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Matlock Bath: Derwent Gardens - from Lovers Walks, before 1905
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Switchback, Rise & Fall

Adrenalin Rush

Lovers' Walks and River Derwent, Edwardian card

This photo was taken from high up, looking downwards into the valley formed by the River Derwent and southwards towards Cromford. Although you can't really see them in this reproduction, an enlargement of the original even shows some of the houses on Cromford Hill. The silhouette of the Black Rocks is on the skyline and Masson weir is downstream, just past the bend. Cat Tor is on the left of the picture and the large sloping field on the right, behind the wall of the New Bath hotel and with the track at its base, is what used to be known as the Cumberland field. There is an open-sided agricultural building part of the way along the track, next to the boundary wall.

In the Derwent Gardens on the banks of the river is the southern end of the Switchback Railway and its shelter, where the cars were turned round so that passengers could begin the return journey of their ride. Holy Trinity Church, the bottom of Clifton Road and the New Bath Hotel are also in this picture. There is some development past the Derwent Gardens; a gate, shown clearly in the image below, divides this area off and there's a greenhouse and other buildings on the land, some of which were possibly storage sheds. One of the daughters of Herbert Buxton, was to live here for a number of years with her husband, Captain Arthur James Wyrill[1a].

John Higton, responding to some criticism of the Switchback that was published in 1889, believed that the switchback was "only a temporary structure, and can be removed without much difficulty when required"[1]. It was to last for over 40 years.

Whilst the Derwent Gardens form only a relatively small portion of the scene, the pictures are included here for what they show us of the switchback. We can see into the shelter at the half way point in the switchback ride, where the cabs or cars changed to a different track for the return trip. A laden car can be seen on the rails and, although it may be wishful thinking to suggest this, it is just possible that the switchback's employees are at the back, pushing it to gain sufficient momentum.

Postcard of the River Derwent from Lovers Walk, Matlock Bath. The 2003 image previously here was replaced in 2020.
Another version of this scalloped edged card may have been posted in 1926 but the image
is identical to the top picture and the original photograph would have been taken over 20 years before.

Several publishers were to issue the images on this page (excluding the enlargement) under their own brand name and it is difficult to know who was the first to do so. The picture at the top was probably published by Sneath as everything indicates that, including the typeface used for the card's description, etc., apart from the number written on it. If I (web mistress) were to hazard a guess, the Sneath image was probably a prototype. The card with the scalloped edges was published by Milton and a coloured version was produced by Marsden of Wirksworth. Then there is the one by Frith on the Switchback, Rise & Fall page (5th image down). The earliest postal date for a version by Jackson & Son is 1905[2]. Sneath distributed two versions[2], using different fonts, but they are also identical to the ones here.

It would have been an impossibility for more than one photographer to have captured this exact moment, as something would have moved in the scene. There are at least five pointers to show the images are identical, even if some of the postcards have had their edges cropped. The clues are:

  1. The Switchback itself. The car is in the same place. As it was a moving vehicle it cannot be a coincidence that it is in the self same spot on so many different pictures.
  2. On the main road there is a vehicle close to the bottom of Clifton Road with two people standing in the road beside it. There are two other vehicles in all of the pictures, one on Clifton Road behind the steeple and the other on the road up to the New Bath, just past Portland House. Again, it cannot be a co-incidence.
  3. Look at the wall below the church, near the bottom right of the card. There is the same dirty mark on the road.
  4. On the left hand river bank close to the bottom is a somewhat spindly conifer.
  5. The people on path beside the river are exactly the same as are the crowds who are either walking along Derby Road or peering over the wall to see what is going on.

A coloured version of the same view was published by G. Marsden of Wirksworth and was posted in 1909. It is in the "Just images" section of the site.
There is a sepia card, called "Matlock", that was published before the Derwent Gardens were developed. It is also in the "Just images" section of the site.

"The Derwent Pleasure Gardens are pleasantly situated on the banks of the River Derwent and are furnished with seats and shelters in the form of grottoes and in the hot water ponds are fish of various species".

Boden & Hardy, Derwent Gardens amusement ground

Although somewhat later than these postcards, the quote and advert from Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire (1941) above is interesting.
By then the switchback, which had given pleasure to many thousands of visitors over the years, had been taken down.

Other pages where enlarged sections of the top image can be seen:

Hartle's Bazaar

Portland House

Holy Trinity
Church 1905

1. and 2. "River Derwent from Lover's Walk, Matlock Bath". No: 58.35. This has the same font style as Sneath's No. 2815 with the same title.
3. "River Derwent from Lover's Walk, Matlock Bath". "The Milton Series", Woolstone Bros. Renowned for Local Views, London EC1. Printed in Saxony. Unused. Another version, previously on this site (from 2003 to 2020), was posted in Matlock on 25 July 1926.
All images © Ann Andrews collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] In the Matlock Absent Voter's List (1918) Arthur Wyrill is shown living at Vernon Cottage in Matlock Bath. He was a C.O. in the Mercantile Fleet Auxiliary

[1] "Derbyshire Courier", 2 November 1889. Matlock and Its Grievances.

[2] With grateful thanks to Susan Tomlinson for checking her own collection and sending me a number of images for comparison, including Sneath's No. 2815 - none of which are published here.