of Abraham". Valentine Series, No.17457 (coloured version). Printed in Great Britain. Souvenir Postcard. Unused but first published in 1892.
2 and 3. "Matlock Bath, from the Heights of Abraham". Photograph, by Valentine & Sons Ltd., Dundee, from Ward Lock & Co's "Matlock, Dovedale, Bakewell and South Derbyshire", Illustrated Guide Books of England and Wales (1932-3).
Image in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derbyshire Courier", 30 July 1892.

[2] "Derbyshire Times", 27 August 1892. Gleanings of the Peak.

[3] "ibid.", 19 November 1892. Notes by the Way.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph, 14 May 1885.

[5] "Derbyshire Times", 8 October 1887. Dynamite Outrage at Matlock.
William Pearson and some of his family are shown in the 1871 census.
William, his family and son in law were living at Mount Pleasant in the 1881 census.
His daughter Agnes, who married Mr. Sellors, was with her sister and son in the 1891 census.

[6] "ibid.", 6 August 1887. The Old Bath Hill. Mr. Peters described witnessing several mishaps and his complaint was considered justifiable.

[7] "Derbyshire Courier", 14 January 1888. The Disputed Roadway at Matlock.
A massive stone pillar was displaced so the road was open. "A couple of large stone steps were also carried away and thrown into the property adjoining. The damage done on this occasion is more that in all the other attempts combined. The surveyor to the Local Board had the debris removed. .... The local Board have passed a resolution that counsel's advice to be taken on the question, as they claim the uninterrupted use of the thoroughfare".

[8] "Derby Mercury", 4 April 1888. The Matlock Right of Way Dispute. This work was also undertaken by Mr. Askew's workmen, despite Edward Speed, the Council's surveyor, visiting the site and entering an official protest.

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 13 May 1905. Although he work went ahead, but it was thought likely that legal proceedings might follow.