Updated 17 Aug 2005

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Matlock area description 1894

A description of the Matlock area taken from "The Peak", one of a series of "Thorough Guides", by M J B Baddeley, published in 1894 by Dulau & Co, London.

    Part of "Derby to Matlock and Buxton" (by rail)
    The next station-Whatstandwell-is popularly supposed to owe its name to native solicitude respecting its bridge, the constantly repeated query at the time of its erection 'I Wu't stand well?" having grown into a formula. We give this explanation for what it is worth. More erudite scholars than our selves derive the name from a certain Walter Stonewell, who lived here five centuries ago. In any case the natives have grown too wise to perpetuate tradition at the expense of breath. They call Whatstandwell "Whatsall", and the neighbouring hamlet of Alderwasley "Arrerslee".

    From Whatstandwell the railway continues to follow the windings of the Derwent, revealing a good view of Crich Stand above a semi circular combe on the right, and then passing through a short tunnel, before entering which it passes under the canal and over the river. On the beautiful greensward above, is Lea Hurst, formerly a residence of Florence Nightingale.

    On the left hand, immediately beyond the tunnel, the High Peak mineral line sets off in earnest, at a gradient of about 1 in 8, for its 30 miles of twisting and burrowing across the bleak limestone uplands of the district after which it is named. It is worked by the North Western Company in short lengths, several of the intermediate gradients being surmounted by the aid of stationary engines and ropes.

    A little short of Cromford Station, 5 miles beyond Ambergate, we obtain a charming glimpse of the bridge, village and church of the same name, on the left hand. Beyond the bridge the Derwent issues from the narrow gorge along which it flows from Matlock. On its north bank are seen the grounds of Willersley Castle, the seat of the Arkwrights. The cotton-mill, also visible, was built by Richard Arkwright in 1770, and was the first erection of the kind in Derbyshire. One wing of it was destroyed by fire in Nov. 1890. We must not say a word against cotton, of course, but there is bad as well as "good in everything," and cotton and other mills have played sad havoc with the native beauty of the Derwent, the necessary weirs and dammings up having converted in many places, notably at Matlock, a sparkling stream into a sluggish pool.

    From Cromford to Matlock the distance is a mile, mostly under ground. Above our heads and hidden from our profane gaze by the black tunnel, is a beautiful knoll overlooking the Derwent, on whose grassy sward happy lovers "walk," and from whose headlong crags despairing ones "leap." A few yards beyond the tunnel, Matlock Bath bursts into view on the left hand, in a cup-shaped hollow, from which rise the Heights of Abraham and Great Masson, The station commands an excellent view of the whole, but, if our
    train be an express, we have scarcely time to catch a glimpse of it before we enter another tunnel at the foot of the perpendicular face of the High Tor. Out again in a few seconds, we have another peep into the narrow defile on the left, and then, again crossing the Derwent, we pass or stop at Matlock Bridge. The High Tor has retired on the right to make room for the strath of Darley Dale, up which we travel for the next 4 miles. The village of Matlock Bridge, pleasantly placed on the green hill-slopes, is well seen as soon as we have passed the station. The square, fortress-like mansion crowning the hill to the south of the villa, is Riber Castle, built by the late Mr. Smedley, whose famous Hydro - very barracky in appearance-is conspicuous high up in the village.



    Railway Stations at Matlock Bath (for hotels), Matlock Bridge (for hydro's), 1m. apart. 'Buses to chief hotels and hydro's.
    Hotels:-New Bath, Royal; from 12s. a day inclusive; bed and att. from 4s. table-d-hote, 4s.6d. to 5s. Bath Terrace, Temple. All the above are on the Terrace, 8-10 min. walk from the station. The New Bath and Royal have baths (see below).
    Devonshire, Hodgkinson's, in main street, 5 min. walk from station; small but good second-class.
    Midland, Station, close to station; frequented by excursionists. Crown, Old English, at Matlock Bridge.
    Hydro's:-Smedley's (well-known, strict regime), Matlock House, Rockside, etc. All on Matlock Bank, above Matlock Bridge; approached by Tram car (1d. and 2d.) from foot of hill, close to Matlock Bridge Station, ends near Matlock House.
    P.O. Head Office on Parade, near Matlock Bath Station; open 7-8; Sun. 7-10. Chief del., 7 a.m. ; desp. 8 20; Sun. 7-30. Tel. Off., 8-8; Sun., 8-10, Sub-offices at Matlock Bridge (last desp., 8.25), and Matlock Bank (last desp. 8. 15).
    Baths :-Fountain, in main street, swimming, hot, etc.; also at New Bath Hotel, swimming, hot, etc.; and Royal Hotel, hot, Turkish, etc.
    Large Pavilion and Grounds behind Terrace hotels. Single adm.,6d.
    Golf Links, 9 holes, at Lea Hurst, 3½ m. (1m from Whatstandwell Station)
    Fishing (rod and line), 1s. a day; 2s.6d. a week.
    0mnibus (2d.) between Matlock Bath (Terrace) and Matlock Bridge every 15 minutes between 11 and 8.30. Tram (1d. and 2d.) from Matlock Bridge to Matlock Bank.
    Carriages :One-horse, 3s. an hour; two-horse, 5s.
    Distances: Ashbourne, 12 m. ; Bakewell, 10; Buxton, 22: Castleton, 24 Chatsworth 10; Derby, 16; Dovedale, 14; Haddon Hall, 7½, Manchester 45; Sheffield, 32 (rail), 23 (road); Birmingham, 58; London, 144.

    Charges for Private Conveyances
                          Three  Additional                 Three   Additional
    To and from           pass.  (each)    To and from      pass    (each)
                           s.d.   s.d.                      s.d.   s.d.
    Ashover               0  8 6  0 1 6   Haddon and Chats-
    Bakewell              0 10 0  0 2 0   worth             0 12 6   0 2 6
    Baslow                0 12 0  0 2 6   Hardwick Hall     1  0 0   0 4 0
    Black Rocks & Via                     Lathkil Dale      0 10 0   0 2 0
    Gellia (via Mid-                      Lea Hurst & Crich 0 10 0   0 2 0
    dleton)               0  7 6  0 1 6   Monsal Dale       0 16 0   0 4 0
    Bradford Dale         0 10 0  0 2 0   Riber             0  5 0   0 1 0
    Buxton              Full fare 2 0 0   Rowtor Rocks (Via
    Castleton              about  2 0 0   Gellia & Winster) 0 12 0   0 2 6
    Chatsworth.           0 10 0  0 2 0   Via Gellia and
    Crich and Lea Hurst   0 10 0  0 2 0   Winster           0 10 6   0 2 0
    Dovedale              1  0 0  0 4 0   Wingfield Manor   0 10 0   0 2 0
    Haddon Hall           0  7 6  0 1 6

    Carriages for short journeys, kept beyond the time allowed, are charged 3s. for one horse, and 5s. for two horses, per hour. Waggonettes carrying more than five persons are contracted for.
    Local Papers:-"Matlock Register;" Friday, 1d. Pop. (1891), 7131.
    The district which goes by the name of Matlock consists of Matlock Bath, Matlock Bridge and Matlock Bank, and extends along the valley of the Derwent for upwards of two miles. The scenery of this part of the valley is perhaps the most romantic in Derby shire. All the hills which contribute to the beauty of Matlock are over-topped by others within a very short distance, but they drop so abruptly into the valleys as to gain an impressiveness out of all proportion to their height. The river flows through a narrow gorge which begins at Matlock Bridge and ends at Cromford, a mile south of the centre of Matlock Bath. Both Matlock Bridge and Matlock Bank lie a little to the north of this gorge, at the southern end of the strath of Darley Dale, but Matlock Bath is in its very centre, just where the river suddenly sweeps round to the right, and the surrounding hills shut out all the world beside. On the right bank, as you descend the stream, the slopes rise green and steep and sylvan, and it is on this side that nearly all the village is built; on the left bank, except for a break of a few hundred yards, sheer precipices of limestone variegated with ivy and yew and such other trees and plants as find a genial soil in that kind of rock, rise almost from the water's edge. Scotch tourists may be reminded of Dunkeld, though the cruel treatment which the Derwent has suffered from the weirs and dams which obstruct its course has quite spoilt whatever chance it might otherwise have had of holding its own against the lordly Tay.

    The space between the parade and the river has been laid out as a garden connected with the Lovers' Walks by a Jubilee footbridge. There is nothing to pay for the use of them.

    That Matlock should be overrun with trippers during the holiday season is the inevitable penalty of its beauty and accessibility, and it is idle to deny that on bank-holidays and such-like occasions the ordinary tourist requires a philosophic spirit. The place, however, contains abundant accommodation for all classes of visitors, and those whose purses or legs are long enough. to carry them to the various spots of interest in the neighbourhood may always escape from the periodical incursions of the profanum vulgus.

    While on this subject we would enter a friendly but firm protest against the reckless extent to which some of the caterers for public amusements advertise their own particular attractions. The place is small, and huge advertising-boards and posters are proportionately unsightly. Nothing tends more to keep the better class of visitors away than this unfortunate practice. If public spirit could induce moderation in this respect, reduce the size of the "Petrifying Wells" and "Cave" announcements, and at the same time give real assistance to visitors by the erection of modest finger-posts at many points round the village where at present the pedestrian is almost always perplexed, it would be a happy day for Matlock. At present, Matlock is second only to Ingleton in the vulgarity of its local advertisements.
    Pavilion and Gardens (ordiinary adm.,6d.), These cover an area of about 15 acres. and extend upwards from the New Bath, Terrace and Royal HoteIs. almost to the, Bonsall footpath. The whole overlooks the valley, and the views. especially from the higher parts, are very fine, the chief feature being the richly- wooded limestone cliffs which beetle over the Lovers' Walks and the Derwent. The Pavillion is a fine building. with a spacious central saloon, adapted for concerts, promenading, &tc., and with wings on each side. It also contains, in the way of apartments and appliances, whatever may be needed for indoor recreation when outdoor is denied. In front of it is the Terrace, extending the length of the building, and fronted by a handsome balustrade. The gardens. are laid out with a maze of winding walks, planned so as to change the steepest of slopes into a gently rising promenade. The difficulty has been-not to produce picturesqueness-rock, wood, and rugged unevenness of surface already provided that; but to avoid destroying it; and how far success has been attained the visitor must judge for himself. High up, in the north-east corner of the grounds, are the Romantic Rocks, a strange group of huge isolated fragments, which have been torn away from the adjacent hill-side without losing their equilibrium. Walks wind between them. In this part of the grounds, too, is the Fluor Spar Cave, close to "Jacob's Hillock" (p.110). The Victoria Cavern, 250 yards long, is not now shewn.

    The Baths. The Fountain Baths, on the main road in the centre of the village, include a large Swimming Bath in a lofty and cheerful room; also Hot Baths, Shower Baths, and Douche Baths. There is also a good Swimming Bath at the New Bath Hotel, and Hot Baths at both that and the Royal Hotels. The latter is as much a Hydro' as an hotel, having Turkish, Russian, Vapour and Douche Baths. In the gardens of the "New Bath" is a very remarkable old lime-tree.

    The Petrifying Wells. These abound in and about the Museum Parade. As the admission is only 1d. most visitors will like to witness an operation of Nature which can only be seen in this and a few other places. To be thoroughly petrified requires, we believe, about two years. In this street there are also a large number of museums, or shops, for the sale of the spar ornaments and articles of use made in the locality.

    The Caves. These are to a great extent old mining excavatins, tough some part of nearly every one is the result either of violent natural disruption or of the characteristic wearing away of limestone rock by water. Those whose standard of subterranean impressiveness has been fixed by the Castleton caverns, or of beauty by the famous one at Cheddar, will probably think lightly of these hybrid Matlock ones, but caverns, after all, are rare in tourist districts, and whatever motive may prompt you to go in, there is also a certain pleasure in getting out again. If it is not a "trip" day you should decidedly make at least one
    underground excursion. To geologists these caverns are specially interesting, and the comparative absence of stalactitic formations is often atoned for by the abundance of dog-tooth crystallizations and the frequent outcrop therein of the precious metal in search of which the openings were originally made. The minimum, charge for admission is 1s. or 6d., parties being charged at a reduced scale according to their number. It is well to strike a bargain before entering. As to position, four of them, the Cumberland, the Speedwell, the Fluor Spar, and the Devonshire are on the hill-side, behind the Pavilion grounds; two, the Rutland and the Great Masson, on the Heights of Abraham, near the Victoria Tower, and one, the Grotto Cavern, underneath the High Tor. There is also the Victoria Cavern in the Pavilion grounds.

    (1) The Cumberland Cavern (minimum charge, 1s.). This is the longest and least artificial of all. The shortest way to it from the Parade is by a steep footpath, commencing with some steps adjacent to the Bath Terrace Hotel and skirting the far side of the Pavilion grounds. Another route is to ascend at once after crossing the bridge from the station, and to take the Cromford footpath, between which and the Pavilion grounds the cavern is entered. It consists of a labyrinth of artificial passages, with many steps connecting several natural chambers fairly extensive but deficient in height. The first of these chambers has its roof as flat and horizontal as the floor is the reverse. The end of the cavern displays a chaotic collection of rocks of all shapes and sizes. The total length is 600 yards. Fossils abound.

    (2) The Speedwell Cavern (minimum charge, 6d). This is a few yards beyond the divergence of the lower Bonsall and Cromford footpaths, close to which is the cottage of the proprietress. It may be approached by the same routes as the Cumberland. It is upwards of 400 yards long, entered by many steps, and chiefly remarkable for the quantity of calc or cubic spar-called dog-tooth. A few small stalactites are pointed out, some effective transparencies, and a little well.

    (3) The Fluor Spar Cavern (minimum charge, 6d.). This, also on the lower Bonsall footpath, may be reached either from the station by the same route as that already described to the Cumberland Cavern, or by the zig-zag path leading up from the near (east) entrance to the Pavilion grounds. It is entered from an artificially formed level called "Jocob's Hillock" at the top of this path. The area, like the footpath behind it, commands a very fine view across the valley. It is in the same proprietorship as the cave, but the only charge is for visiting the cave, which, as usual, is entered by many steps. The length of the excavation is about 40 yards. It contains barytes, veins of lead ore, fluor-spar, and calc-spar. As a feature a little gallery is shown, a copy in miniature of the one in the Peak Cavern at Castleton.

    (4). The Devonshire Cavern is on the direct Bonsall path, a few yards beyond the point at which it strikes up the hill from the more circuitous one. Its most remarkable feature is the immense slab of rock, quite flat, which forms its roof and slopes at a considerable angle. It contains a large quantity of stalagmite, also fluor-spar and calc-spar. The floor is a debris of rock and boulder.

    (5) The Rutland Cavern (adm., 6d.). This is the largest of the Matlock Caverns. It is approached either by the Holme Road, after crossing the river from the station, or from the Waterloo Road, near Hodgkinson's Hotel. The guide's cottage is at the east entrance to the Heights of Abraham, in Masson Road. There is a very pretty bird's-eye view of the valley between Matlock and Cromford from the roadway opposite the entrance to the cavern, which begins with an artificial passage nearly 80 yards in length. Then comes a chamber about 100 yards long and reaching in one place a height of 120 feet, and branching into two towards its end. On the sides there is a fair quantity
    of fluor-spar and carbonate-of-lime spar. Perhaps the most striking object in the cave is the pillar which. with the ribs of the arches it supports, resembles the gnarled trunk of an oak tree. The cave is lighted with gas.

    (6). The Old Roman Lead Mine and Great Masson Cavern is just above the Heights of abraham, on the way to Masson. Its entrance is reached by a passage between two rocks, and visitors may pass through it on to the upper part of Masson. The cavern is about 70 yards long and attains a height of 90 feet. It contains fluor-spar and dog-tooth crystals.

    (7) High Tor Grotto (adm. 6d.) This cavern, though small, is the best for crystallization in Matlock. It is under the High Tor, ¾m north of the station, and is entered from the main road by a foot-bridge across the Derwent.

    A passage of 12 yards or so leads to the natural cave, which has been lowered in the first part and raised in the last, to admit a walk through it. The limestone strata, resting on clay, dip inwards from above the entrance till they sink below the level of the river outside. The dog-tooth crystals are very abundant, some parts of the surface being entirely made up of them. About 12 feet above the roof is the High Tor tunnel, and the trains, as they pass through, produce a sound like thunder. At the further end the opening becomes lower than the level of the river, which the water inside always maintains. This cave was discovered by an old man tracking a rabbit in 1820.

    Yet another cave has lately been opened opposite the High Tor

    The Heights of Abraham (Adm., 6d.) This steep acclivity rises directly from the north side of the Museum Parade, and is reached by several narrow roads, one-Holme Road-striking up, after crossing the river, from the station. Broad zigzag walks lead to the top of it, whereon is the Victoria Tower, more conspicuous than graceful, but commanding a very fine view. Near to the Tower are the Rutland Cavern and the Old Roman Cave. Visitors should extend their walk from the tower to the top of Masson, about half-a-mile distant, and recognizable by its clump of trees. Its height is 1,076 feet, and it commands a wide and beautiful all-round view, including the valley of the Derwent north and south of Matlock, and the smaller dales which strike up westwards to the high ground between it and Dovedale. A path connects Masson with the highest part of the Bonsall track (p. 113).

    The High Tor, 673 ft. above the sea, 380 above the river. (Adm., 4d.). Carriages can enter at the Starkholmes Gate (see plan) and drive over to Matlock Town and Bridge (or vice versa). The walks are broad and dry. This rock dominates the gorge between Matlock Bridge and Cromford, and contributes more than any other object to the romantic character of the Matiock scenery. Its upper part is quite perpendicular. and the lower consists of screes overgrown with scrub and timber of larger dimensions. The approach for pedestrians is across the river by the bridge leading to the station. and under the line between the station and the tunnel. or by a footbridge ¾ mile on the road to Matlock Bridge. The walks skirt the edge of the cliff-in places a little below the highest ground.

    Through the green slope, a little behind the scarped front of the Tor, runs a deep fissure only a few feet wide. and so narrow at the top as only to admit a streak of daylight. This is called the Fern
    Cave, and is in one part 10 feet deep. The entrance (adm., 1d.) is near the Starkholmes Gate, and the first part is a real cave. From the gate to the entrance you can pass through another deep and very narrow cleft called the Roman Cave.

    The Lovers'Walks (1d.). Along the east side of the Derwent, opposite Matlock Bath, a line of cliff extends, considerably lower than the High Tor, but similar in character. The picturesque effect of these cliffs is greatly enhanced by the ivy which spreads itself all over them, the yews which grow out of their crannies, and the wood which covers the scree at their feet. There is an upper and lower walk along them-the latter by the river-side. These walks are entered by a new footbridge connecting them with the pleasant little promenade which has lately been laid out between the Parade and the river near the station, or by ferry-boat.


    For interesting and varied walks there are few places in the kingdom equal to Matlock. Public footpaths are so numerous as almost to baffle description. With the aid of our map, however, specially made for the purpose, and the following directions, we hope to introduce visitors to the most charming of these expeditions. All of them worth making are hilly, but any fatigue is amply compensated for by the exquisite views they command. It may be as well to warn ladies who object to climbing walls that the stiles are chiefly remarkable for their narrowness, especially on the west or limestone side. Six inches is considered a liberal allowance to squeeze through.

    (1) Bonsall, 1½ m.; Cromford, 3 ; Matlock Bath, 4. A more delightful ramble than this can hardly be imagined. In less than two hours it brings before the eye every beautiful object that is typical of Matlock scenery. The view is only curtailed northwards, in which direction Masson interposes its superior height.

    There are two routes, of which the second (b) is the longer and prettier :-

    (a) Direct. Ascend from the station by Holme Road; from the Terrace by Waterloo Road, which rises from Hodgkinson's Hotel, and West Bank, passing on the left the Prince of Wales Inn, a little above which the route from the station is joined. At the next fork, 100 yards higher up, turn sharp to the right. After passing the Devonshire Cavern and some old lead mines, you enter a lane that leads from Ember Farm (on the right) to Bonsall, joining the Bonsall and Cromford lane opposite Bonsall Church. The view during the descent is charming.
    (b) Either take the left branch-straight on- at the fork above the Prince of Wales Inn (see above), or ascend from the Terrace Hotel as to the Cumberland Cavern (p.110), above which the two tracks join. On the former path, above the N.W. corner of the Pavilion grounds is Jacob's Hillock., with access to the Fluor Spar Cavern (p.110), and an entrance to the Pavilion grounds. The view from this part of our walk is very charming, and must have been much more so before the valley below was so filled with houses and the free course of the stream held back by weirs. The "Lovers' Walk" cliffs look their best.

    Beyond the "Hillock" the lane forks. Continue upwards to the right. Passing through a stile you reach by a wide footpath the brow of the hill, and a view of the valleys which converge upon the Derwent at Cromford opens up in front. Chief amongst them is the Via Gellia (p.141), a winding V-shaped glen with finely wooded sides and here and there a limestone cliff cropping out above them. This valley in contrast and combination with that of the Derwent, stretching southwards to Ambergate, and the charming retrospect over Matlock itself, makes up a prospect of a high order of beauty. Riber Castle crowns the hill behind us; south of it is Crich Stand.

    Our route now joins the lane leading up from Cromford, and in a few hundred yards enters Bonsall, a quaint and sweetly-placed little village with a very picturesque little church, an inn of the seventeenth century (The King's Head; also Queen's Head), a Cross (restored 1870) still more ancient, on a pedestal of thirteen steps, and drinking fountains innumerable. We may go far before we find a village combining so picturesque a situation with so much that is interesting in itself. The spire of the church is octagonal, and belted in two places with ornamental carving, which gives it a very pleasing appearance.

    Dropping into the valley from the village, we pass an elegant fountain opposite the entrance gates to Bonsall Manor House, and descend at once to the lower part of the Via Gellia (p. 141), past the "Pig of Lead," and entering in a short time Cromford.(p.141), which we shall describe in our next excursion.

    This walk may be very pleasantly prolonged by taking a foot path close to the entrance to Bonsall Manor House and crossing by it into the Via Gellia (see below), or by climbing from the latter to the Black Rocks, which are the subject of our next description.

    Variations in returning:-(a) Retrace your steps as far as the church, and thence either continue along the lane, which ultimately becomes a mere path, to Cromford (p.114) and return by road through Scarthin Nick; or descend through the churchyard by obvious paths into the Bonsall and Cromford main road.

    (b) Proceed to Slaley-and the Via Gellia as in the following:-

    Slaley and the Via Gellia (5 m.). Proceed as in the (b) route to Bonsall (above) till you enter the lane that comes up from Cromford. Turn towards Cromford for 80 yards ; then through a. stile and slantingly down the hill-side by a narrow path which drops
    into the Bonsall Road at some cottages. Opposite these a finger- post directs to Slaley by a road which soon affords a bird's-eye view of the Via Gellia. At Slaley turn left a few yards past Slaley Hall, an old thatched house. Hence a good path descends a field on the left and then at a stile branches into field-tracks. Follow the right hand one under the wall. At the end of three more fields the path reaches the boundary-wall of the steep wooded slope of the Via Gellia. Forty yards further, close to Dunsley Spring, go through a wooden stile on the left (the path straight on continues along the wall-side and will take you into the "Via" higher up, at Hollow- church Way). Hence the path, short, very pretty and steep, drops into the Via Gellia close to a Tufa quarry, whence it is 2½ miles back to the Matlock Hotels.

    (2) Cromford, 1 m.; Black Rocks, 2½. The Black Rocks command the best view of Matlock from the south, and should either be made the object of a special excursion, or taken in combination with the above described walk to Bonsall Dale. The village of Cromford (Inn: Greyhound) lies ¾ mile south of the chief Matlock Bath hotels, and is entered by a gap-Scarthin Nick-in the rock, just beyond the point at which the river turns away to the left through the grounds of Willersley Castle. From this gap a narrow isolated limestone ridge extends about half-a-mile eastwards. The most picturesque part of Cromford lies at the east end of this ridge, where the church, whose architectural blemishes are concealed by a complete covering of ivy, and the three-arched bridge, with round arches on one side and pointed ones on the other, materially assist Nature in producing a picture. The grounds of Willersley Castle, which rise from the north bank of the river hereabouts, are open to visitors by ticket on Mondays. The Cotton Mills here only call for notice by reason of their size, and the fact that they were the first built in Derbyshire (p.10). From the open square in the centre of Cromford village, we ascend by the Wirksworth road till we have left the last row of houses a few hundred yards behind us. Then turning through a gate on the left we follow a cart-track with a plantation on the right, and cross the High Peak railway. The Black Rocks, or Stonnis, as they are sometimes called, rise directly from the other side of the line. The path works round them to the right, and on reaching the edge brings us face to face with the view.

    Wherever the millstone grit crops out it affords favourable opportunities for obtaining views, and this peculiarity is nowhere better exemplified than by the Black Rocks. Behind them the ground rises to a somewhat greater elevation, and is covered with evergreen wood, but in front the entire geography of the Matlock district is seen at a glance. The rocks standing boldly out from the surrounding slopes, and often projecting in a way which suggests field-guns, afford a natural platform which no human contrivance. could excel.
    The great charm of the view centres in Matlock Bath, and the course of the Derwent above and below it. Where the river first appears, we have the High Tor rising almost sheer from its banks on the right, and the green, sylvan Heights of Abraham sloping more gently, but still steeply, on the left. Above the latter is the beech-crested Masson. Then we trace the river-course through the bowl in which Matlock lies, hemmed in by limestone crags on one side, and separated from Bonsall Dale and the Via Gellia by a lofty green ridge on the other. At Cromford, which is mapped out just under our eyes, the stream escapes from its gorge and flows through the rich park-like scenery of Willersley Castle, which is the most beautiful, if not the most conspicuous, architectural adornment of the scene. Riber Castle, whenever it forms part of a view, is perhaps the most imposing erection in the country. Its square towers and solid walls rear themselves on the summit of a hill perfectly destitute of foliage, their size and massiveness making them more prominent than even Crich Stand, which occupies a similar but somewhat higher plateau a few miles further south.

    By strolling through the wood behind the rocks for a short distance you will obtain a comprehensive view of the Derwent valley between Ambergate and Cromford, and quite as pleasing an impression of Wirksworth (p.118) as is likely to result from a closer inspection of it.

    The return route may be varied in more ways than one; firstly, you may pass through the large mining village of Middleton, more conspicuous than inviting as seen from the rocks, and descend by road or path into the Via Gellia, whence Matlock is reached by road through Cromford or by footpath through Bonsall-the latter a delightful route (p.113) ; secondly, you may drop into the Wirksworth valley, and after visiting the town cross the hill to the Derwent again, reaching Matlock either on foot through Cromford or by rail from Whatstandivell Bridge (p.10). Distances:- Black Rocks to Middleton, 1¼m ; Via Gellia, 2; Bonsall, 3½ ; Matlock Bath, 5. Black Rocks to Wirksworth, 1¼m ; Whatstandwell Bridge Station, 4 ¾.

    Part of "Excursions in the Matlock Section" (by rail)
    Wirksworth (2½ m. from chief hotels). The direct road is dull, unless the Black Rocks (p.114) be taken on the way, and the flanking hills abound in limestone quarries. Far better to take train to Whatstandwell (3½ m.) ; thence walk over the hill to Wirksworth (3¼ m.), and walk back over or under the Black Rocks and through Cromford. The Bull's Head at Whatstandwell, the Lion at Wirksworth, and the Greyhound at Cromford are comfortable resting-places. Wirksworth Church well repays examination, and the valley-views from the high ground on both sides of Wirksworth are very pretty.

    From Whatstandwell Station cross the Derwent and take the road up-hill to the right. Soon you have a charming view over Lea Hurst and towards Matlock. The road passes on the right a clump called the Hag, and then reaches its highest point (820 ft.) at cross-roads, Wirksworth with its huge limestone-quarries appearing suddenly far down in front. Both road and path to it are obvious.

    The Church (key at cottage S. side) shows all manner of architecture, and was well but incompletely restored by Sir Gilbert Scott about 1872. The unfinished part is the nave, in which, as far as it goes, a high-pitched roof has been substituted for the old obtuse-angled one with battlements. The original style seems to have been E.E., and there are lancet windows in the chancel and the transepts. The East window, however, is Perpendicular, and others are Decorated. There are also plain round arches. The plan of the church is cruciform, and the most telling features inside are the Pointed arches with massive clustered shafts which support the tower. The chancel and transepts have lately been graced with many painted windows, and the general effect of these parts of this church is very pleasing. In the south wall of the chancel is a double piscina; on the north, sedilia. Several recumbent effigies are noteworthy-one of Antonye Lowe,,Esqre., who served four sovereigns, Henry VII. and VIII., Edward VI., and Mary, (d. 1555) ; others in marble, of the Gell family, to whom we owe the "Via Gellia" ; the chief of these bears date 1583. Note also the two Fonts-the old one, disused, in the North transept-a capacious bowl said to be 900 years old-and the comparatively modern one in the South transept, which is dated 1662 and bears its years amazingly well. Most curious, however, of all the things to be seen are the fantastic mouldings which have been built into the walls of the South transept and the nave. The chief one, on the north side of the nave, was discovered under the chancel in 1821. It shows a variety of subjects-Christ washing the feet of the Disciples, the Wise Men, Roman soldiers, &c. These scrolls are remnants of an older church.

    In the churchyard, close to the door at the south of the nave, is the tomb of Matthew Peat, who died in 1757, aged 109.
    Except for a curiosity, called the Miners' Standard Dish, which was made in the same year that Flodden was fought, and is preserved in the Moot Hall, Wirksworth has nothing else to show the stranger. A branch line, 14 miles in length, connects it with Derby.

    The road back to Matlock, over the hill, under the High Peak railway and to the left of the Black Rocks (p.114) needs no description.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2005, John Palmer All Rights Reserved.