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Heights of Abraham, junction of Dale Road and North Parade, Matlock Bath, c 1900s
Dale Road - North Parade
About this image
Matlock Bath lies in a steep sided valley. It is bounded by the River Derwent to the east, with the limestone crags of High Tor and Wild Cat Tor, later just known as Cat Tor, rising almost vertically from the river's edge in places. Matlock Bath has been described as 'the Switzerland of England'. Matlock Bath was originally part of the parish of Matlock until 1843 and the history of the two places is intertwined. In early times there were few inhabitants in what we now know as Matlock Bath because it was almost inaccessible. The village did not develop much until a road was cut through the rocks at Scarthin Nick at the south end of Matlock Bath and the bridle path from Matlock Bridge was widened. The first development of any major importance followed the discovery of the medicinal springs. Lysons stated that the spring waters were first used for medicinal purposes at the end of the 17th century, and the bath (wooden lined with lead) was made in 1698. The village was an extremely fashionable and prosperous spa in the nineteenth century, and was visited by the then Princess (later Queen) Victoria on 22 Oct 1832, when she was a guest of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House.
The Heights of Abraham is the name given to the east shoulder of Masson Hill over the gorge as it is supposed to resemble heights scaled by General Wolfe and his men in capture of Quebec. The Heights of Abraham are now a tourist centre strategically placed at the top of a spur on one of the bends in the River Derwent, high above Matlock Bath and opposite High Tor. The hilltop is crowned by the Victoria Tower which offers excellent views of the River Derwent below and the countryside around.
This photograph was taken before the cable car up to the Heights from just upstream of the railway station was installed. The Heights feature two caverns which are open to the public. Rutland Cavern and Great Masson Cavern, are part natural and part lead mines. The Rutland Cavern was known as the Nestus mine and is probably the oldest in the area, so old it may have been one those worked by the Romans. It has several large chambers, a spring of clear water known as Jacob's Wishing Well, fine examples of fluorspar and other crystals and graffiti from the 16th century miners. The pick marks on the walls indicate that it was worked entirely by hand and some of the marks are almost certainly mediaeval.
Great Masson Cavern lies further up the hill near its summit and is another of the oldest mines in the Peak, following the line of the Great Rake, a seam of lead which cuts across the Derwent valley and continues across the countryside for miles. (Information from Cressbrook Peak District Information Web Site and the Matlock and Matlock Bath Genealogy and Local History Web Site)