Images Index> Matlock Bath, 20th and 21st Century Images> This page
Matlock Bath: Fish Pond Stables, Providence Mine & the Mud Heap
Matlock Bath : Twentieth Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
20th & 21st C Images
Next Image
Previous Image
More Matlock Bath Pictures
18th & 19thC
"Just" Images
Matlock Bath
General Info
About Matlock Bath
Find a Name

Fish Pond Stables

The Ferry House, Spar Shop & Obelisk, 19thC

Old Pavilion & Royal Hotel

Royal Hotel, Pavilion and Holy Trinity Church

Pavilion, 1910-12

Charles White and family

In the first decade of the twentieth century a disagreement arose over a piece of land owned by Mr. Herbert Buxton of Matlock Bath; the plot, which was next to his Switchback Railway in the Derwent Gardens, can be seen in the above photograph[1]. The Derwent Gardens were an attraction that brought revenue to the village and the disputed site was below the prestigious Royal Hotel which also attracted many visitors. Matlock Bath prided itself on being a resort.

At first glance there appears to be nothing of interest in the picture, apart from an outdoor stage on a rough piece of ground[2] and an unknown man who is bending forward. But it was this man, who was wearing a tin hat incidentally, and what he was doing that caused the row. This was the Providence Mine and the unknown man was supposedly mining for lead, or at least conducting a survey to see if lead was present in the tufa bed. The nearby buildings are also important in the story of this photograph. The buildings behind the dry stone wall were the old stables; these were due to be demolished to make way for a new development as there were grand plans to build a Kursaal (meeting place) or Pavilion instead. The Kursaal plans included land known as the "Mud Heap", which seem to have been the Ferry Grounds[3].

The quarrel started as a personal dispute between two local councillors, the Conservative Herbert Buxton and Charles White, the Liberal chairman of the Urban District Council. On Tuesday, 1st June 1909 the people of Matlock Bath were said to be "excited" over a curious scene that was played out by the banks of the River Derwent. As the local press pointed out, the Council had recently spent many thousands of pounds to provide promenades, etc. One of their purchases, from a Mr. Thomas of London, was the Ferry Ground which was said to have been bought for over £5000. The value of this land was subsequently reduced to a minimum because of the lead mining operations[4], something most people would surely not have wanted in a tourist part of the village.

Charles White would have known that there was a disused lead mine on the land and claimed it had been worked about 70 years before. Herbert Buxton had taken over the claim to mine here and he had even worked the mine for a short time, presumably to stake his ownership as he was not a lead miner. A bare patch, where the "mine" was, can be seen in several photographs and postcards of the day (see below) although it was clearly utilized as an entertainment area; not only was there the stage here but a helter skelter was also here for a time. These days a lead mine would not be considered a suitable proposition in such close proximity to a place where children and adults congregated.

White claimed Buxton's work was not ongoing and attempted to wrest ownership from him so on the day in question two grand jurymen (old miners) and the claimant were to be found at the mine mouth; they took off their jackets and entered the mine to search for traces of lead ore which was duly found. What sounds as if it was an argument ensued, with everyone talking at once; a decision was finally reached by those present, which included the bar master. They agreed that under Mining Law Mr. Buxton had forfeited his claim and White could mine there instead[4].

At a Council meeting a few days later Mr. White announced his dilemma. Firstly, Mr. Buxton had already arranged that the Council could build a wall and roadway between the mine and the tip. Secondly, the lead in the mine went under the new road so if he mined there the road would have to be let down. Another Councillor, Mr. Palmer Pearson, questioned whether the land had ever belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster; if it didn't then there were no mining rights there anyway[5]. White had already arranged for two men to work the mine but eventually gave the land to the Council. Looking at the issue today, after so many years have elapsed, one has to question what motivated him and ask why the land was so important as it certainly wasn't a profitable lead mine; the only conclusion one can reach is that it was just a ploy by him to prevent anything from getting in the way of the Kursaal being built. One is left to wonder whether the barmaster and grand jurymen felt they had been manipulated once Cllr. White gave the land to the Council and the Pavilion scheme went ahead.

"It led to the UDC applying for an Act of Parliament to alter the terms of the 1852 Act so that land used for recreational purposes could be added to the list of places where there was exemption from a miner's right to mine. It was amended again in 1927 and has been re-enacted in 1981"[6]. The 1852 Act referred to began as the Wirksworth Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Bill of 1851 and the mining laws were codified[7].

After all the money wasting squabbles the amendment to the 1852 Act became law[8], so those in favour of development got their way, and the Kursaal was constructed. It was an extremely ambitious project for the Urban District Council to undertake.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 7 January 1910
Letter to the Editor (part of).

"Anyone reading the reports in various papers would think we were living on the brink of a volcano. There are two boards on the new road to the Derwent Gardens and the ferry stating "This road is dangerous", etc. on account of mining operations going on. Of course, we residents know what construction to put on that. Happily, this pseudo-lead mine is being filled in by the Council, which we hope will end the matter for ever."
John Higton

The Kursaal was to be renamed within a few years and is these days known as the Grand Pavilion. But the completion of the Pavilion wasn't quite the end of the story and the Providence Mine caused two further problems, the first of which occured during construction.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 24 October 1913
An Alarming Accident at Matlock Bath.

An alarming subsidence occurred near the Matlock Bath Kursaal to-day. A Midland Railway dray had just passed on the Derby Road by the entrance to the Derwent Gardens, when the roadway fell in. The subsidence resulted from the old Providence lead mine, which the Council at great cost by Act of Parliament closed forever.

This land was used for rubbish for a time and was eventually covered by hard tennis courts in the inter-war years, though is now used for basketball. It wasn't properly capped when it was covered over, resulting in an appalling accident in 1929 when a local man who was employed by the Urban Council as the caretaker of the Grand Pavilion, Edward Slater, pulled a roller across the court. The event was witnessed by Laurence Yates, a bus driver, who saw Mr. Slater suddenly disappear as he was driving past; he found "Ninety" Slater, as he was known, at the bottom of a hole with severe back injuries[9]. At the inquest into his death the Council's Surveyor, Edward Flint, believed the collapse had been caused by water seeping into the old lead mine working and stated that it was common knowledge that the working still existed.

This postcard is one of three coloured versions of the same image, dating from 1903,
published by Valentine. The other two were slightly cropped so some of the detail around the
edges is missing. The image is of relevance because it not only shows the Mud Heap, bottom
right, but also the entrance to the Providence mine very close to the road. Little wonder the
road collapsed in 1913. There is someone, or perhaps there are two people, at the mine
entrance indicating that it had been re-opened a few years before Charles White claimed it
was unused; he later said it had not been used since Sept 1908[11].

The Providence Mine area and the resulting spoil is enlarged below.

Lynn Willies wrote a detailed account of the dispute between Messrs. Buxton and White for the Peak District Mines Historical Society.
Bulletin 10-3 - Providence Mine, the Kursaal and the 1981 Derbyshire Act.
(All Peak District Mines Historical Society publications are subject to copyright and their online publication is purely for personal use).

To view the PDF file, you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader

1. Photograph in the collection of, provided by and © Doreen Buxton.
2 and 3. Postcard and enlargement of "Pavilion and Gardens, Matlock Bath". Valentine's Series. No number. Posted on 22 Aug 1906 at Matlock Bath. © Pauline Jordan collection.
Known to have been published in 1903 as there are two other coloured images elsewhere on this site (go to Old Pavilion & Royal Hotel, Matlock Bath, 1903) that are slightly cropped versions of this card and there is a publication date of 1903 for one of them.
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] This almost panoramic photograph is owned by Mrs. Doreen Buxton, who has most kindly allowed the web mistress to use it on this site.

[2] Also see the image of the Royal Hotel, Pavilion and Holy Trinity Church

[3] Lynn Willies refers to the Mud Heap in an article for the Peak District Mines Historical Society. The article notes that this photo was included in electioneering literature of candidates Buckman, Dickenson, Reeds and Wheatcroft (no date but presumably 1908?).

[4] "Derbyshire Courier", 5 June 1909 (Saturday). Matlock Bath Lead Mine. Curious Ownership Claim. Medieval Custom Prevails. Other local papers also covered the story.

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 June 1909 and "Belper News", 25 June 1909.

[6] Information from Doreen Buxton.

[7] "London Gazette", 18 Nov 1851. "... to define and amend the mineral customs of the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth, in the county of Derby, and of a certain part or district therein, known as the King's Field, part of the possessions of Her Majesty's duchy of Lancaster, and of the several manors ... in the said county of Derby, and to make provision for the better administration of justice in the Barmote Courts, in the said Soke and Wapentake, and King's Field, and manors or lordships respectively, and to improve the practice and proceedings of the said courts...". The Wirksworth Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Bill of 1851 became an Act of Parliament in 1852.
Also see: Lead Mining in Matlock and Matlock Bath

[8] "London Gazette", 23 November 1909
"(Repeal of Provisions of Matlock Bath Gas Act, 1896, and Matlock Bath Improvement Act, 1905, as to the Removal of Gas Works ; Maintenance and Improvement of same on Present Site ; Additional Powers relating to Gas Supply; Abolition or Prohibition of Exercise of Local Mineral Rights and Customs ; Agreements with and Powers to the Duchy of Lancaster and others as to such Abolition or Prohibition ; Application of Funds; Borrowing of Money ; General Provisions ; Incorporation, Amendment and Repeal of Acts, &c.)
5. To repeal, alter or amend the Derbyshire Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Act, 1852 (hereinafter called "the Act of 1852"), to abolish or prohibit the exercise by any person or persons of all or any of the rights or reputed rights of searching for sinking or digging mines or veins of lead ore or any other mineral rights or customs in force or having effect in the soke and wapentake of "Wirksworth, in the county of Derby, and particularly in that part of the said soke and wapentake known as the "Kings Field," whether defined, conferred or confirmed by the Act of 1852, or otherwise by law, right, custom or usage existing or exerciseable in so far as the same are exerciseable in or upon, or extend or relate to any of the lands which are at the date of the passing of the intended Act, or such other date as may be specified in the intended Act or determined by Parliament, the property of or in the occupation of the Council or which may at any time, thereafter become the property of or in the occupation of the Council (hereinafter in this paragraph called " the said lands"); to define such of the said lands as are now the property of or in the occupation of the Council; to prescribe the penalties to be incurred by any person or persons exercising or attempting to exercise any of the said rights or reputed rights in or upon the said lands and to provide for the recovery of the same ; to exclude the said lands from the jurisdiction of the Barmote Courts (great and small) or any other courts, tribunals or authorities constituted, defined, confirmed or continued by the Act of 1852, or otherwise to abolish, annul, limit, confine, modify or put to an end to the said rights or customs or reputed rights or customs or any of them in such manner as may be prescribed by the intended Act or as may be required by Parliament; and for the purposes of such abolition, annulment, limitation, confinement or modification as aforesaid, and for any other of the purposes of the intended Act to empower the Council on the one hand and the Duchy of Lancaster and any other authority, body or person on the other hand, to enter into and carry into effect contracts and agreements, and to confirm any such contract or agreement that may be entered into prior to the passing of the intended Act, and to confer upon the said Duchy and other authority, body or person all such powers as may be necessary or expedient for or in relation to the carrying into effect of any of the objects aforesaid".
Also: "The Times", 21 Apr 1910. Listed under the House of Lords Private Business on Wed 20 Apr 1910 : Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Urban District Council Bill was read for a third time and passed.

[9] Notes of the late Frank Clay and newspaper clipping in Doreen Buxton's collection. The terrible tragedy was widely reported in the press and the "Derby Daily Telegraph" of 28 March 1929 reported the inquest. Mr. Slater was taken to Whitworth Hospital but passed away a few days later.
More about Edward Slater can be found in the 1881 census | the 1891 census | the 1901 census.
He was working as the Ferryman in 1901 - see Boating on the River Derwent, 1914 and was employed as the Caretaker at the Grand Pavilion in 1911 - see The Grand Pavilion (Kursaal), 1910-12, Matlock Bath.

[11] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 June 1909.