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Matlock (St. Giles)

MATLOCK (St. Giles), a parish, in the union of Bakewell, hundred of Wirksworth, S. division of the county of Derby, 17½ miles (N. by W.) from Derby; containing 3782 inhabitants. This place, which was formerly called Mesterford or Metesford, is equally celebrated for the beauty of its scenery, and the purity of its medicinal springs, and consists at present of the village and the 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 comprised only 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; and the lease of the buildings was afterwards purchased by Messrs. Smith and Pennell, of Nottingham, who erected two large 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 subsequently discovered, at the distance of a quarter of a mile from the former; a new bath was formed, and additional lodging-houses were built for the reception of visiters. A third spring was opened, at a still later period, within 400 yards of the first, and this, also, after some difficulties in levelling the hill, in order to obtain the water previously to its mixing with a cold spring, was rendered available to medicinal uses; a third bath was constructed, and another hotel erected. The three principal hotels, which are all handsome stone buildings, and the lodging-houses, afford accommodation for about 400 or 500 visiters. There is a museum replete with the natural curiosities of the district, and with urns and vases formed of spar, marble, and alabaster, obtained in the county. Guides constantly attend to conduct visiters 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 along the windings of the vale, in some places expanding into a broad lake reflecting from its surface 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, rising perpendicularly from the river to the height of 400 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, is an extensive and most interesting view.

The village is romantically situated on the bank of the 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 one above another in gradual succession from the base nearly to the summit. Lead-mines were formerly worked to a great extent in the parish, but at present only a few are in operation: the cotton manufacture was established here by Sir Richard Arkwright, who built a factory near the upper end of the dale. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from the Ambergate station of the Midland line, to Buxton and Stockport, by way of Matlock. The market, chiefly for provisions, is well supplied; and fairs are held on Feb. 25th, April 2nd, May 9th, and Oct. 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, valued in the king's books at £11. 2. 6.; net income, £320; patron, the Bishop of Lichfield. The church, situated on the summit of a rock, is a small edifice, chiefly in the later English style. A district church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected at Matlock-Bath in 1842; it is in the pointed style, and cost about £2600: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of five Trustees. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A free school, which has an income of about £40 a year, was founded in 1647 by George Spateman; and some bequests have been left for distribution among the poor. On Riber Hill, near the church, are the Hirst Stones, probably the remains of a cromlech.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.