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Matlock Bath: Upper Tower, Heights of Abraham
Matlock Bath : Twentieth Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
Early twentieth century postcard of the Upper Tower in the grounds of the Heights of Abraham
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1830 lithograph, showing the Upper Towers

Museum Parade, Old Bath Terrace & the Heights, 1840

Living at the Heights

Great Rutland Cavern

Heights of Abraham, Great Rutland Cavern, 1912

Victoria Prospect Tower

Victoria Tower, Heights of Abraham, 1907-25

View from
The Heights of Abraham

This is an early twentieth century sepia postcard of the Upper Tower in the grounds of the Heights of Abraham high up on the hillside above Matlock Bath. The architecture is Late Georgian Gothic and the house was built around 1830 by Mr. Jonathan Gilbert, who owned the Heights. It had been built on an old mine hillock[1] . William Adam, first writing about it in 1838, thought it was very conspicuous.

Mr. Gilbert had also built the Lower Towers further down the hillside. When all three were auctioned in 1838 the Upper Tower house was described as being built in the Castellated Style and as "suitable for a small family"[2]. It was to be sold with the Rutland Cavern and was bought by Mr. Pechell. In 1861 there was settlement of "Petition to the Lord High Chancellor that the conditional agreement (of 18 Jan 1861) between Alfred Henry Pechell and Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) might be approved" and the sale of The Upper Tower, Guilderoy, the Heights of Abraham and other property could go ahead[3]. Thomas Wakley, who edited The Lancet, built Holme Road in 1861 (see Stereoview of Matlock Bath and Holme Road, 1870s). The Upper Tower was auctioned again just two years later, in 1863, together with "Guilderoy", following Thomas Wakley's death[4].

Only a few families have lived in the property, although this is not easy to work out from either the census returns or from various trade directories. The address "The Tower" was often published but usually referred to The Lower Tower further down the hillside and which was built before the Upper Tower. Helen Florence Pechell was born at the "Tower House" in 1856[5]. One of the sons of William and Maria Aldham was born at the Upper Tower in 1857[6]; the family later moved to Tor Cottage. Henrietta Bryan, widow of Benjamin, lived at the Upper Tower[7] and later on the Sprinthalls[8] and their close relatives the Aspeys[9] made it their home for about 50 and 35 years respectively whilst they ran the Heights of Abraham.

Describing what visitors would find after walking up to the Heights from Matlock Bath in 1840, William Adam wrote "The third turn [of the Zigzag path] leads directly onto the Cavern Terrace by the Upper tower, where seats are provided for the party to rest and enjoy a view which includes the whole of the noble scenery of Matlock"[1] . The message on the back of this postcard describes the building as being "half way down the hill between Tower [Victoria Prospect Tower] and Matlock Bath. Here are tea rooms & specimens of Stalactites".

The image below is of the Upper Tower Tea Rooms and a group of four are clearly enjoying refreshments outside after the long walk up the hill whilst admiring the view across the valley. They are clearly Edwardians, so the picture would have been taken about 1905-10. It might possibly have been taken a few years later, into George V's reign but before the Great War, since fashions remained fairly steady[10]. The sign says: TEAS AND REFRESHMENTS AT MODERATE PRICES, SPECIAL QUOTATIONS FOR LARGE OR ... [PRIVATE PARTIES]. There is young, dark haired, lady sitting on the terrace in front of what looks like a small wooden green house; she would have been one of the Miss Sprinthalls[11].

Upper Tower Tea Rooms

Henreitta Bryan, as Lessee, advertised the Heights of Abraham and the Victoria Prospect Tower in Halls "Days in Derbyshire", 1863.

1. Top postcard "Upper Tower. Heights of Abraham" published by Photochrom Co. Ltd., Royal Tunbridge Wells. No.44537. All British Production. Not posted. In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews
2. Bottom postcard "Matlock Bath: Upper Tower Tea Gardens" also published by Photochrom Co. Ltd., London and Detroit, USA and also numbered 44537. Printed in England. Not posted. In the collection of, provided by and © Ray Ash (Added Nov 2012)
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
References (coloured links go to transcripts or information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Adam, William (1840) "The Gem of the Peak", London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row - see onsite transcript. This was the second edition of his guide, the first being published in 1838.

[2] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, June 13, 1838.

[3] "Stamford Mercury", 8 March 1861. Settlement of estate of 29 acres roods and 3 perches occupied by Alfred Henry Pechell (of Barton upon Humber), Mrs Bryan and John Wheatcroft of Matlock Bath dated 15 May 1854 between John Pechell, William Goodlad Todd (father in law of AHP) and Alfred Henry Pechell. A H Pechell had reached agreement with Thomas Wakley earlier in the year to buy the properties.

[4] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, April 22, 1863. Newbold and Oliver auctioned Guilderoy, built by Mr. Pechell ca. 1840, the Heights of Abraham, the Upper Tower, the Rutland Cavern, Prospect Tower, the Two Lodges, Swiss Cottage and 31 acres, plantations etc. for the Devisee in Trust under the Will of Thomas Wakley, Esq. The solicitor was Francis Blake.

[5] Her father was Alfred Henry Pechell, B.A., a Barrister at Law whose father owned Guilderoy and the Heights. Her birth certificate states her birthplace was the Tower House. Her father was listed at the Upper Tower in Kelly's 1855 Directory.

[6] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, May 20, 1857 and 1861 census.

[7] Kelly, E.R. M.A. (ed.) (1864) "The Post Office Directory of the Counties of Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutlandshire", Kelly and Co., London - see onsite transcript

[8] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire" pub. London, (1908) - see onsite transcript

[9] Peter Aspey lived at the Heights of Abraham as a boy and has written about his life there. See Living at the Heights.

[10] From Ray Ash.

[11] The Sprinthalls were shown living at the Upper Tower in the 1891 census | the 1901 census. They were first there in 1882 when Samuel Sprinthall advertised "the Heights of Abraham Pleasure Grounds, the Rutland Cavern and the Victoria Prospect Tower" ("Derbyshire Courier", 15 July 1882 - one of several that year).