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Matlock Bath: Fluor Spar Cavern, Heights of Jacob
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The Heights of Jacob
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Upper Wood, about 1890

Upper Wood

Jacob's Ladder or Steps

Zoo Tea Gardens,
Upper Wood

Matlock Bath from the Heights of Jacob, 1908

Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

Here are two early twentieth century cards of the cavern on the Heights of Jacob, one of the exterior and the other of the cavern itself. In 1903 Benjamin Bryan wrote:

"There are other caverns now exhibited which have opened out much more recently. One of these is situate by the side of the road from Matlock Bath Station to Upper Wood, on a site known as the "Heights of Jacob". From hence a wide spreading prospect is available over the Pavilion grounds, which are immediately below the spectator's feet, and extending to the rocks beyond the river and northwards to the High Tor, with a large part of the Bath visible as it lies in the hollow below. The features of the cavern include spacious cavities or openings, grottoes, spar archways, a "rising gallery", and veins of lead ore and barytes. Mr. Jacob Raynes is the lessee"[1].

Mr. Jewitt, writing almost 70 years earlier in 1835, noted that "the prospect ... from the mouth of the Fluor Cavern is one of great interest, beauty and extent, in which the High Torr is a very conspicuous object"[2]. Benjamin Froggatt of Upper Wood was the guide (see him in the 1841 census). The cavern was mentioned in Gem of the Peak in 1841[3] and in 1866 Thomas Pearson was in charge here[4]. Mr. Raynes moved to Matlock Bath by 1871[5] and he placed a series of advertisements in the local press the following year (see below, left). He managed to introduce great drama and excitement into the way he presented his cavern to potential visitors.

Derbyshire Times, 22 June 1872
On the road leading to the Upper Wood, and adjoining the
THE Original FLUOR SPAR CAVERN, by far
the most interesting in Matlock Bath,
consists of
Rising Gallery, Dungeon Rocks, Romantic Cave Scenery,
Veins of Lea Ore and Barytes, Thousands of Tons of
beautiful Fluor and Dog-tooth Spar, and many other
It also derives especial interest from the fact of its being
the Retreat of the Families of the Neighbourhood in the
year 1745, at which time the Pretender and his adherents
penetrated as far as Derby, and struck terror on the in-
habitants of these parts, who took refuge in this Cavern.
*** Open from 9 o'clock a.m., to 7 p.m, daily (Sundays
The Roads to this Wonderful CAVERN are by the Station
Bridge, leaving the Heights to your right hand. This road is the
easiest. The next is by Hodgkinson's Hotel, and the
third by Temple Terrace. Along which visitors must bear
to the left hand. And note the direction boards " Free
Public Road."
The only ROYAL PETRIFYING WELL is on the High
Road leading to Cromford, and is the second well, known as
"Jacob's Well." It was from this well that her most
Gracious Majesty when a girl chose a bird's nest.
Articles Petrified on Reasonable Terms
Excursionists and School Contracted for.
No Fees are allowed to be asked for by the Guides.

In the summer of 1883 rivalries between the cavern guides in Matlock Bath spilled over and there were threats, bad words and some violence. Disgraceful scenes involved Daniel Bryan, who the owned the Devonshire Cavern, and John Stockill, who worked as a guide for Mr. Raynes. Stockill was fined for attacking Bryan, who did not fight back. Another guide, named Hallam, had also threatened Bryan and was bound over for a year and fines were issued. In turn Bryan was fined for shaking a young lad who was also guide at the Fluor Spar Cavern, although there was some provocation as the boy interfered and was suspected of writing insults - so he too was warned. Nobody came out of it well. One of the bench commented that it was a great pity that such ill feeling existed[6].

On a more pleasant note the Heights of Jacob, as opposed to the cavern, were mentioned in newspaper reports in the mid 1880s when several large groups visited Matlock Bath[7].

Numerous familiar views of Matlock Bath that were featured on postcards over the years were taken from the vantage point of the Heights of Jacob. The name "Heights of Jacob" didn't appear on maps until around 1900 by which time Jacob Raynes had been the cavern proprietor in Matlock Bath for just over thirty years[8], but the Heights of Jacob were undoubtedly named after him. It cannot be co-incidental. Nor can Jacob's Well in the advert on the left; he wanted people to know who was in charge. In the case of the Heights of Jacob, this area of Matlock Bath is still known by his name and will undoubtedly be preserved for posterity.

Jacob Raynes died at the end of 1904 and in 1907 Messrs. Else & Son advertised the "FLUOR SPAR CAVERN, known as the "Heights of Jacob", with sale shop" for sale[9]. It was bought by George Adam Craig[10], who owned it for about 10 years. These photos date from the time the Craigs were running the cavern; they are probably the couple in the photo. Unfortunately, nothing more is known about them.

The signboard that is propped against the stone in the top image advertises the "FLUOR SPAR CAVERN, HEIGHTS OF JACOB", and lower down it mentions the Fluor Spar Grotto. Behind where the lady is seated is a box with nine holes in it. Any ideas about what the box was used for would be gratefully received - please email the web mistress. Thoughts have included a box that people stuck their heads through for a novelty photograph, but the holes don't look big enough.

"There are few places where the loveliness of the view, both in extent and in detail, is more apparent than from the little platform outside the entrance to the celebrated Fluor Spar Cavern with its interests geological and chemical. ... a cursory inspection is made of the many pretty trifles carved from the local minerals which are shown in a neat little shanty by the proprietor of the mine and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Craig". There was Blue John in various shades, specimens of fluor spar (calcium carbonate) and of the calcite or "dog tooth" spar - called that because of the resemblance to a dog's tooth. "One of the prettiest sights is the fluor spar (calcium fluoride) seen in a bright light when the refraction by each tiny crystal gives exquisite rainbow tints and an outline of the whole clearly marked in the prismatic colours. Also of interest was a piece of rock, a polished cube of about six inches, on which was struck the Royal Charter in 1859"[11].

Below is the interior, lit by candles. The fluor spar and lead ore would have glittered in the candle light. The man on the left was possibly Mr. Craig whilst the man on the right could be Mr. Henshall.

Inside the Fluor Spar Cavern
"The cave is partly natural, partly artificial, having been broken open, and in may places expanded, by the
lead miners of old times. It winds for many hundreds of yards under the hill"
and had one opening, closed by
1913, in the grounds of the Royal Hotel. The cavern is best described as a series of lofty chambers "with roofs
of irregular masses of stone, in one instance a huge block of many tons. At one time the cave was well worked
by the miners, and even now
(1913) small pieces of lead are seen interspersed amongst the crystals. Unlike
many caves, this has a pure atmosphere and an even temperature

The cavern was for sale once more in 1917:
"SMALL BUSINESS for Disposal; Fluor Spar Cavern and Cottage attached. - Craig, Heights Jacob, Matlock Bath"[12].

Thomas Meredith Henshall, who also a photographer[13], was the proprietor after the first war, though he did not own it. When "Jacob's Cavern" was next offered for sale in 1923, this time by Bagshaw's of Ashbourne and Derby, it was described as a "show place for trippers" and somewhere that "the owner would simply have to sit listening to the clicking of the turnstile to gain a good living". At the time Thomas Henshall was paying a rent of £6 and the Royal Hotel also paid a guinea a year for the privilege of using a road over it. Despite £180 being offered, the property was not sold[14].

Mr. Henshall advertised in most of the trade directories of the times. Under his tenancy the cavern was said to contain "several spacious natural cavities, grottoes and archways of beautiful flour and dogtooth spar and veins of lead ore and barytes"[15].

The danger of using candles in the cavern as the main light source for visitors was fully not realised until, in 1929, a Derby Sunday School class pupil stumbled and fell down a 13 foot hole inside the cavern. The guide, who held out his arms to tell the children to go no further, was unable to catch him. The boy was rescued but later died at a Derby hospital[16].

The Henshall family diversified into market gardening and the firm of Henshall and Sons entered exhibits into various flower shows. They were at Chelsea in 1938, with a rock-garden display[17], and were regular prizewinners at Southport[18].

This undated view is a very rare image

1. "Heights of Jacob". No publisher. No date but the image was published in several editions of the "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" in July 1913 and on 2 January 1914. It was also published as a post card; more than one P.C. was psosted in 1908.
2. "Fluor Spar Cavern, Matlock Bath". No publisher. No date.
3. "Jacob's Cave - Matlock Bath". No publisher and unposted. The initials W. A. S. are in the bottom right corner of the front face of the card.
Postcards 1 and 2 in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Postcard 3 © Maureen Smith collection.
Images scanned for this website and information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited. Bryan was comparing the "more recent" caverns with those on the Heights of Abraham and the Cumberland Cavern, all of which had been open to the public for many years.

[2] Jewitt, Arthur (1835) "The Matlock Companion; and visitor's guide to the beauties of Matlock ..., including also a brief sketch of Buxton". Second edition. Duffield, Derby

[3] The cavern was mentioned in Gem of the Peak of 1840 although it does not say who the guide was. Scroll down to petrifying wells and you can see who was running the petrifying well where Princess Victoria purchased her bird's nest and where it was.

[4] See "Holmes Handbook, 1866", description of the Grand Fluor Spar Cavern.

[5] Jacob Raynes or Raines was listed as a cavern proprietor in Upper Wood in the following : the 1871 census | the 1881 census | 1891 census | 1901 | Kelly's Directory 1895 | Kelly's Directory 1899.

[6] "Derbyshire Courier", 15 September 1883. Disgraceful Proceedings at Matlock. - Rival Guides.
Also "Derbyshire Times", 15 September 1883

[7] Reports in "The Derby Mercury".

[8] Ordnance Survey Map (1903), pub H.M.S.O.

[9] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal",17 May 1907.

[10] He advertised in Kelly's Directory, 1908 and Kelly's Directory, 1912 | Kelly's 1916 Directory. He had been in the Matlocks since 1904, if not earlier.

[11] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 25 July 1913. On the Heights at Matlock Bath.

[12] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 23 June 1917.

[13] Thomas Meredith Henshall advertised as a photographer in Kelly's 1916 Directory but between 1922 and 1942 he advertised as a cavern proprietor at the Heights of Jacob. Mr. Henshall was born in Bulkeley, Cheshire and in 1901 he was living in Salford and working as a photographer.

[14] "Derbyshire Times", 2 June 1923. Sale of local estate of Alderman H. A. Hubbersty of Burbage Hall, Buxton. Both the Upper Wood Fluor Spar Mine, then let to The Peak Mining and Mineral Co., and the fluor spar cave known as "Jacob's Cavern" and land - let to T. M. Henshall - were withdrawn from the sale. Advertised initially in the "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" 12 May 1923.

[15] T. M. Henshall advertised in all Kelly's Directories of Derbyshire between 1920 and 1941. The quotation was extracted from the 1932 edition, although was the same in every publication.

[16] "Nottingham Journal" 3 July 1929. Coroner's Comment on Derby Boy's Sad Fate.

[17] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 May 1937. At Chelsea Flower Show.

[18] Reports of their successes at Southport appeared in the "Birmingham Daily Post" of 23 August 1962 and the "Liverpool Echo", of 26 August 1964, for example. In these years Henshall and Sons were winners of the first prize, with their rock gardens - in 1962 Derbyshire limestone was a background for their display and they regularly used local sourced tufa stone.