What brought the first visitors to Matlock Bath? Why would they choose to come to such a small area of Derbyshire? What was so special that they would travel from miles around?
The answer lies in the waters. No, not the brown muddy waters of the River Derwent, but the thermal waters that once gushed from natural springs thought to be over 2000ft underground. The first visitors believed that these waters had special healing properties, and that if they were to bathe in them, their health problems would magically disappear! This trend, alongside the questionable practice of Hydropathy, was popular amongst wealthy Georgian visitors. The word spread fast, and suddenly Matlock Bath was full of health tourists coming to ‘take the waters’.
Back in 1780, a local man named Stephen Simpson saw great opportunity in some land for sale on Masson Hill- which included two caverns. He bought the land and set to work creating what was then known as a 'pleasure garden'. It enticed many visitors at the time to hike the serpentine paths of Masson Hill to see what was at the summit.
As the years went on, several local entrepreneurs saw great opportunities and developed Matlock Bath into the town it is today. But the story doesn’t end there, there are still many mysteries to be solved. Did Queen Victoria really travel up to the Heights on a donkey? How did 3,600 guests all fit into the Rutland Cavern at once? Why did redundant miners become tour guides?
In the Long View, you can discover more about the origins of the Heights of Abraham and the fascinating stories that the 60-acre hilltop estate holds.