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Road Widening at Matlock Bath, 1967
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Preparatory work. Digging out the river bed and putting in the piles
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Jubilee Bridge

Jubilee Bridge, 1910

The Parade

River Derwent & the Devonshire Hotel, 1890

View from River Derwent

The one section of road that could not be widened

Matlock Bath residents saw their village change dramatically during 1967 and 1968 when the A6 trunk road passing through the village was widened in the hope of alleviating the traffic problems that were being experienced. This series of five photographs of work in progress have been provided for this website by Ken Smith and show how the road was re-aligned close to the Jubilee Bridge. It involved pushing back the Derwent and building the road over part of the river's original course.

This major engineering undertaking meant that several old buildings along the length of the river, from the Jubilee Bridge down to the Cromford boundary, were demolished[1]. The work was done in sections and was not completed until the mid 1970s. The Devonshire Cafe (Devonshire Hotel) and the Petrifying Well, which had aroused the curiosity of tourists for many many years, disappeared under the bulldozers as well as numerous other buildings[2]. More historic buildings disappeared in a decade than would ever have been allowed today, when conservation and preservation are more of a priority than it was in the sixties.

The main road had always been far too narrow for what had become such a major thoroughfare, something often commented on by Matlock's Councillors, but it was not intended to be that when it was first opened up. There simply wasn't the space along the length of the valley.

Probably the worst bottleneck had been where the Devonshire Cafe and some small shops stood. If you look at the photograph immediately below, these buildings were approximately where the line of piles ends - running from almost opposite Hodgkinson's Hotel to Rose Cottage. Large lorries had passed within inches of their windows and there was a space just twelve inches when the eight feet wide buses had to negotiate past each other[3]. The North Western buses were far too wide for the road they had to be driven along.

The pretty wooden kiosk and ornate Edwardian turnstile at the end of the Jubilee Bridge, shown above and in the third photograph of this group, was another casualty and much of the Promenade was covered with tarmac. During the tourist season there had been a charge to cross the bridge and stroll along the Lovers' Walks and the kiosk and turnstile had been beside the bridge since shortly before 1910[4]. Julie Bunting's book shows a photograph, dated 1905, of the kiosk and turnstile at the Promenade's entrance[5].

Shot showing the depth below the road level that had to be dug out

More piles being lifted onto the site

A sheet steel cofferdam extending for 150 yards was piled along the riverbank so that the workmen could dig out the footings for the concrete retaining wall. They excavated 15 feet below the normal river level and removed large quantities of rock and river silt and gravel.

In the 4th photograph, below, the original stone retaining wall can be seen. The same picture shows the old Fountain Baths (third from the left with the green doors, next to the whitened windows of the dress shop that had been run by Miss Barnes). The final photograph is a close up view of the piles that were being driven into the river bed.

The end result is an uninterrupted view of the River Derwent for part of its length, a much wider road and a wide pavement connecting North Parade with South Parade and providing a long and pleasant walkway next to one of Derbyshire's largest rivers.

The A6 was detrunked in 2002. This came into force on 17th May 2002 and included the section of road that passed through Matlock and Matlock Bath[6].

The river, the piles and the old retaining wall

Colourful piles

About 1900

Before 1902

About 1904-05

Before 1905

Before 1904

About 1905

About 1915


Tufa fountain
War memorial

Band stand

Photographs in the collection of, kindly provided by and © Ken Smith.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only

References (coloured links are to transcripts elsewhere on this website):

[1] See Michael Fay's article "The End of a Long and Winding Road". Scroll down to the section called "Difficult civil engineering work" as there are several photographs showing the work done at Scarthin Rock. The road widening was done in stages as the buildings opposite Masson Mill were not compulsorily purchased until 1971.

[2] "Belper News", 12 August 1955. After 25 Years Road is Still 17 Feet Wide. Matlock Concern Over A-6 Bottle-Neck.

[3] See The Rutland Arms & Fairview Terrace, The Rutland Arms & Masson Mill, Derby Road, Dyson & Clough's Garage, 1930s and Derby Road, Woodland House. The second image down on Simpson's Letter Card shows Smith's petrifying well and a cafe (formerly Buxton's Royal Museum) that also went under the bulldozer. The historic old buildings at the bottom of the Wapping were also demolished as was Masson Terrace, opposite Masson Mill, and the Glenorchy Chapel and Manse.

[4] Barton, David A. "Around Matlock in Old Photographs", (1998) part of a series called "Britain in Old Photographs", Budding Books, ISBN 1-84015-076-9

[5] Bunting, Julie (2002) "Matlock and Matlock Bath", Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2QG ISBN 0-7524-2455-6.

[6] 2002 No.1168. Highways, England. The A6 Trunk Road (Derby to Stockport (detrunking) Order 2002. © Crown copyright 2002. Printed and published in the UK by The Stationery Office Limited under the authority and superintendence of Carol Tullo, Controller of her Majesty's Stationery Office and Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament.