|Matlock, the county town of Derbyshire, is a former spa town situated at a sharp bend in the River Derwent, where it turns south to carve its way through the ridge of limestone which bars its route towards Derby. Just downriver of the main town lies Matlock Bath, which is enclosed by the limestone cliffs of the gorge and contains the main tourist attractions of the locality.|
In many respects Matlock seems quite a new town, certainly when compared with Buxton or Bakewell for instance. The reason is that Matlock was an unimportant collection of small villages centred around the church until thermal springs were discovered in 1698. Even this did not lead to an immediate development of Matlock because the route down the Derwent was blocked by Willersley crags at Cromford, so the road to Matlock from the south arrived by a circuitous and hilly route.
Matlock church at Matlock Town
This situation was remedied by the cutting of the road through Scarthin Nick near Cromford in 1818, though Matlock had already begun to gain a reputation as a rather select spa by then. The Victorian era saw the development of Matlock Bath as a fashionable resort and the construction by John Smedley in 1853 of the vast Hydro on the steep hill to the north of the river crossing at the centre of the town. This enormous hotel functioned as a spa until the 1950s, when it closed and was taken over by Derbyshire County Council as its headquarters.
The coming of the railways in the 1870s transformed Matlock again, this time into a resort for day-trippers from the Derby-Nottingham area and further south. From then on Matlock spawned tourist attractions in the form of show caverns, cable railways, petrifying wells, pleasure gardens and even recently a theme park. The evidence of the change which came over the place can be seen best at Matlock Bath, where the amusement arcades along the main road provide a sharp contrast with the elegant Victorian villas above.
The modern town is divided neatly into two: the main town radiating out from the river crossing opposite the railway station and Matlock Bath spread out along the gorge to the south. Whereas Matlock itself seems solid and Victorian with neat stone houses going in rows up the hill, the Bath has a more frivolous air. Overlooking it all is the gigantic folly that is Riber Castle, built in the 1860s by the same John Smedley who constructed the Hydro.
Matlock Bath from High Tor
The town has a full range of shops and facilities, however the principal hotels are both in the Bath - the New Bath Hotel is out on the road to Cromford opposite Wildcat crags and the Temple Hotel is on the hill below the Heights of Abraham. The Grand Pavilion at Matlock Bath is a pleasure palace built in 1910 alongside the River Derwent. It houses the Peak District Lead Mining Museum and has recently been purchased by the community after years of neglect. There are plans to refurbish it with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant as a theatre and venue.
The tourist information centre is now at the Peak Rail
shop on Matlock Station. The telephone number is 01335 343666.
Matlock Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Matlock church
1 - On Giddy Ledge, High Tor
2 - Matlock from High Tor
3 - Matlock Bath from High Tor
4 - High Tor
5 - High Tor and Riber Castle from across the valley
6 - Matlock view
7 - The cable railway to Heights of Abraham
8 - Matlock - Riber Hall
9 - Cotton Doubling machine at Masson Mills
10 - Masson Mills
11 - Matlock Bath from above the Temple Hotel
12 - River Derwent at Matlock Bath
13 - Matlock Bath
14 - The Pavilion at Matlock Bath
15 - Matlock Bath and High Tor
16 - Bonsall Market square
17 - Cromford - Willersley Castle
18 - Cromford Canal and Wharf
19 - Richard Arkwright
20 - Cromford - Scarthin and millpond
21 - Cromford - the Greyhound Inn
Useful local links:Let's Stay Peak District's guide to Matlock The Let's Stay Peak District web site is one of the most comprehensive and most successful sites devoted to the Peak District.
Matlock Bath Grand Pavilion This 1910 building is a pleasure palace standing alongside the River Derwent.It is being rescued by a community campaign as a theatre and venue.
Local places of interest
Arkwright's Mill, Cromford
Cromford Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire, was Richard Arkwright's first cotton mill and was one of the industrial revolution's most important symbols. This is where the revolution in the production of cotton began.
Black Rocks Country Park
Black Rocks Country Park, Cromford, Derbyshire, is an outcrop of sculpted gritstone rock which offers a spectacular situation above the Derwent Valley at Cromford.
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is a project to reopen the railway between Wirksworth and Duffield. This is staffed and run by volunteers, based at Wirksworth Station.
Gulliver's Kingdom is a theme park for young families, in a situation overlooking Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.
Heights of Abraham
Heights of Abraham are a tourist centre with two show caves - Rutland Cavern and Great Masson Mine - plus a cable car and other attractions, above Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.
High Peak Junction and Cromford Canal
High Peak Junction is the former junction of the High Peak Railway and the Midland Railway, just south of Cromford
High Peak Trail
The High Peak Trail takes the line of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway betwen Parsley Hey and Cromford, in the Derbyshire Peak District.
High Tor, Matlock
High Tor is a lofty limestone crag which towers over Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. There is a public park on top.
Lead Mining Museum, Matlock Bath
The Lead Mining Museum at Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, is owned by the Peak District Mines Historical Society and is in the Pavilion Building alongside the River Derwent. They also run the nearby Temple Mine, where you can see what a lead mine was like.
Masson Mills, Matlock Bath are Sir Richard Arkwright's masterpiece, a magnificent early 19th century mill. The mill has been converted into a shopping village, with exhibition and conference centre, but it also has a working textile museum.
Middleton Top is the last surviving winding engine from the now defunct Cromford and High Peak Railway, near Middleton by Wirksworth, Derbyshire Peak District.
National Stone Centre, Middleton by Wirksworth
The National Stone Centre, Middleton by Wirksworth, Derbyshire, has geological displays, fossils, stone walling courses, panning for gems and other activities.
Peak Rail have re-opened a section of the former Midland railway which ran between Matlock and Buxton. They are based at Rowsley South station and run services from there to Matlock.
Steeple Grange Light Railway
Steeple Grange Light Railway lies just off the High Peak Trail, just below Middleton by Wirksworth. It runs narrow gauge trains on lines used to serve the former quarries.
Wirksworth Church, Derbyshire, has important and impressive Saxon carvings. Betti the Mercian monk may have been buried here, as are the Gell family and Anthony Lowe