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Matlock Bath: Aviaries & Monkey House, Lovers' Walks
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Lovers' Walks, brief history

Wooded Walk

Riverside Path


Monkeys are on this multiview card

The aviaries and monkey houses can be seen in this photo of a Matlock Bath shopkeeper

Glove Factory

One of Matlock Bath's lesser known former attractions were the Aviaries and Monkey House that were to be found on Lovers' Walks. They had been introduced in 1913 with ten monkeys gifted by Mr. Hodgkinson, Mr. Pierson and other ratepayers[1]. Mr. Key added to the aviary at the same time. The photograph above shows us where they used to be as, peeping out through the trees, the Lower Tower and the properties on part of Waterloo Road can be seen. The river is on the left. They were built on the section where the Lovers' Walks are slightly wider; the area is now a children's playground. There is a longish flat raised area at the bottom of the hillside (later a stage) and some of the buildings were there; these are the wooden buildings on the right of the photograph. The same spot was used to display some of the set pieces for the Venetian Fête in the 1950s.

Visitors crossing Jubilee Bridge used to have to pay a fee to access the Lovers' Walks. They could turn left and listen to the band playing in the band kiosk or turn right and see the animals and birds. Guide books written after World War One tell us that "plants and flowers grace this delightful region in profusion, and a recent addition is a small aviary[2]".

Derbyshire Courier, 24 October 1914

Apparently there is no limits to the ramifications of local authorities. For example, a report to hand of the Matlock Bath Urban Council meeting on Wednesday solemnly states that "a resolution was passed to pay Mr. S. Robinson five shillings compensation for the loss of his spectacles, which had been destroyed by one of the Council's monkeys." The next step , one supposes, should be a resolution disapproving the conduct of the monkey.

The Council seem to have both bought and sold monkeys. In 1925 they purchased a number of Rhesus monkeys for the Matlock Bath pleasure grounds at a cost of 25s. each[3]. A year later they decided to dispose of the twelve monkeys on the Lovers' Walks to Messrs. Chapman at £1 2s 6d each[4]. The monkey cages were empty in June 1928 but Mr. Flint, the manager, had informed the Council that a shipload was due into the country, which included a collection for Matlock Bath[5]. In the autumn of that year pleasure grounds underwent their customary stripping and cleaning up. "All the seats on the Lover's Walks and promenade have been stored, boats have been taken off the river and cleaned; twelve monkeys have been sold for 35s. each, and the lemur, opossum and macaws have been given winter quarters in the back rooms of the glove factory"[6].

The following year the Pleasure Grounds Committee reported that they had bought fifteen monkeys, costing £2 5s., and added that attraction has been engaged for the Lovers' Walk for the Whitsun holiday at cost of £62[7]. Occasionally, one of the monkeys escaped from the Lovers' Walks Menagerie; in 1927, for example, a little Racusus [sic, Rhesus] monkey broke free and was later seen first at Lea Bridge and then in an outhouse at Wirksworth[8]. It is not known if it was recaptured.

Derbyshire Times, 31 March 1939

Sir, - May I, as a resident of nearly forty years, and one who greatly appreciates the beauty of the Matlocks, suggest that caged monkeys are superfluous as "attractions." Our desirable visitors are "not amused" by the spectacle of animals and birds kept in gloomy and unsuitable dens. John Galsworthy, the novelist and playwright, spoke of the Matlock gorge as "the finest in England". Let us elect councillors who will guard that beauty in a very sacred trust. - Yours, etc.,
A Townswoman

The Council were still purchasing monkeys in 1940, when the Surveyor said that many people who paid for admission enjoyed seeing them[9]. At the same time that they agreed to purchase more, the Council were also intending to ask for the return of the birds that had been evacuated to the houses of local residents[9]. Both the monkeys and the fairly substantial buildings they had been kept in disappeared during the Second World War. One possible explanation is that the food required to feed the wildlife became unavailable. It would have also been difficult to find people in the village to look after them.

At the beginning of the summer of 1930 the Council bought two black bears[10], a male named Adam and a female called Eve, for Matlock Bath's menagerie. They cost for £50 and were presumably kept in a cage in the same section of the Lovers' Walks as the monkeys. However, they were quite quickly sold on to Mr. G. S. Mottershead of Crewe, who was starting a zoo at Chester. He arrived in Matlock Bath on 1st December, planning to take the animals to Chester in a cage on a dray that he had driven to the village[11]. The doors of the two animal cages were placed together, but in spite of all the efforts of Mr. Mottershead, Mr. Flint (the pleasure grounds manager) and others, the bears would not move. The following day the female bear was enticed into the travelling cage. People spent some time attempting to get the male bear to move - even using what was described as a dense smoking out - but without success. Finally, after three days' effort to move him, the male bear was finally enticed into the cage that was to take him to his new home. According to contemporary reports he was given some doped honey which did did the trick, and "he backed into the cage, drunkenly facing his foe to the last". All it had taken to get Eve into the cage was an apple![12] Matlock Urban District Council did not buy any more bears.

1. "Aviaries & Monkey House, Matlock Bath".  } Both postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
2. "The Aviarie, Matlock Bath".      }
The handwritten caption on the second image indicates it was taken by Thomas Meredith Henshall, although his initials are not on the card.
Images scanned for this website and information researched and by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] "Derbyshire Times" 11 June 1913. The various gifts were acknowledged at a Local Council meeting. "Nottingham Evening Post", 29 August 1913, which reported that an African monkey had escaped into the surrounding woodland. Also "Belper News", 24 July 1914. The Council discussing the departure of the Matlock Bath Surveyor, Mr. Carter. "It was due to his inventive genius an aviary and monkey house had been established. had hoped that Mr Carter would have settled down amongst them, and become a family member of Matlock Bath - (laughter) - his mission seemed be to climb higher the ladder".

[2] Ward Lock & Co's "Matlock, Dovedale, Bakewell and South Derbyshire", Illustrated Guide Books of England and Wales (both 1919 and 1926-7).

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 June 1925.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 21 Sept 1926.

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 14 June 1928. Where Monkeys Go. The empty monkey cages in Matlock's menagerie on Lovers' Walk, are said to be due to the increasing demand for monkeys for gland operations in France. Mr. Flint, the manager, said yesterday that he had been informed that 70 monkeys were being sent from England to France ...

[6] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 24 November 1928. The animals would not have winter quarters at the Glove Factory for long: see Matlock Bath's Glove Factory (scroll down to read about the fire there).

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 May 1929.

[8] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 June 1927.

[9] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 4 March 1940. Gas Masks for Monkeys. The Council had purchased a number of monkeys, and were joking about who would put the masks on the monkeys in the event of a gas attack. A more serious report was published in the "Derbyshire Times", 8 March 1940. Purchasing monkeys may seem to be an odd thing to do in wartime, but Matlock and Matlock Bath continued to be visited by tourists and they would have needed something to do.

[10] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 21 June 1930. As well as the bears, they bought a peacock and paid £5 for pair of Chukka (presumably chukar) partridges.

[11] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 December 1930.

[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 5 December 1930. End of Matlock Bath comedy.