Images Index> Matlock Bath, 20th and 21stC Images> This page
Photographs of Matlock Bath Today (4)
Matlock Bath : Twenty First Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
The Colour Works below High Tor

1. Matlock Dale, the River Derwent and the High Tor Colour Works, September 2008.
The Butterley Company's footbridge to the former Via Gellia Colour Company's deserted buildings spans the river[1].

Eric Hare, the company's Technical Director in the 1970s, was once asked why everywhere was red or a reddish brown. He replied that if the red, yellow, brown and black they used were mixed together in equal proportions, the predominant colour would be red. The raw materials used at the colour works were iron oxide, iron hydroxide and compounds of manganese. These were originally of natural origin, but more recently some were synthetically made. Very little was available locally by this time, with just odd pockets to be found[2].

2. The second photograph of the former colour works buildings, from a slightly different angle, September 2008.

There is a grassed area on the left hand side of this picture. This was where Tordale Soft Drinks Ltd., begun by the Whittaker family and owned by them for about half the time the company was trading, had their bottling plant. Where the trees are, just beyond the grass, was where a major landslip occurred in January 1966. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. It destroyed two of the Hazel Bank homes and resulted in four further properties being demolished[3], two at Hazel Bank and also Tor Cottages. The Hazel Bank Houses had been built in a former small quarry in the 1890s.
This picture also provides a good view of the slalom course, enjoyed by canoeists, in the river Derwent.
There is more about the landslip on both Tor Hill House, Dale Road, Matlock Bath, 1915 (formerly Tor House) and Matlock Bath: High Tor, Switzerland View.

The tunnel entrance

3. The entrance to the High Tor tunnel, taken from one of the gondolas going up to the Heights of Abraham, September 2008.
The tunnel passed close to the High Tor Grotto and nineteenth century visitors to the attraction were able to hear the trains[4].

One of the major obstacles for the engineers when the railway was extended northwards from Ambergate was the section between Willersley and Matlock as the route only briefly emerges from tunnels. In 1847 George Stephenson announced that the main tunnel at Matlock was "the key to the district"[5]. It required the skills, knowledge and experience of local miners to carry out the project.

There appears to have been only one fatality whilst the High Tor tunnel was being constructed, but there were also some extremely narrow escapes. In August 1847, for example, Barnard Barton and Luke Hall were both caught out when they thought a touch paper they had lit had failed to ignite. As they went to check, there was a large blast. Just two days later Peter Smedley had to jump over a burning fuse that he didn't know had been ignited[6]. In early April the following year a premature explosion caused the instantaneous death of Benjamin Wood of Bonsall. James Kirk, also from Bonsall, was severely injured. Wood was the son of George and Sarah Wood; he was buried at Bonsall on 8 Apr 1848; he was 24 years old. The fatality was recorded by the coroner as "accidental death" but newspaper reports unfortunately indicate that both the injury and death may have been due to carelessness by the individuals concerned.[7]

It is sad that what had been a hive of industry in the Dale seems to be neglected by its current owners today (2024). The site is overgrown and, despite attempting to prevent intruders, the buildings have been vandalised (windows broken) and the walls covered in pictorial graffiti.

View more about the station by clicking on the images below:


19C stereoview1

19C stereoview2


Tunnel, 19C
About 1906



Station House
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

High Tor
and the Colour Works

The Dale from Long Tor

Whittaker's Bottling Plant, Dale Road

Mrs. Mary Whittaker, Aërated Water Manufacturer

Midland Railway Distances

The Weir and the High Tor Tunnel

Images supplied by and copyright © Andy Andrews.
Information written, researched, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links go to transcripts or information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Also see High Tor and the Colour Works for more on both the works and earlier bridges crossing the Derwent at this point. Croston's "On Foot Through the Peak", 1868 mentions the colour works - the "barytes mill".

[2] The spoken words of Eric Hare, from the "Kit at Large" programmes produced by Radio Derby in the 1970s.

[3] There is a photographic record of this in Julie Bunting's "Matlock and Matlock Bath", (2002) Tempus Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7524-2455-6

[4] Bemroses' Guide to Matlock, about 1869 mentions the tunnel passing close to the Grotto and there is a vignette engraving of the tunnel at that time. It is also mentioned in Croston's "On Foot Through the Peak" of 1868 and Bradbury's "All About Derbyshire".

[5] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, September 1, 1847. Geo. Stephenson's report to the shareholders of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway Company. He also said that "this part of the line expected to open in the spring of 1849".

[6] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, August 18, 1847.

[7] "Derbyshire Courier", 8 April 1848.