Updated 13 Nov 2010

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Wirksworth and Matlock 1886

A description of Wirksworth and Matlock
taken from "History of Derbyshire" by John Pendleton published 1886.
More can be found on: www.archive.org/details/historyofderbysh00pend

From "A History of Derbyshire" by Pendleton 1886


     WlRKSWORTH AND ITS BORDERS— Singular Mining Customs — 
     The Church and its Monuments— A Curious Epitaph — 
     Homely Folks — George Eliot and ' Dinah Bede ' — Well- 
     Dressing— A Giant's Tooth— Tradition— Old English Life— 
     A Marvellous Escape — Cromford and Sir Richard Arkwright. 

Even more picturesque than Ashbourne is Wirks- 
worth, a patriarchal-looking town, with its irregular 
streets, odd nooks and corners, and houses dusky 
with age and the weather's freaks. It lies in a quiet, 
fertile valley, edged about with great limestone 
rocks ; and although not many miles from Derby, it 
gives one the impression that it has been entirely 
overlooked by the eager go-ahead world outside, 
until you stumble upon the modest branch-line that 
connects the town with the Midland Railway 
system. As far back as 1086, Wirksworth possessed 
'a priest and a church,' and was a place of some 
industrial prosperity. Its population, then number- 
ing about 1,000 people, were chiefly engaged in 
lead-mining and in smelting, the ore being placed in 
wood-fires on the hills. Fuller says that Derbyshire 
lead is the best in England ; good-natured metal, 

          Wirksworth and its Borders. 41 

not curdling into knots and knobs; and if this be 
true, Wirksworth must have done a good business 
even at the time the manor belonged to the Nunnery 
of Repton. There is a curious record that in 714 
the abbess of this religious house sent to Croyland in 
Lincolnshire a sarcophagus of Wirksworth lead, 
lined with linen, to receive the remains of the 
esteemed and dearly loved saint, St.Guthlac. 

What tons of ore, of gleaming lead, and glittering 
spar have been turned out of the King's Field (the 
chief mining tract) since that time. A hundred 
years ago the produce of the mines was so great that 
the vicar's tithe alone reached a princely sum. Many 
quaint laws have sprung up (and some have died out 
again) since the Romans first worked these mines. 
Edward Manlove, one of the stewards of the Bargh- 
moot Court, composed a poem, published in 1653, 
descriptive of some of the liberties and customs ; 
and it begins : 

'By custom old, in Wirksworth wapentake, 
If any of this nation find a rake,* 
Or sign, or leading to the same, may set, 
In any ground, and there lead ore may get. 
They may make crosses, holes, and set their stowes, f
Sink shafts, build lodges, cottages, or coes; %
But churches, houses, gardens, all are free 
From this strange custom of the minery.' 

* The 'rake' does not refer to a person of dissolute 
habits, but means a perpendicular vein of lead. 

f 'Stowes' are small windlasses ; also pieces of wood 
placed together to indicate possession of the mine. 

% 'Coes' are small buildings over the shafts, 
generally used for dressing the ore. 

          42 History of Derbyshire. 

Afterwards the poet grows satirical about the vicar's 
tithe, saying the good man daily ought to pray; for 
if though the miners lose their lives, their limbs or 
strength, he loseth not, but looketh for a tenth.' 
The most singular part of this interesting mining 
record, however, is that dealing with the punishment 
for dishonesty; a punishment barbaric in its cruelty, 
and now happily obsolete: 

'For stealing ore twice from the minery, 
The thief that's taken fined twice shall be; 
But the third time that he commits such theft, 
Shall have a knife stuck through his hand to the haft 
Into the stow, and there till death shall stand, 
Or loose himself by cutting loose his hand.' 

Ore is not so plentiful now at Wirksworth ; and such 
mines as 'Goodlack,' and others with odd but familiar 
names, have been ruthlessly stripped of their riches ; 
but the Moothall, where the courts for the regulation 
of trade have been so long held, still exists, and con- 
tains the famous 'Miners' Standard Dish.' This 
brazen vessel, which, according to Lowpeak custom, 
measures fourteen pints, was made in the reign of 
Henry VIII., with the consent of the lead-getting 
toilers, and has 'to remayne in the moote hall at 
Wyrksworth, hangyng by a cheyne so as the mer- 
chauntes or mynours may have resorte to the same 
at all times to make the true measure after the same.' 

Notwithstanding its restoration, from Sir Gilbert 
Scott's designs, there is an air of great antiquity 
about Wirksworth Church, which is dedicated to 
St. Mary. Its numerous monuments are full of 

          Wirksworth and its Borders. 43 

interest, giving as they do some idea of the lives 
and work of those who bore distinguished local 
names. Against the east wall is a tablet setting 
forth that Anthony Gell, late of Hopton, and some- 
time of the Worshipful Company of the Inner 
Temple, who died in 1583, founded at his only cost 
the free Grammar School, and Almshouses for 
five poor persons ; while on the same wall is 
another tablet in memory of bluff Sir John Gell, 
the first baronet, who rode hither and thither 
with such zeal, and fought with such avidity 
wherever he found King Charles's soldiers, in the 
war that ended in Cromwell's victory and sent a 
monarch to the block. The memorials to the 
Wigwells, Lowes, and Blackwells are also curious 
and instructive. The latter is a very ancient 
Wirksworth family, and flourished long before 1524, 
when Thomas Blackwell, anxious about the future 
welfare of himself and relatives, left £10 to a priest 
to say mass for him, for the souls of his parents, 
and for the soul of his brother Henry, alter- 
nately at St. Edmund's altar and Our Lady's altar, 
Wirksworth, for three years from his death. 

On one of the buttresses outside the church is this 
whimsical epitaph: 'Near this place lies the body 
of Phillip Shallcross, once an eminent quildriver to 
the attorneys of this town. He died on the 17th 
of November, 1787, aged 67. Viewing Phillip in a 
moral light, the most prominent and remarkable 
features in his character were his real and invincible 
attachment to dogs and cats, and his unbounded 

          44 History of Derbyshire. 

benevolence towards them, as well as towards his 

In addition to the ancient sculptured stone (repre- 
senting in one part Christ bathing His disciples' feet), 
there is much food for the antiquary in and around 
this cruciform edifice, which possesses, moreover, a 
parish-register full of peculiar entries, such as, 'Paid 
to old Bonsall of Alderwastle, for a fox-head, one 
shilling ;' and, '1688, June 14, for ale to ringers at 
birth of Prince of Wales, nine shillings.' 

Wirksworth has the honour of being the place 
where the first Derbyshire county match was played ; 
but it has apparently little ambition, nor does it 
grow hastily. The population in 1881 numbered 
3,678, and had increased by 75 in the last ten years! 
The people who are born there like the peaceful 
health-giving town so well that they seldom leave it 
to seek better (or perhaps more harassing) fortune 
elsewhere. They are in the main content to grow 
up amid the scenes of their childhood, and to follow 
in the footsteps of their fathers. 'It is remarkable 
how the descendants of those who formerly lived 
and toiled in the dale three or four hundred years 
ago still live there. In the days of King Henry VIII. 
there lived the Steers and Vallances, the Elses and 
the Cadmans. The Steers have merged lately into 
the Wardman family. The Vallances are still there, 
and likely to be ; also the Elses, strong enough in 
numbers to supply a regiment almost. These are 
a few instances which show the strong instinct and 
liking the families have for the haunts of their fore- 

          George Eliot. 45 

fathers, and also for their employment, as they are all 
connected with the lead business or getting of stone.' 
It was among these homely folks that George 
Eliot came, and found the germ of her most 
striking character — the earnest woman who preached 
so fervently on the hill-sides of Derbyshire. The 
novelist's relatives, Mrs. Samuel Evans and her hus- 
band (whom Wirksworth people maintain were the 
'Dinah Morris' and 'Seth Bede' of George Eliot's 
most popular story), then lived at Millhouses, just 
outside the town, and the authoress was only seven- 
teen when she first visited their 'humble cottage.' 
But the impressions she got of her aunt, Mrs. Evans, 
were very vivid and lasting ; for writing twenty years 
afterwards, she says : 'I was delighted to see my aunt. 
Although I had only heard her spoken of as a strange 
person, given to a fanatical vehemence of exhortation 
in private as well as public, I believed that I should 
find sympathy between us. She was then an old 
woman, above sixty, and I believe had for a good 
many years given up preaching. A tiny little woman, 
with bright small dark eyes, and hair that had 
been black, I imagine, but was now grey ; a pretty 
woman in her youth, but of a totally different phy- 
sical type from " Dinah."' George Eliot contended, 
too, that the preacheress she sketched was dif- 
ferent in individuality also ; yet there is such a 
similarity in the real life of Mrs. Samuel Evans and 
the fictional career of 'Dinah Morris,' that the inha- 
bitants of Wirksworth may be forgiven for thinking 
that one is a poetic ideal of the other. 'Both wore 

          46 History of Derbyshire. 

a Quaker's bonnet; "Dinah Morris" preached on 
Hayslope Green, Elizabeth Evans on Roston Green; 
the former stayed in prison with " Hetty Sorrell" 
when she was lying under charge of murdering her 
child ; the latter stayed in prison with a young 
woman accused of a similar crime.' 

Elizabeth Evans died at Wirksworth on the 9th 
of May, 1849, and the following interesting appeal 
for contributions towards a tablet to perpetuate her 
memory and that of her husband was made in 1873: 

                    "'Dinah Bede." 
'A generation has nearly passed away since the 
death of Airs. Elizabeth Evans, who was dis- 
tinguished for extraordinary piety and extensive 
usefulness. The remarkable circumstances of her 
personal history, her preaching talents, and her phil- 
anthropic labours have since been immortalized by 
a popular author in our standard literature. The 
name and doings of "Dinah Bede " are known over 
the whole world, and yet no memorial whatever of 
her has been raised in towns where she lived and 
laboured, or on the spot in Wirksworth churchyard 
where her ashes repose. We, whose names are here- 
unto placed, having an imperishable recollection of 
Mrs. Evans' gifts, grace, and goodness, are desirous of 
placing a memorial tablet in the Methodist Chapel at 
Wirksworth to perpetuate the memory and useful- 
ness of the so-called "Dinah," and of "Seth Bede," 
her honoured and sainted husband. If you have 
any wish to participate in this graceful memorial 

          George Eliot and ' Dinah Bede.' 47 

and monument of these honoured servants of Christ 
and benefactors of mankind, and desire to contribute 
even the smallest sum for this object, be so good as to 
communicate your intention to any of the under- 
mentioned ministers and gentlemen as early as 
possible: Adam Chadwick, Steeple Grange; William 
Buxton, North End; Charles Wall, the Causeway ; 
and Timothy Clarke, North End, Wirksworth.' 

The appeal commended itself so thoroughly that 
subscriptions were obtained without difficulty, and 
now on the walls of the Wesleyan Chapel at Wirks- 
worth is a tablet bearing the inscription : 

'Erected by numerous friends to the memory of Elizabeth 
Evans, known to the world as "Dinah Bede," who during many 
years proclaimed alike in the open air, the sanctuary, and from 
house to house, the love of Christ. She died in the Lord 
May 9, 1849, aged 74 years. And of Samuel Evans, her 
husband, who was also a faithful local preacher and class leader 
in the Methodist society. He finished his earthly course 
Dec. 8, 1858, aged 81 years.' 

One of the daughters of this noted Elizabeth 
Evans, living now at Sheffield, preserves with great 
care the Quaker bonnet, the white net cap, and the 
spun-silk shawl that were worn by 'Dinah Morris' 
when she went preaching. This descendant well 
remembers George Eliot's visit to her mother in 
1837 and until recently had in her possession a 
bundle of letters sent by the novelist to her parents 
at Millhouses. Being privileged to peruse these 
letters soon after George Eliot's death, we wrote of 
them at the time : 'The letters are signed by the 
talented authoress in her maiden name, "Mary Ann 

          48 History of Derbyshire. 

Evans", and they are written from Griff and Foleshill, 
near Coventry, at which places she lived with her 
father during the years 1839, 1840, and 1841. Some 
of them are brown with age, and much worn at the 
edges, and in the folding creases. Others are in 
better preservation. The letters, at least those 
despatched in 1839, were sent to Wirksworth just 
a year before Sir Rowland Hill's scheme of penny 
postage was carried into effect, and before envelopes 
had come into common use. They are written on 
old-fashioned post-paper, and the address, "Mr. S. 
Evans, the Millhouses, Wirksworth," appears on the 
outer sheet. Most of the epistles are addressed to 
"My dear uncle and aunt," and all reveal George 
Eliot's great talents. The style is elegant and grace- 
ful, and the letters abound in beautiful metaphor; 
but their most striking characteristic is the religious 
tinge that pervades them all. Nearly every line 
denotes that George Eliot was an earnest Biblical 
student, and that she was, especially in the years 
1839 and 1840, very anxious about her spiritual 
condition. In one of the letters, written from Griff 
to " Dinah Morris" in 1839, sne says she is living in 
a dry and thirsty land, and that she is looking for- 
ward with pleasure to a visit to Wirksworth, and 
likens her aunt's companionship and counsel to a 
spring of pure water, acceptable to her as is the 
well dug for the traveller in the desert.' These 
communications, eloquent with the ardent feeling 
that distinguished George Eliot's earlier life, are 
now in the possession of Mr.Cross, and should he 

          Well-Dressing. 49 

give them to the public, they will shed consider- 
able light on the most impressionable part of his 
wife's career, when 'Dinah Morris' was her friend, 
and she did not hesitate to write 'that love of human 
praise was one of her great stumbling-blocks.' 

At Wirksworth, and other places in Derbyshire, 
following in the wake of Tissington, the pretty, 
innocent custom of decking the wells with flowers 
is fostered even in this practical age, and gives a very 
pardonable excuse for a bright, mirthful holiday. 
At Wirksworth, however, the custom is not in con- 
nection with natural springs as at Tissington, but is, 
as it is called, a 'Tap-Dressing' of the water-supply 
of the town. Seneca said : 'Where a spring or a river 
flows there should we build altars and offer sacri- 
fices ;' and it is possible that from a spirit of thank- 
fulness for the gift of pure water arose this innocent 
practice, which, as education spreads, is becoming 
a more delicate and beautiful art. The floral de- 
signs, the chaplets, and garlands, that decorate the 
Wirksworth taps and pipes on Whit-Wednesday are 
as attractive in their simple loveliness as the offerings 
the shepherds threw to the goddess Sabrina in 
Milton's 'Comus,' or 'the thousand flowers of pale 
lilies, roses, violets, and pinks,'the nymphs in 
Dyer's 'Fleece' spread on the surface of 'the dimpled 
stream.' And they have this advantage over the 
floral tributes of the poet's dream: they bring useful 
prizes that still further encourage a love of flowers. 

The rocks and caves around the town have yielded 
something more marvellous than lead ore. Who 

          50 History of Derbyshire, 

shall say, after knowing what wonders have been 
imbedded in their depths, that geology has no charm ? 

George Mower, a miner, discovered in a cave in the 
mountain limestone, at Balleye, near Wirksworth, 
in 1663, the bones and molar teeth of an elephant, 
and in a startling description of 'how the giant's 
tooth was found,' wrote : 'As they were sinking to 
find lead ore upon a hill at Bawlee, within two miles 
of Wirksworth, in the Peake, about the year 1663, 
they came to an open place as large as a great 
church, and found the skeleton of a man standing 
against the side, rather declining. They gave an 
account that his braine-pan would have held two 
strike of corn, and that it was so big they could not 
get it up the mine they had sunk without breaking 
it. Being my grandfather, Robert Mower, of Wood- 
seats, had a part in this said mine, they sent him 
this toothe, with all the tines of it entire, and it 
weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz.' 

Nor has this been the only geological prize 
obtained in the locality, for in another lead mine, 
poetically known as ' The Dream Cave,' about a 
mile from Wirksworth, was found in 1882 the 
skeleton of a rhinoceros, whose bones 'were in a 
high state of preservation.' 

Within a stone's-throw, as it were, of the place in 
which George Eliot wandered in her youth, lie two 
historic mansions — Alderwasley Hall and Wigwell 
Grange. The former has long been the residence of 
the old county families, the Lowes and the Hurts, and 
a singular tradition attaches to a part of the estate 

          Old English Life. 51 

called 'The Shining Cliff' — that it was granted to a 
previous owner by the King, in these words : 

'I and mine 
Give thee and thine 
Milnes Hay and Shyning Cliff, 
While grass is green and berys ryffe.'* 

Wigwell Grange has sheltered some illustrious 
people, and Sir John Statham's description of it, 
more than a century ago, has never been excelled, 
so straightforward were the brusque knight's words. 
In the district, he said, 'was all the convenience 
of life — wood, coal, corn of all sorts, park venison, 
a warren for rabbits, fish, fowl in the utmost per- 
fection, exempted from all jurisdiction; no bishops, 
priests, proctors, apparators, or any such vermin 
could breathe there. Everyone did that which 
was right in his own eyes, went to bed, sat up, rose 
early, got up late, all easy. In the park were 
labyrinths, statues, arbours, springs, grottoes, and 
mossy banks ; and if retirement became irksome, 
on notice to Wirksworth, there were loose hands, 
gentlemen and clergymen, ever ready at an hour, 
willing to stay just as long as you'd have 'em and 
no longer.' Kindly John Statham. He understood 
the secret of hospitality, and although 'the vile 
calumnies and envenom'd arrows' of his enemies 
now and then excited his wrath, he did not let them 
interfere much with his pleasures. 

Near the road leading from Wirksworth to Crom- 
ford is a famous mine, the scene in 1797 of a 

* Plentiful. 

          52 History of Derbyshire. 

disaster which gave not only a new illustration of 
the perils of lead-getting, but showed how great is 
the tenacity of human life. While Job Boden and 
Anthony Pearson were at work in the mine, the one 
at a depth of twenty yards, and the other at forty- 
four yards, there was a huge fall of earth, and a rush 
of water. The mine was choked to a depth of over 
fifty yards, and it seemed almost incredible that the 
men beneath could escape death. Yet, eager with 
hope, the miners not in the workings laboured for 
three days in emptying the mine of debris, and then 
discovered Pearson, who was standing in an upright 
posture, dead. At the end of eight days' digging 
they reached Boden, who, to their surprise, was still 
living, although he had been entirely without nourish- 
ment from the moment he was buried in the mine. 
When brought out he was terribly emaciated, but 
ultimately recovered from the effects of his adventure, 
and lived for many years to tell the story of his 
marvellous rescue. 

Cromford lies amid charming scenery, and is 
within easy distance of Via Gellia, of the bold grit- 
stone rocks that singularly overlap the limestone at 
Stonnis, and the pretty village of Bonsall, where the 
rivulet, rippling past the cottages and beneath each 
doorstep, has prompted the saying that the hamlet 
has 150 marble bridges. But after all, Cromford is 
not so celebrated for its scenery as for its association 
with Richard Arkwright, the lowly barber and 
itinerant hair merchant, who invented spinning by 
rollers, and erecting his first cotton-mill in Matlock 

          Cromford and Sir Richard Arkwright. 53 

Dale, in 1771, made such additional improvements 
in the process of carding, roving, and spinning, that 
despite grievous difficulties his ingenuity and 
perseverance were rewarded by wealth and fame. 
The manor of Willesley, which belonged in the time 
of Henry VI. to Richard Minors, was purchased by 
the successful cotton spinner in 1782, and four 
years afterwards he was knighted. And it seemed 
as if some good fairy had determined that he should 
have money enough to uphold the title, for his 'riches 
increased to such an enormous extent, that besides 
possessing, exclusive of his mill property, one of the 
largest estates in England, he was able on several 
occasions to present each of his ten children with 
£10,000 as a Christmas box.' 


     Matlock Bath— Man's Energy— The Bath Years ago— Lord 
     Byron — The Water Cure — Rocks and Caverns — Matlock and 
     its Church — A Remarkable Woman. 

No such comfortable, contented serenity as satis- 
fies Wirksworth is tolerated at Matlock Bath. 
There the inhabitants do not fold their hands and 
sit wrapt in admiration of the beauties of nature. 
They believe in 'making hay while the sun shines,' 
use nature to their own profit, and their enterprise is 
so great that 'no man knoweth' what delights may 
be in store for the excursionist in years to come! 
Matlock Bath's chief street is fringed with fine shops, 
in which are displayed many clever examples of the 
spar worker's art; its petrifying wells and caverns 
reveal marvels of nature, and show man's ingenuity 
in turning them to profitable account; and its 
attractive pavilion, recently erected, indicates that the 
inhabitants are thoroughly cognisant of the needs 
of the time. But all this energy is almost entirely 
modern. Like the parvenu who secretly bewails his 
lack of blue-blood ancestry while he sports his sham 
crest, Matlock Bath is linked with few famous deeds, 

          The Bath Years Ago. 55 

and has little history. It was not until about 1690 
that the place sprang at all into notice, and then not 
so much because of the wild beauty of its scenery as 
the possession of mineral waters, which, bubbling out 
of subterranean chambers, wrought such cures upon 
the debilitated and enfeebled that the people mar- 
velled. Hitherto the dale scarcely contained any 
habitations except a few miners' huts, and 'presented 
only the appearance of a narrow gorge, walled in by 
stupendous crags and lofty eminences, overgrown 
with tangled brushwood and shrubs, beneath which 
flowed the dusky waters of the Derwent, seldom 
seen by the eye of man.' But with the discovery of 
the warm springs, 'raised in vapour by subter- 
ranean fires deep in the earth,' Matlock Bath 
awoke from its long sleep. The first bath, built and 
paved, it is said, by Mr. Fern, of Matlock, and Mr. 
Heyward, of Cromford, was ultimately purchased by 
Messrs. Smith and Pennel, of Nottingham, who not 
only erected two large commodious buildings, but 
'made a coast-road along the river-side from Crom- 
ford, and improved the horseway from Matlock 

'This bath,' said Defoe, however, writing in the 
eighteenth century, 'would be much more fre- 
quented than it is if a bad stony road which leads 
to it, and no accommodation when you get there, 
did not hinder.' Nevertheless, its development had 
begun. And the place had much improved in Lord 
Byron's time, for he wrote gracefully of Matlock 
Bath's loveliness, and spoke in praise of his quarters. 

          56 History of Derbyshire. 

It was here that the distinguished poet, the gifted 
writer of 'Childe Harold' met Mary Chaworth, the 
heiress of Annesley, and indulged in the hapless 
love-dream that only ended in — farewell. 'Had I', 
he regretfully said, 'married Miss Chaworth, perhaps 
the whole tenor of my life would have been different.' 
Since the days when Lord Byron looked joyously 
through love's spectacles at the bold cliffs and 
gently gliding river, Matlock Bath has become a 
kind of Pool of Bethesda, to which the grievously 
afflicted, and those who suffer for luxury and satiety, 
go in hope of finding relief. Matlock Bank and 
Matlock Bridge, modern offshoots of the older Mat- 
lock, are as thickly studded with baths as Rome during 
Diocletian's reign of splendour; and Smedley, the 
local pioneer of hydropathy, and the builder of Riber 
Castle, on the summit of Riber, has had a host of 
imitators, who are gradually increasing the number 
of believers in the water-cure. 

Lady Mary Wortley said her little chalet at 
Avignon commanded the finest land prospect she 
had ever seen, except Wharncliffe ; and Derbyshire 
people, with equal truth, might affirm that Wales, 
with its tree-crowned heights, and mist-capped 
mountains, and swirling streams, contained the 
finest pictures of nature's loveliness, except Matlock. 
'The great rent in the strata of Derbyshire,' which 
has made the county so rich in crags, and peaks, 
and sheltered dales, exciting the zeal of the geologist 
and the wonder of the tourist, 'first manifests itself 
in the neighbourhood of Matlock.' And familiarity is 

          The Heights of Abraham. 57 

powerless to breed contempt of the beauteous gorge, 
with its gigantic masses of limestone, towering high 
above the white roads, and the petrifying wells, and 
the wooden boathouses. How mighty and rugged in 
its grandeur is the High Tor, rising perpendicularly 
more than 300 feet above the river's brink, its brow 
fringed with thick foliage, and its face brightened by 
mosses and ferns that have struggled into existence 
in crevices and rifts far beyond man's reach! 

Less rugged in character, but equal in beauty, 
are the Heights of Abraham; and they have in- 
spired much poetry — spontaneous and sincere, if 
not over-brilliant tributes to nature's lavish gifts. 
Robinson, in his 'Derbyshire Gatherings,' gives an 
example, remarking that in an alcove on the heights 
about twenty-five years since, some would-be poet, 
no doubt after cudgelling his brains severely for a 
verse, wrote: 

'He who climbs these heights sublime, 
Will wish to come a second time.' 

But he goes on to say that beneath these words was 
added in another handwriting the scathing couplet : 

'And when he comes a second time, 
I hope he'll make a better rhyme.' 

What myriads of tourists have climbed these 
heights since the old mountain went by the name 
of Nestes, or Nestus, and Matlock was a Liliputian 
hamlet in the King's manor of Metesforde! Much 
of the tangled undergrowth and gnarled wood have 
been cleared from its steep sides, and about the zig- 

          58 History of Derbyshire. 

zag paths that lead to the lofty tower. Cottages 
cluster, tier on tier, like the dwellings of an Alpine 
village. And higher still, nearer the summit of the 
pine-clad heights, far away from the chief street, are 
lovely walks, from which may be obtained delightful 
views of the loftier crags of Masson, of bold cliffs, 
wooded dells, and bits of emerald meadow skirting 
the gleaming river; while stretching beyond the 
dale is a pretty picture of hill and valley, of moor- 
land and rich pasture, not framed by the horizon 
until the eye has roamed over five counties. 

Then its subterranean mysteries are curious and 
almost fear-inspiring. The great caverns, reached 
through little doors in the mountains' side, remind 
one of the mysterious cavity into which the Pied 
Piper of Hamlin decoyed the children with sweet 
music and fair promises of a chimerical Garden of 
Eden. In their natural darkness these vast chambers, 
particularly the Rutland, the Devonshire, and the 
Cumberland, help one to realize the meaning of 
Chaos ; but when illuminated by the candle's or the 
lamp's fitful gleam they reveal striking beauties of 
vaulted arch, of brightly flashing minerals, of trick- 
ling waters, of huge pyramids of stone, of gruesome 
recesses, and walls of such strange shape that they 
seem to be studded with grotesque faces. Nay, the 
thought arises — are they the faces of indiscreet miners, 
petrified just as they were chuckling, or indulging in 
grimaces ? 

Remembering its surface and underground beauties 
and wonders, there is little exaggeration in the 

          Matlock and its Church. 59 

poetical description of Matlock Bath as 'the fairy- 
land that wins all hearts, the paradise of the Peak.' 

The modern resort of the health-seeker, Matlock 
Bath, stands on the western margin of the Derwent ; 
the old village of Matlock, which Glover says is as 
ancient as the Conquest, is on the opposite side of 
the river, and cut off from the Bath by the huge 
Tor and its chain of connecting rocks. Both are 
thriving places now, and this is not to be wondered 
at, considering that such a vast number of tourists 
pour into the district during at least four months 
of the year, swooping down upon nearly every 
habitation and driving the caterers sometimes to 
their wits' end. 

Although the older portion of Matlock (which in- 
cludes Matlock Bridge) has grown with some rapidity, 
it still adheres pretty much to its former ways of life. 
But the church, like many others in Derbyshire, has 
been restored, and the tower is the only part of the 
old edifice remaining. It is a 'good example of the 
Perpendicular style at the beginning of the sixteenth 
century,' and contains six bells. One of these, 
bearing the letters O.P.N, (oro pro nobis), was evi- 
dently cast before the Reformation, and Mr. Jewitt 
says it 'is one of the oldest as well as most interest- 
ing bells in the county.' 

In the church itself there is comparatively little to 
interest the antiquary, with the exception of an old 
chest, to which is attached a chain that formerly 
secured the parish Bible. But there is a tablet in 
this place of worship that might be studied with 

          60 History of Derbyshire. 

advantage by all cynical bachelors who believe 
married life is made up of embarrassments and 
annoyances not conducive to longevity. The tablet 
is in memory of Adam Wolley, and Grace, his wife. 
They were married at Darley in 1581, and continued 
in wedlock 76 years. Adam did not die until 1657, 
when he had reached the age of 100, and Grace 
lived to be 110. 

In the vestry are several relics of a pathetic custom 
— six white paper garlands carried years ago at the 
funerals of young maidens, and left in the church, 
in memoriam, by grief-stricken friends. 

A very thin partition separates tears from laughter, 
so Phoebe Bown may be very appropriately intro- 
duced here. She was a remarkable woman who 
resided in a cottage near High Tor, and obtained 
considerable local celebrity. Hutton, the historian, 
who visited Matlock in the early part of the present 
century, says she was five feet six in height, had a 
step more manly than a man's, could walk forty miles 
a day, hold the plough, drive a team, and thatch a 
barn ; but her chief avocation was breaking in horses 
at a guinea a week : and with all these masculine 
tendencies she combined a taste for the works of 
Milton, Pope, and Shakespeare, and had a passionate 
love of music, playing the flute, the violin, and the 
harpsichord. She died in 1854, and her epitaph is 
almost as curious as her life : 

'Here lies romantic Phoebe, 
Half Ganymede, half Hebe ; 
A maid of mutable condition, 
A jockey, cowherd, and musician.' 

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