Updated 25 Mar 2010
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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from the Saturday Magazine, February 25th 1837, page 71
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.
Matlock includes under one name the village of Matlock, and Matlock Bath; the village, which is of very ancient origin, stands chiefly on the eastern banks of the river, while the Bath, of more recent origin, is on the western margin. The manor is supposed to have belonged formerly to the Ferrers family; it was afterwards part of the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1628 it was granted to the corporation of the city of London, and managed by trustees; at present the rights of the manor are held in trust by three neighbouring gentlemen.
The village of Matlock is chiefly inhabited by persons employed in the lead-mines and in the manufacture of cotton. The houses are principally of stone, and at the entrance to the village is a neat stone bridge; the church stands on a most romantic rock at some little distance. On an eminence somewhat higher up, called Riber Hill, are the remains of what is supposed to be a Druidical altar; they are called Hirst Stones.
Matlock Bath is nearly a mile and a half from the village; but until its warm springs were brought into notice, its situation, although beautiful and romantic, was only occupied by a few miners' cabins. These celebrated warm springs, which are three in number, are not of a high temperature, the thermometer in the bath not rising higher than 68°. The water is much like that of the Clifton hot wells, both in chemical and medicinal properties. The first of these springs was discovered about the year 1698, when the old bath was formed of wood, lined with lead, and a few small rooms were built adjoining the bath, forming, however, but a poor accommodation to visitors. Some years afterwards, the property having changed hands, two large and commodious buildings were errected, with stables and other conveniences, and a coach-road formed along the river- side from Cromford. A second spring was found at about quarter of a mile distance, and another bath errected; and at a still later period a third, three or four hundred yards to the east of that first discovered, and another bath and lodging-house built; this has, since that time, been turned into a commodious hotel; the three buildings are called the old bath, the new bath, and the hotel. All the hot springs issue at a height of from about fifteen to thirty yards above the level of the river.
At Buxton baths, which are in the same county, a very charitable and useful custom prevails, which, although it has no direct connexion with the baths at Matlock, is worth noticing; it is that of collecting the sum of one shilling from each visitor, on his arrival, to form a fund for the poor who have to resort to the waters. In 1572 there was a fixed rate, according to the dignity of the visitor, and the money raised was divided equally between the physician and the poor bathers.
Always provyded the day of your coming thither bee noted, before you enter the bathes, and the day of your departure, with the country of your habitation, condition, or calling, with the infirmityes or cause you come for, in the regyster booke kept of the warden of the bath, or the physition that there shall be appointed, and the benefite you receyved, paying four pence for the recording;and every yeoman besides, 12 pence, every gentleman 3 shillinges, every esquior 3s. 4d, every knight 6s 8d, every lord and baron 10s, every vicount 13s. 4d, every erle 20s., every marques 30s, every duke 3l. 10s, every archbishop 5l, every bishop 40s, every judge 20s, every doctour and segeant of lawe 10s, every chancellor and utter-barrister 6s 8d, every archdeacon, pebendary, and canon, 5s, every countes 13s 4d, every barones 10s, every lady 6s 8d, every gentlewoman 2s, and al for the treasure of the bath. To the use of the poor, that only for help do come thither, the one halfe; the other to the physition for his residence.
In the midst of the beautiful scenery we have already described, the High Tor, represented in the engraving, is seen rearing its awful brow on the left bank of the river; the height of this lofty rock is upwards of 350 feet. The lower part is covered with small trees and underwood, 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, over a broken and disjointed bed. After sudden and heavy rains, the impetuosity of the current is greatly increased, and the interest of the scene is proportionally augmented.
Immediately opposite the High Tor is a hill of less steep ascent, but of greater elevation, called Masson Hill, a pile of immense crags, it has received the name of the Heights of Abram, from the resemblance to the celebrated place of that name, near Quebec: from this spot the view is very extensive, taking in the whole of the dale in a bird's-eye view.
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2005, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.