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Matlock Bath: View from the Heights of Jacob - the top of Jacob's Ladder or Steps
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Jacob's Ladder, Nuttall Park, LAN

The Royal Pavilion - the Palais Royal

Fluor Spar Cavern,
Heights of Jacob

"A step for every day of the year", or so it has been said. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration! Jacob's Ladder is a shortcut through the woods from Matlock Bath's Temple Walk to Upperwood for those with strong legs and the pathway and steps used to be used regularly by the residents of Upperwood. The route it takes goes up the hillside on the boundary of what today is Gulliver's Kingdom but was formerly that of Matlock Bath's Old or Royal Pavilion.

This photograph shows the junction with Upperwood Road about 1908. The steps are steep, going down the hillside in a series of zig-zags.

In 1835 Sir George Head, who was visiting the Fluor Spar Cavern, noted that "the ascent from the town is remarkably steep, the path leading through a thickly planted jungle"[1]. Although he was describing the route to the Romantic Rocks part of the way up the hillside, William Adam wrote a few years later that "Ten minutes walk from the Old Bath Terrace" will take you to the Rocks "through a wood as wild in its character as it is abundant in wild plants". He added that it was "by far the easiest and most direct course to the top of Masson, on ascending the rude steps above the Fluor Mine"[2]. These steps would also have directly connected to the properties known as Stonnis or Stonnis Wood[3].

Whilst the name Jacob is associated with the area today, it is not an ancient name and did not come into being until a gentleman called Jacob Raynes took over the Fluor Spar cavern around 1870. Afterwards several places became known as Jacob's and the name stuck. In 1889 a journalist for the Derbyshire Times wrote that "My good journalistic friend "The Man on the Peak" recently likened a flight of steps leading into the Matlock Valley to Jacob's Ladder[4].

These steps were almost a continuation of Old Bath Hill (Fishpond Hill today) and when the owners of the Fishpond Hotel, who owned the Hill, took the Local Board to task in the 1880s and 1890s there was some worry that easy access via the hill would be lost.
See: Matlock Bath from the Heights of Abraham, 1892.

In 1908 there was a landslip at the Temple Walk stone quarries, close to the steps[5]. A later report in 1909 described what happened: "Some years ago quarrying began just above Temple walk but fissures opened in the rock and there were deep holes in the woodland above. The quarry owner stopped operations following an investigation by the local authority. The ascent to the Heights of Jacob, which rise beyond the quarry, is facilitated by short flights of stone steps set at intervals in the rough and winding path. In two or three cases a subsidence has centred under these steps, which now offer but the craziest support". So the steps were considered dangerous and the Council had to close them. There were, of course, differences of opinion about the cause with some saying the holes and fissures in the woodland had more to do with earlier lead mines[6].

Various people have their own opinion regarding the total number of steps on the climb over the years. The woman who wrote on this card was on a Sunday School outing on Saturday June 27th 1908 and wrote "Climbed these steps to Heights of Jacob 247 steps".

Finally, in 1949 a reader wrote to the editor of the Derby paper to draw attention to a slight discrepancy in something they had published in a quiz, i.e. that the Heights of Abraham were in Matlock Bath, not Matlock. He or she commented further on what they regarded as another, somewhat inaccurate, assertion: that "another part of the slope [of the Heights of Abraham] labours under the name of the Heights of Jacob". The correspondent reminded the paper's editor that the Heights of Jacob start at Temple Walk, just above the Fish Pond, and go up almost vertically to the Upperwood District of Matlock Bath. There are nearly 300 steps to negotiate. They are also known locally as Jacob's Ladder. "This used to be a favourite climb for visitors to Matlock Bath, but unfortunately it has become rather neglected and the entrance from the Temple Walk end is not easily found by a stranger. It is a pity that it is not better known, as some beautiful views of Matlock Bath can be seen from the steps"[7].

"View From Heights of Jacob. Matlock Bath". Photograph by TMH (Thomas Meredith Henshall). The card was not posted but was sent to Eva from Arthur with Best Love. xx. "Great meeting Sunday School ..."
Image © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Information 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] Head, Sir George (1836) "A Home Tour Through the Manufacturing Districts of England, in the Summer of 1835". London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street.

[2] Adam, W. (1838, 1840, 1845 edtns) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row ...

[3] Properties at Stonnis Wood in Matlock Bath can be found in the 1851 census. They are mentioned in Holmes Hand Book, 1866 (look in the Romantic Rocks, or Dungeon Tors section). William Smedley also gave his address at Stonnis in Kelly's 1876 Directory.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 7 September 1889. Derby Day By Day. By Our Constant Observer.

[5] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 26 June 1908. Landslip at Matlock Bath.
"There was remarkable occurrence late on Wednesday night the Temple Walk stone quarries, Matlock Bath, owned and worked Mr. Shaw. The residents in the South Parade were startled a rumbling sound, and it was found that about 1,000 tons of stone had slipped and fallen towards Temple Walk. One of the blocks was said to weigh 800 tons".

[6] "Leominster News and North West Herefordshire & Radnorshire Advertiser", 31 December 1909.

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 14 March 1949. Heights of Jacob. Letters to the Editor.