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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Derbyshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Miller's Dale

Miller's Dale is a small village on the banks of the River Wye in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The selection of photos and the postcards on this page date from approximately 1905 to around 1940. Interestingly, many of the postcards that have been published over the years show the pretty hamlet and the river but avoid the railway and the viaducts that had such a profound effect on this settlement.

The extension to the Midland Railway, connecting Rowsley with Buxton, was begun in 1860 and the works included constructing a viaduct in Miller's Dale to cross over the river and the turnpike road. It was to have of four arches of 30 feet span, and be 73 feet high. The line would pass through two tunnels, one of 407 and the other of 452 yards in length, and see daylight again in Monsal Dale[1].

By April 1863 the line was almost completed as the tunnels were finished and one line of permanent rails had been laid. There were two trial trips, with an engine and several open carriages, but they seem to have been more of a "jolly" than to test the line. Mr. Matthews, the resident contractor, had invited some of Buxton's foremost inhabitants, as well as some visitors, to fill one of the carriages of the first train to leave Buxton for Hassop. Its engine and carriages were decorated with banners, flowers and mottoes[2].

The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald reported that over the 13 mile length of the new track "some 1,500,000 cubic yards of rock, mostly limestone, was excavated. There was 68,300 cubic yards of masonry in the bridges etc., 45,200 cu ft of Ashlar (hewn stone), 644 tons of wrought iron, 70 tons of cast iron, 18,300 cu ft of timber". Altogether 180 tons of gunpowder was used to blast through the limestone[2].

The River Wye at Miller's Dale

When the line was formally opened in June a special train was put on. It stopped at Miller's Dale for a few minutes to give some of the passengers "the opportunity of witnessing a marvellous example of scientific skill at a point where the line stretches over road and river on a viaduct of three arches each with 95 feet span and three masonry arches of 30 feet span"[3].

Unfortunately for both Buxton and this small hamlet, when the line finally reached Manchester in 1867, Miller's Dale became a junction where passengers for the rapidly expanding town of Buxton had to change onto a branch line away from the main route. The traffic on the main line through Miller's Dale became very heavy and after 40 years of use the viaduct, described as "one of the prettiest on the whole of the Midland system", needed strengthening and generally overhauling[4].

Miller's Dale. The station buildings are at the right hand end of the viaduct.

The solution was to erect a second viaduct parallel to the first. The contractors were Messrs Whittaker Bros of Leeds[4] and work began in February 1903. "A double set of rails will be laid so that the express passenger service will not be hindered as now by goods traffic"[5]. It was known from the outset that these "improvements" would be expensive, as the work was to cost £1m[5]. Progress was not helped when, in the October, empty waggons were being pushed up a steep incline by a locomotive and the engine's wheels failed to "bite" on the steepest section because of the greasy state of the metals. The weight of the trucks forced the engine downhill. At some point the driver, a man named Shard, shut off the steam, applied brake power and jumped off his engine. A stone fence was then demolished, a rock was struck, the engine's right wheels sank up to the axles and the first of the waggons mounted the engine[6]. Only a few days earlier skulls of a Celtic ox, with the horns intact, and a fine large red deer had been found by the excavators[7].

The new flat girder viaduct, on two massive piers of Darley Dale stone, was made by the Butterley Company and the project was completed in August 1905. New platforms were also put in at the station, bringing the total to five. The older viaduct was then closed for repairs, but when it was re-opened it was to take slow traffic whereas the newly built loop was for fast[4].

Miller's Dale. The cows are enjoying the water.

The historian Charles Cox might have despaired of "the disfigurements of Miller's Dale station and its junction, and the extensive quarryings of limestone companies" in 1915, but he nevertheless appreciated "the rougher, unspoilt aspect of Miller's Dale" itself, "where crags of limestone rise from the water's edge, well garnished with luxuriant ivy, and where the waters of the Wye brawl through the stones in striking contrast to the stillness of the water in Miller's Dale"[8].

The two viaducts are still in place today, with the original construction now part of the Monsal trail. It is now a 12½ mile footpath and cycle way.

Miller's Dale

A very good and rare vintage postcard of the Miller's Dale viaduct can be seen on Wishful Thinking's web site.
Miller's Dale is mentioned in Kelly's 1891 Directory, Tideswell and Kelly's 1891 Directory, Wormhill elsewhere on this site.

1. "Miller's Dale, near Buxton". Published by The National Series (Printed in Britain). Posted 13 Jan 1907 in Colchester. Message nothing to do with the picture, but asking ...What did you think of the snow? ...
2. "Millers Dale". Published by Photochrom Co. Ltd. Copyright, Graphic Studios, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, No.85449. © Emily Gaughan collection.
3. "The River Wye at Miller's Dale", from Mee[9].
4. "Miller's Dale, Buxton". Devonshire Library Series, Buxton. Unused.
5. "Millers Dale". Rex Series, No.804. Posted 25 Sep 1931. © Susan Tomlinson collection.
6. "Buxton, Miller's Dale". Published by Celesque Series, Photochrom Co Ltd, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, No. B:7930. © Susan Tomlinson collection.
7. "Miller's Dale", from a photograph by Messrs. J. Valentine & Sons, Ltd.[8]
All images from postcards and books, apart from nos. 2 and 5, are in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "The Derby Mercury", 17 October 1860.

[2] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 25 April 1863.

[3] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 5 June 1863.

[4] "Derbyshire Courier", 6 August 1905.

[5] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 14 February 1903.

[6] "Derbyshire Courier", 24 October 1903.

[7] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 8 October 1903.

[8] Cox, John Charles, (1915, 2nd edition, revised), "Derbyshire" - Illustrated by J. Charles Wall, Methuen & Co., London, p.197. Cox was then Rector of Holdenby, Northampton.

[9] Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1937) "Derbyshire: The Peak Country", The King's England Series, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.

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