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Matlock Bath: Charlotte Farnsworth, Poetess (1889-1971)
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Lottie Farnsworth outside her booth
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Charlotte Eliza Farnsworth and Mr. Gregory outside the rustic wooden kiosk on the landing stage entrance behind the Grand Pavilion. The kiosk was one of several that used to be at key points in Matlock Bath and were used as shelters for the people collecting the fees, in this instance for the hire of rowing boats or for a trip across the river by ferry. Some of the earlier kiosks had thatched rooves but this one had wooden shingles, possibly a replacement for the thatch.

Charlotte Farnsworth was known as "Lottie" and was born in Bonsall on 8 Apr 1889[1]; she was the daughter of Arthur, a stonemason, and his wife Charlotte (nee Wormleighton). In 1911 she was working as a mill hand as a trimmer in a hosiery works and living in Bonsall with her parents and brother[2]. Charlotte's father became clerk of works for the council and her brother, Arthur Bertrand, served in the First World War, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and was wounded in 1916. In 1920 he married Grace Boden, who lived on the Pitchings, and for a time they lived in one of the houses in Rockvale Terrace. Mr. Farnsworth eventually became the headmaster of Middleton school[3].

As a young girl Lottie would visit Matlock Bath. "I remember coming over the fields from Bonsall when I was a girl and watching the crowds streaming down on a bank holiday from the excursion trains"[4]. She must have been writing poems in her mid-twenties as Stuart Flint told the web mistress that she wrote poetry about the men who lived at Cromford, Bonsall, Matlock Bath, and Scarthin who fell in the First World War.

Sepia image of the landing stage, with the kiosk, behind the Grand Pavilion.
No date but probably late 1940s.
There are four people on the postcard. As they are difficult to see they have been enlarged below.

Lottie (walking away),
someone leaning on the
turnstile and Mr. Gregory
Walter Bird

By 1939 Lottie was employed by the Council as a Cashier for the Grand Pavilion's Cinema and the Boat Ticket Office. At that time she was living in part of "Woodlands" on Temple Walk[1]; she also lived with Mrs Lusby above what later became Harry Gill's shop.

She would fill the tedium and lonely hours on days when customers didn't pass through her riverside turnstile behind the Pavilion by writing poetry. Her inspiration was her beloved Matlock Bath. One of her more famous poems, written in 1935, was about the Venetian Fete as it used to be called, though is now known as the Venetian Nights. She describes the magic of the Venetian Fête[5] when it was held on the Promenade and the band played in the band-stand.


The Venetian Fete

If you cannot go to Venice
To view the wondrous sights,
Just come along to Matlock Bath
And see how fairy lights
Are reflected in the Derwent,
As they shine upon the trees !
Come to the Grand Venetian Fete,
Which has never failed to please !

The wood is like a spangled gown
The bridge, a rainbow span-
The bandstand like a jewell'd crown,-
Come, see them, if you can !
The fireworks are a grand display
And the music is a treat.
Competing boats, in bright array,
Make a pageant hard to beat.

Be sure you come to Matlock Bath,
To see this charming Fete !
Woods may be bright with Autumn tints,
So do not come too late
To climb the Heights, or see the Caves
And the Petrifying rills !
Thousands who come will come again,
Lured by beauty, lights, and thrills.

Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.

(Copyright) (1935)

It is unclear quite how many poems she published in total but in 1937 Messrs. A. H. Stockwell, Ltd. published a selection of "Derbyshire Ditties"[6]. The following year another selection, this time of of eighteen poems, was published by the same publisher in a booklet called "Earthen Vessels". The title is from one of the poems. Other poems, said to be of topical events, were called "Jerusalem" and "Whither?" A review in a Derby newspaper commented that although Miss Farnsworth has a full-time job she has been writing songs and poems for several years, and she had had several songs published in addition to the poems[7].

Lottie wasn't the only female poet to write about Matlock Bath.
Matlock & Matlock Bath: Inspiration of Poets

Lottie Farnsworth died at Nottingham in 1971, aged 82. In later life she was asked by a local paper, presumably the "Matlock Mercury", to write about Matlock Bath in bygone years. Her article, "Golden Years in Matlock Bath" (see below), was probably written not long before her death as she refers to Mods and Rockers, youth sub-cultures that came into being in the early to mid 1960s[4].


Looking back over the last sixty years, I remember many interesting things that happened in Matlock Bath.
I remember coming over the fields from Bonsall when I was a girl and watching the crowds streaming down from the station on a Bank Holiday from the excursion trains.
I remember the crowded ferry boat and the merry crews on the river in the rowing boats and especially I remember the Good Friday when four young people were drowned in the flooded river at the weir.
Matlock Bath was a popular place, in those days with the Royal Hotel in full swing; with a wonderful Italian Band playing out on the terrace each evening and dances and concerts in the lovely Old Pavilion.
Then the new Grand Pavilion opened and I remember many of the plays, concerts and pictures we had there.


We ran for nearly two years on Stoll's wonderful British productions, featuring all the best books and actors,[8] also many popular musical comedies, such as "The Quaker Girl", "Tons of Money", "Paddy the next best thing".
Matlock Bath was really 'with it' in those days and I remember meeting many well-known artistes at the Pavilion, also among the pierrot troupes who had a pitch behind the Pavilion and were greatly appreciated on a wet day, as they had a shelter for the crowds.
I remember too, the days of the first World War when the Canadian officers were billeted in the Royal Hotel and old Pavilion, as a Convalescent Hospital.
I think they had nearly 200 permanent staff to wait on them. These men got to know the local people well and even fell in love and married some of the local girls and took them back to Canada.
I remember the fire at the Royal Hotel, also the one that destroyed the engine room at the Pavilion and put an end to the silent pictures there, for the talkies came in before we could get started again.
In spite of all the sorrow and trouble of War, there are many pleasant incidents to remember and there were no Mods and Rockers in those days.
Matlock Bath is a beautiful place and thousands of people know it and love it and I hope it will be even more popular in future years.
My thanks go to those who have tried to make it and keep it a charming holiday resort - the 'Switzerland of England'.

Some of the events and places mentioned by Lottie in "Golden Years in Matlock Bath"
and in her "Venetian Fete" poem.

Boating on the
River includes
the accident

The Ferry,
the first of
several pages

Boats for hire

Royal Hotel
the first of
several pages

Grand Pavilion
the first of
several pages

Royal Pavilion
(Palais Royal)

Lovers' Walks
and the
Band Stand

Venetian Fete

Decorated boats

Photograph and poem in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith, scanned for this website by Ann Andrews.
"Matlock Bath, The Boat Landings". Published by Photochrom of Tunbridge Wells, 'Publishers to the World' No. V4265. © Ray Ash collection.
Information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Date of birth from the 1939 Register, available on FindMyPast and confirmed in ONS BMD records.

[2] From the 1911 census, available on FindMyPast.

[3] Recollections of the late Mr. Frank Clay, from private papers and notes owned by Mrs. Doreen Buxton, some of which were written in 1992 and are still within copyright.

[4] Newspaper article written by Lottie, date unknown but in Ken Smith's collection. If, as suggested above, it was written in the 1960s it was probably republished in the same newspaper in the 1990s.

[5] There is more about the Fête. See Matlock Bath: Illuminations and Venetian Fête in the 1950s and Matlock Bath: Venetian Fete (now Venetian Nights), decorated boats

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 9 July 1937. Reviews. Although it does not say how many poems were included the price of the publication was 6d. The publisher, Arthur Stockwell, was based at 29 Ludgate Hill in London.

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 23 December 1938. Derby and Joan. Matlock Bath Poetess and Song-Writer. "I now have news of another local authoress, Miss Charlotte E. Farnsworth".

[8] Charlotte Farnsworth was referring to silent pictures. Stoll's films included The Temple of Dusk. The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu ("Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 22 September 1923) and Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskerville's" .