Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

MATLOCK, a parish in the hundred of WIRKSWORTH, county of DERBY, 17 miles (N. by W.) from Derby, containing 2920 inhabitants. This place, which is equally celebrated for the romantic beauty of its scenery, and the purity of its medicinal springs, was formerly called Mesterford, or Metesford, and consists at present of the village and baths, nearly a mile and a half distant from each other. The waters were first applied to medicinal uses about the end of the seventeenth century, prior to which period, the neighbourhood consisted only of 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; the lease of the buildings was afterwards purchased by Messrs. Smith and Pennell, of Nottingham, who erected two large and commodious 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 afterwards discovered, at the distance of a quarter of a mile from the former, a new bath was formed, and additional lodging-houses built for the reception of visitors; and a third spring was opened, at a still later period, within four hundred yards of the first, which, after some difficulties in levelling the hill, in order to obtain the water, previously to its mixing with those of a cold spring, was rendered available to medicinal uses; and a third bath was constructed, and another hotel erected.

These springs, which have a mean temperature of sixty-eight degrees of Fahrenheit, issue from an elevation of one hundred feet from the level of the river; at higher or lower points the springs are cold, and possess no medicinal properties. The water is found efficacious in glandular affections, rheumatism, biliary obstructions, incipient consumption, and in all complaints arising from relaxation of the muscular fibres. The usual time of bathing is before breakfast, and between breakfast and dinner; the water is taken internally, in gradually increased quantities: the season commences in April, and ends in November.

The three principal hotels, which are all handsome stone buildings, and the lodging-houses, afford accommodation for about four or five hundred visitors: the museum is replete with the natural curiosities of the district, and with urns and vases formed of spar, marble, and alabaster, obtained in the county; and guides are constantly in attendance to conduct visitors through the several caverns in the vicinity. 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 through the windings of the vale, in some places expanding into a broad lake, from the surface of which are reflected 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, arising perpendicularly from the river to the height of four hundred feet, is a prominent feature in the scenery of the dale; and on the opposite bank is Masson hill, from the summit of which, called the Heights of Abraham, to which a winding ascent has been recently made, there is an extensive and most interesting view of the magnificent scenery of the dale.

Walks have been cut through the woods, in various directions, leading to different points of view, from which the dale is seen in all its variety of beauty; and on the summit of the rocks is a natural and lofty terrace, commanding an extensive prospect of the surrounding country. The village is romantically situated on the banks of the river 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 above each other in gradual succession from the base nearly to the summit.

The lead mines were formerly worked to a great extent in the parish, but at present there are only a few in operation. The cotton manufacture was established here by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, who built a factory near the upper end of the dale, in which machinery of a very complicated description is employed with success, in the production of cotton. The market, chiefly for provisions, is well supplied: the fairs are February 25th, April 2nd, May 9th, and October 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 40s. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Derby, and diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, rated in the king's books at £11. 2. 6., and in the patronage of the Dean of Lincoln. The church, dedicated to St. Giles, and situated on the summit of a rock, is a small edifice, chiefly in the later style of English architecture. There is a place of worship for Independents.

The free school was founded, in 1647, by Mr. George Spateman, who endowed it with £80, to which, in 1668, Mr. Anthony Wolley added land producing £5 per annum; the present income is about £45 per annum, and the school is open to all children of the parish, who are instructed in reading, writing, and accounts. There are some charitable bequests for distribution among the poor. On Riber hill, near the church, are the Hirst stones, probably the remains of a cromlech, consisting of four rude masses of gritstone, one of which, supposed to weigh about two tons, is placed on the others, and has in the centre a hole six inches deep and nine inches in diameter, in which was formerly a stone pillar.

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