Updated 1 Jun 2001

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Here are Local Histories and Descriptions from some old Sources, scanned and e-mailed by Sonia Addis-Smith of Bedford, thanks a lot Sonia for doing the hard work

MENU: Matlock.. Matlock Bath..


From: The Beauties of England and Wales,
or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County, embellished with engravings",
by John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley,
Vol III, published in 1802,
Cumberland, Isle of Man, and Derbyshire, pp.504-512:
Contributed by Sonia Addis-Smith of Bedford

The unparalleled grandeur of the scenery round MATLOCK, renders every attempt to delineate its varied characteristics by words, at least, hopeless, if not absolutely impossible. The bold and romantic steeps, skirted by a gorgeous covering of wood, and rising from the margin of the Derwent, whose waters sometimes glide majestically along, and sometimes flow in a rapid stream over ledges and broken masses of stone; the frequent changes of scene, occasioned by the winding of the Dale, which at every step varies the prospect, by introducing new objects; the huge rocks, in some places bare of vegetation, in others covered with luxuriant foliage, here, piled upon each other in immense masses, there, displaying their enormous fronts in one unbroken perpendicular mass; and the sublimity, and picturesque beauty, exhibited by the manifold combinations of the interesting forms congregated near this enchanting spot, can never be adequately depicted by the powers of language. The creations of the pencil, alone, are commensurate to the excitation in the mind, of correspondent images. (Back to the MENU)

The general name, MATLOCK, it must be observed, includes both the village of MATLOCK, and MATLOCK BATH. The former is as ancient as the Conquest, and is chiefly situated on the eastern banks of the river; the latter is considerably more recent in its origin, and stands on the western margin. "At the time of compiling the Domesday Book, MATLOCK appears to have been a hamlet of the manor of Mestesford, (the situation of which is now unknown) which was part of the demesnes of the Crown. It afterwards became a part of the estate of William de FERRERS, Earl of Derby, who had a charter of free-warren for his demesne lands here. On the attainder of his son, Robert de FERRERS, for espousing the cause of Simon de MONTFORD, Earl of Leicester, MATLOCK then became a manor, reverted to the Crown; and was granted, in the seventh of Edward the First [1278/9], to Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, and continued a part of the possessions of the earldom and Duchy of Lancaster, till the fourth of Charles the First [1628/9], when it was granted by that King, along with a great number of other manors and estates, to Edward DITCHFIELD and others, in trust for the Mayor and citizens of London. In the year following, it was sold by DITCHFIELD, and the other trustees, to the copyholders of the manor of MATLOCK, and is now divided into several small shares" (reference: Description of MATLOCK BATH, by George Lipscomb, p.37). According to the returns made under the late Act, this parish contains 492 houses, and 2,354 inhabitants. (Back to the MENU)

MATLOCK village is inhabited chiefly by persons employed in the neighbouring lead mines, and in the manufacture of cotton. The houses are principally of stone; and at the entrance of the village is a neat stone bridge; at some distance from which, on the verge of a most romantic rock, stands the church. This structure contains a nave, side aisles, and a small chancel: the outside is embattled, having an ancient tower with pinnacles, whimsically decorated with figures of grotesque animals for spouts. On the eminence above the church, called Riber Hill, are the remains of what has been supposed a Druidical altar, but which has more resemblance to a cromlech; though it may probably have only been intended as a point for the transmittal of signals. it is called the Hirst Stones, and consists of four rude masses of grit-stone, on of which, apparently the smallest, is placed on the others, and is computed to weigh about two tons. On the upper stone is a circular hole, six inches deep, and nine in diameter, wherein, about fifty years ago, stood a stone pillar. (Back to the MENU)

MATLOCK BATH is nearly a mile and a half from the village; and though few situations can be more beautiful, it was only occupied by some rude cottages, inhabited by miners, till its warm springs began to attract notice, for their medicinal qualities, about the year 1698. At this period the original bath - "was built and paved by the Rev Mr FERN, of MATLOCK, and Mr HEYWARD, of Cromford; and put into the hands of George WRAGG, who, to confirm his title, took a lease from the several lords of the manor, for ninety-nine years (Back to the MENU)
[footnote: we have been informed, but cannot state it with certainty, that the lease granted to Mr G. WRAGG was for the term of 999 years]
paying them a fine of 150 pounds and the yearly rent or acknowledgement of sixpence each. He then built a few small rooms adjoining to the bath, which were but a poor accommodation for strangers. The lease and property of Mr WRAGG were afterwards purchased for about 1,000 pounds by Messrs SMITH and PENNEL, of Nottingham, who erected two large commodious buildings, with stables, and other conveniences; made a coach road along the river side from Cromford, and improved the horse-way from MATLOCK BRIDGE. The whole estate afterwards became the property of Mr PENNEL by purchase; and on his death, about the year 1733, descended to his daughter, and her husband." (Back to the MENU)
(reference: History of Mineral Waters, by Dr Short).
It is now [1802] the joint property of several persons.

The judicious means thus exerted to render the accommodations attractive, and the increasing celebrity of the waters, occasioned a greater influx of visitors; and a second spring having been discovered within the distance of about a quarter of a mile, a new bath was formed, and another lodging-house erected, for the reception of company. At a still later period, a third spring was met with, three or four hundred yards eastward of that which was first noticed; but its temperature being several degrees lower than either of the other springs, it was not brought into use till a level had been made in the hill and carried beyond the point where its waters had intermingled with those of a cold spring. Another bath and lodging-house were then erected; and the latter, by various subsequent alterations, is become one of the most commodious hotels in England. These buildings are of stone, and are respectively named, the 'Old Bath', the 'New Bath', and the 'Hotel'. The number of persons that may at the same time be accommodated at these, and the private lodging-houses, is upwards of 400; and since the taste for contemplating beautiful scenery has been so general, more than this number have been frequently entertained. (Back to the MENU)
(Note: The general terms for accommodation at these houses, are as follows. A bed-chamber is five shillings per week; a private parlour from fourteen shillings to a guinea. Breakfast, one shilling and threepence; dinner at the public table, two shillings; tea, optional, but when taken, one shilling; supper, one shilling and sixpence. Bathing, sixpence each time) (Back to the MENU)

All the warm springs issue from between fifteen and thirty yards above the level of the river: higher or lower, the springs are cold, and only common water. The temperature of the former, as given by Dr PEARSON and others, is 68 degrees of Farenheit's thermometer; but Dr ELLIOT, and Dr PENNINGTON, have stated it at 69 degrees. Dr PERCIVAL observes, in his "Medical and Experimental Essays" that the MATLOCK waters resemble those of Bristol, both in their chemical and medical qualities; but that the MATLOCK water exhibits no proof of a mineral spirit, either by the taste, or the test of syrup of violets. The Doctor adds, "that it is very slightly impregnated with selenite, or earthy salts, which is proved by its comparative levity, it weighing only 'four' grains in a pint heavier than distilled water: and that a grey precipitate, occasioned by adding a solution of silver in 'aqua-fortis', renders it probable that a small portion of sea salt is contained in it." In Dr PENNINGTON's experiments it was found that alkalies made the water cloudy and milky: and that when a gallon was evaporated, thirty-seven or thirty-eight grains of sediment were deposited; of this about twelve or thirteen were saline matter, composed of calcareous nitre, (vitriolated magnesia) and twenty-four or twenty-five grains, calcareous earth. (Back to the MENU)
[A footnote here refers to Darwin's 'ingenious theory in explanation of the natural heat of the Buxton and MATLOCK waters', and then quotes at length from Description of MATLOCK BATH, by George Lipscomb of Birmingham, p.26 et seq, on the subject of the mineral content of the MATLOCK waters, pp.507-09].

The diseases in which the beneficial tendency of the MATLOCK waters is chiefly experienced, are glandular affections, rheumatism, and its consequent debility, obstructions from biliary concretions, gravel, consumption in its first stages, Haemoptoe, and generally, all those complaints that are promoted or increased by a relaxed state of the muscular fibres. The MATLOCK season commences the latter end of April, and continues till November.

The romantic and sublimely picturesque scenery of MATLOCK DALE, is viewed to most advantage when approached from the bridge near its northern extremity; as its beauties then succeed each other in a gradation which renders their grandeur and effect more impressive. The attention is first arrested by a vast rampart of limestone rock, clothed with yew trees, elms, and limes, of singularly beautiful shapes and foliage, from the recesses of which the humble church of MATLOCK displays its pinnacles. Further on the views become more interesting; and the High Tor, rearing its awful brow on the left bank of the river, bursts upon the sight in extreme magnificence. The height of this stupendous rock is upwards of 350 feet. The lower part is covered with small trees and under-wood, of various foliage; but the upper part, for fifty or sixty yards, is one broad mass of naked perpendicular rock. The fragments that have fallen from this eminence form the bed of the river, which flows immediately below; a bed so broken and disjointed, that the foaming waters roar over the obstructing masses with restless rapidity, and considerable noise. After sudden and heavy rains, the impetuosity of the current is greatly increased, and the sublimity of the view proportionably augmented.

Immediately opposite to the High Tor, but rising with a less steep ascent, though to a greater elevation, is Masson Hill, which appears like a pile of immense crags - a Pelion upon Ossa. The summit of this mountain has been named the Heights of Abraham (probably from its similarity to the Heights of Abraham near Quebec, rendered so memorable by the enterprise of the gallant WOLFE, in 1759), and overlooks the country to a vast extent; besides commanding a beautiful bird's-eye view of nearly the whole Dale. From this point even the High Tor loses its sublimity; but this effect is fully compensated by the variety of interesting objects included in the prospect. The height of this eminence is about 250 yards; the path to its summit has been carried in a winding, or rather zigzag direction, and in various places on each side has been planted with rows of firs, which, opening at convenient distances, admits the eye to range over the beautiful scenery beneath, from different points of view.

The romantic cliff which forms the eastern boundary of the Dale, is seen to much advantage from the Old Bath, where the river recedes in a curve from the road, and a little strip of meadow, rendered picturesque by three small buildings in the cottage style, compose the foreground. "This is finely opposed and backed by a line of rock and wood, a mass of trees rising to the right, and shutting out for a short time all other features of the scenery." On crossing the river near this spot, it may be observed, that the natural beauties of the place have received some improvements from art. Three paths are seen, pointing through the wood in different directions: one of them called the Lover's Walk, has been carried along the margin of the river, and is arched by the intermingled branches of the trees which inclose it. The others pursue a winding course to the summit of the rock, which is attained with little difficulty, through the judicious mode observed in forming the slopes, and placing the steps; though the acclivity is exceedingly steep. Variety of luxuriant trees interweave their fantastic roots on each side of the paths, and shelter them with their aspiring branches. The prospects from the brow of the precipice are very fine.

From the BATHS, to the southern entrance of the Dale, near Cromford, the features of the scenery are continually varying. The river sometimes flows in a smooth and gentle stream, reflecting the pendant boughs that weave upon its margin; and sometimes rushes over a ledge of rocks, or the rude fragments that have been torn by storms from the impending cliffs which overhang its waters. Some of these are entirely bare; but others are partially covered with shrubs and under-wood, which take root in the crevices of the rocks, and flourish in considerable vigour, though apparently bereaved of every means of obtaining nourishment.

The western bank of the Derwent, for the whole distance between the turnpike at MATLOCK and the Old Baths, is one vast bed of 'tuphus', or calcareous incrustation, which has been deposited by the waters flowing from the warm springs. This is vulgarly called petrified moss, and appears to have been formed on a morass (reference: Warner's Tour through the Northern Counties), or collection of moss, shrubs, and small trees, which having incrusted, the vegetable matter gradually decomposed, and the stony envelopment assumed the entire figure of the nucleus it had destroyed. The Petrifying Spring, near the New Bath, has furnished innumerable specimens of these kind of transmutations of vegetable, animal, and testaceous substances, that have been exposed to its influence. The collection displayed by the person who keeps the spring, contains several extraordinary exemplars of its powers of action.

In the hill on the west side of the river are two subterranean cavities: one of these, called the Cumberland Cavern, is said to have formerly communicated with the entrance of a lead mine, but displays nothing particularly remarkable: the other is more worthy of inspection, and has been named the SMEDLEY Cavern, from the name of the discoverer, who acts as guide to its recesses, and by those exertions, continued for more than seventeen years, the numerous projections of the rock which impeded the passage were removed. The entrance is near the top of the hill, and keeps tolerably level for about twenty yards, when the way begins to descend, winding irregularly amidst rude and disjointed crags. After thus dipping for some distance, it leads forward chiefly by a gentle ascent, for several hundred yards, through several vaults, or hollows, the largest of which is about fifty feet long, and twenty wide; having a concave roof, gradually sloping to the extremity of the cavern. The bottom consists of immense masses of broken rock, lying confusedly upon each other, and forming a rugged ceiling to another vault below; into which is a descent by a natural flight of rude steps.

Among the natural curiosities of MATLOCK, may be mentioned Lunar Rainbows, which are not unfrequent in this neighbourhood. The colours are sometimes exceedingly well defined, but have a more tranquil tone than those which originate in the solar beams. A very beautiful one was observed on the evening of tenth of September, 1802, between the hours of eight and nine; its effect was singularly pleasing.

Near the upper end of the Dale is a spacious building, erected for the Manufacture of Cotton by the late Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, and now [1802] belonging to his son, who resides in the beautiful demesne of Willersley. This mill is replete with the improved machinery employed in making cotton thread, "whose operations have been so elegantly described by Dr DARWIN, in a work which discovers the art, hitherto unknown, of clothing in poetical language, and decorating with beautiful imagery, the unpoetical operations of mechanical processes, and the dry detail of manufactures" ......

The manor of Cromford was purchased of Sir Peter NIGHTINGALE, by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, in the year 1789. Since this period its population has greatly increased, from the establishment of the cotton trade; and, according to the returns made in the year 1801, the number of inhabitants was then 1115; and that of houses, 208; a few new houses have since been erected. At Cromford is a small, but very neat chapel, of hewn stone, begun by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, but completed since his decease, by his son. It was first opened for divine service on the 4th of June, 1797, and consecrated on the 20th of September in the same year. It contains a handsome marble font, an organ, and two small galleries, at the west end, for the use of the children that attend the Sunday-schools. In this village from one to four hundred tons of calamine (the ore of which is obtained on Mr ARKWRIGHT's estate) are prepared annually by a Birmingham company.** On the left of the road leading up Cromford towards Wirksworth, stands an alms-house, or, as it is generally called, a Bead-House, which was founded in the year 1651, for sick poor widows, by Dame Mary TALBOT, widow of Sir William ARMYNE, Bart, and daughter and coheir of Henry TALBOT, Esq, fourth son of George, Earl of SHREWSBURY. At Scarthin Nick, a perforated rock near Cromford, about 200 Roman coins of copper were found a few years ago; chiefly of the lower empire. Several of them were in good preservation, and are now in the possession of Charles HURT, Jun, of Alderwasley.

** Footnote: At Cromford is a society of rather a singular kind, instituted by the owners of cows, to insure against loss attending that kind of property. The cows belonging to the members are valued twice a year, and each person pays monthly, at the rate of one penny per pound, in proportion to the value of his stock. Whenever the fund of the society amounts to 40 pounds, the payments are discontinued, till it is reduced below that sum; and when any member's cow dies, he is indemnified to the full extent of its worth.


(from Lewis, 1848, Vol 3, pp.276/7)
MATLOCK (St Giles). A parish, in the union of Bakewell, hundred of Wirksworth, southern division of the county of Derby, 17 1/2 miles north-by-west from Derby; containing 3,782 inhabitants [in 1848]. This place, which was formerly called Mesterford or Metesford, is equally celebrated for the beauty of its scenery, and the purity of its medicinal springs, and consists at present of the village and the baths, nearly a mile and a half distant from each other. The waters were first applied to medicinal uses about the end of the 17th century, prior to which period the neighbourhood comprised only a few rude dwellings inhabited by miners. The original bath of wood was rebuilt of stone by the Rev Mr FERN, of Matlock, and Mr HAYWARD, of Cromford, who erected some small rooms adjoining it, for the accommodation of invalids; and the lease of the buildings was afterwards purchased by Messrs SMITH and PENNELL, of Nottingham, who erected two large houses with stabling, constructed a carriage-road by the side of the river from Cromford, and improved the horse-road from Matlock bridge. A second spring was subsequently discovered, at the distance of a quarter of a miles from the former; a new bath was formed, and additional lodging-houses were built for the reception of visitors. A third spring was opened, at a still later period, within 400 yards of the first, and this, also, after some difficulties in levelling the hill, in order to obtain the water previously to its mixing with a cold spring, was rendered available to medicinal uses; a third bath was constructed, and another hotel erected. The three principal hotels, which are all handsome stone buildings, and the lodging-houses, afford accommodation for about 400 or 500 visitors. There is a museum replete with the natural curiosities of the district, and with urns and vases formed of spar, marble, and alabaster, obtained in the county. Guides constantly attend to conduct visitors through the several caverns in the vicinity.(Back to the MENU)

Matlock Dale, in which the baths are situated, presents, in varying combination, the richest features of majestic grandeur and romantic beauty. The river Derwent, for nearly three miles, pursues its course along the windings of the vale, in some places expanding into a broad lake reflecting from its surface the luxuriant foliage of the woods, and the towering precipices which overhang its banks, and in others rushing with impetuosity through the rugged masses of projecting rocks which contract its channel, forming a variety of beautiful cascades. The High Tor, rising perpendicularly from the river to the height of 400 feet, is a prominent feature of the scenery in the dale; and on the opposite bank is Masson Hill, from the summit of which, called the Heights of Abraham, is an extensive and most interesting view.(Back to the MENU)

The village is romantically situated on the bank of the Derwent, over which is a neat stone bridge forming the principal entrance; the houses, which are of stone, are irregularly built on the steep acclivity of a mountain, rising one above another in gradual succession from the base nearly to the summit. Lead-mines were formerly worked to a great extent in the parish, but at present only a few are in operation. The cotton manufacture was established here by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, who built a factory near the upper end of the dale. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from the Ambergate station of the Midland line, to Buxton and Stockport, by way of Matlock. The market, chiefly for provisions, is well supplied; and fairs are held on Feb 25th, April 2nd, May 9th, and Oct 24th, for cattle, sheep, and swine. The parish is in the honour of Tutbury, duchy of Lancaster, and within the jurisdiction of a court of pleas held at Tutbury every third Tuesday, for the recovery of debts under 40 shillings. The living is a rectory, valued in the King's books at 11 pounds 2 shillings and 6 pence; net income, 320 pounds; patron, the Bishop of Lichfield. The church, situated on the summit of a rock, is a small edifice, chiefly in the later English style. A district church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected at Matlock-Bath in 1842; it is in the pointed style, and cost about 2,600 pounds. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the five Trustees. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A free school, which has an income of about 40 pounds a year, was founded in 1647 by George SPATEMAN; and some bequests have been left for distribution among the poor. On Riber Hill, near the church, are the Hirst Stones, probably the remains of a cromlech.(Back to the MENU)

(from Woolley's Derbyshire, c.1715, DRS 1981, No.134, pp.199-200)
MATLOCK lies a mile north of Crumford along the River Derwent. A church town and square steeple; a pretty good living valued in the King's books 11 pounds, 2 shillings and 6 pence. [Called] Masterfurd or Matlacts and was part of King Edward's lands. Jordanus de SUTTON died 16 Edward I [1287/8] possessed of lands here, which he left to his son John, who died 33 ditto [1304/5] and left it to his son John. In the same reign Methew de HAVERSIDGE held a fourth part of a knight's fee here under Ralph BAKEPAIRE. In Henry VIII's time [1509-47], the LEECHES and POLES held lands here. In Henry VII [1485-1509] the WOOLLEYS from Charlsworth have held considerable estates here until of late it was sold on the death of Arthur WOOLLEY. There are three or four good stone houses in the town. It is a pretty odd, pleasant place situate along the north-east side of the River Derwent, over which it has a good stone bridge. Along the river are very steep, high cliffs over against one of which, in a very romantic situation, run into Derwent several silver springs - the clearest I have ever seen - one of the largest of which some of the neighbouring gentlemen have contracted into a very large cistern and built a house over it, with other conveniences for a cold bath, which is pretty much frequented. At the bottom and sides of the hill, over which stands Bonsall, are several scattering houses in some of whom may be had tolerable conveniences of lodging, etc, fronting one of which the Derwent makes a fine, large canal and the adjacent parts a most delicate landscape which, with the conveniency of fishing, would entice anyone thither. There are several lead mines all about the neighbourhood, of long standing and work still but are of no great moment. Here are also several woods which from time to time make white coal, as they call it, for the use of the ore-burners, there being a smelting mill here and another at Crumford. To the eastward of Matlock is a hill called Riber and on the far side is a very good stone house which was the seat of the family of the WOOLLEYS.(Back to the MENU)

(From 'The Derbyshire Village Book' published by the Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, 1991. ISBN 1 85306 133 6)
The Domesday Book recorded old Matlock as 'Meslach', one of six hamlets forming part of the large manor of Metesford, named after Matlock's original ford. Meslach became Matlac, Matloc and finally Matlock, meaning 'an oak where was held the local moot or parliament'.

During the Second World War a German plane, thought to be lightening its load to aid its escape over the hills, peppered this area with tracer bullets and shells. RAF planes often screech through here now, their pilots practising flying through the valley, sometimes so low that from high ground, it is even possible to look down on them.

It is a steep climb up Bank Road and Rutland Street - unfortunately the last tram has left. Cable-hauled and the steepest tramway on a public highway anywhere in the world, trams ran safely for 34 years, until 1927. One tramcar, soon pensioned off, had seats running not from side to side, but lengthways. Try as they may, passengers simply could not avoid sliding downhill again! Children adored the trams. They took free rides, played a version of 'Pooh sticks' in the rain-filled wheel grooves, and what better in wintertime than to hitch your sledge to the rear of an ascending tram, for a leisurely return to the top of 'the slopes'.

The tramway was built when the railway, together with plentiful spring water, had brought prosperity, fine shops, new homes and fresh employment to the area. There were old hydros all around, more than 20 operating at the turn of the century.

Local mill owner John Smedley spearheaded the growth of hydrotherapy in Matlock. His 'mild water cure' used all manner of showers, bathing contraptions, bandages and towels, together with copious amounts of spring water at varying temperatures. 'Nay, it's not to drink - ay, tha's reet now - tha sits int Sitz bath'. His own purpose-built palace was the hydro, famous nationally and internationally, visitors coming to 'take the cure', or simply to be cossetted in his opulent surroundings. Noel Coward and novelist John Wyndham came. Dame Clara, mother of Ivor Novello, lived there. At afternoon tea in the Winter Garden, Violet Carson played the piano. Most local children today eventually attend the new comprehensive school, but there are fond memories of Wyvern House Hydro, which became the Ernest Bailey grammar school. Ernest Bailey, benefactor, had many mills. One day he moved out of his home and 34 boys moved in. Over almost 40 years, 450 of 'Bailey's Boys', waifs and strays, were fed, clothed and educated, many eventually finding work in his mills. The house carried on as a children's home; nursery nurses came to train there and were a familiar sight with their huge prams and tiny charges.

Water has many times been the bringer of disaster; hopefully the modern flood prevention/containment scheme will change all that, when heavy snow and a quick thaw always meant anxious times.