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Road Widening at Matlock Bath, 1967
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Preparatory work. Digging out the river bed and putting in the piles
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Jubilee Bridge

Jubilee Bridge, 1910

The Parade

River Derwent & the Devonshire Hotel, 1890

View from River Derwent

Matlock Bath residents saw their village change dramatically during 1967 and 1968 when the A6 trunk road that passes through the village was widened in the hope of alleviating the traffic problems that were being experienced. This series of five photographs of work in progress have been provided for this website by Ken Smith and show how the road was re-aligned close to the Jubilee Bridge. It involved pushing back the Derwent and building the road over part of the river's original course.

This major engineering undertaking meant that several old buildings along the length of the river, from the Jubilee Bridge down to the Cromford boundary, were demolished[1]. The Devonshire Cafe (Devonshire Hotel) and the Petrifying Well, which had aroused the curiosity of tourists for many many years, disappeared under the bulldozers.

The main road had been far too narrow for such a major thoroughfare. Probably the worst bottleneck had been where the Devonshire Cafe and some small shops stood. Large lorries had passed within inches of their windows. If you look at the photograph immediately below, these buildings were approximately where the line of piles ends - running from almost opposite Hodgkinson's Hotel to Rose Cottage.

The pretty wooden kiosk and ornate Edwardian turnstile at the end of the Jubilee Bridge, shown above and in the third photograph of this group, was another casualty and much of the Promenade was covered with tarmac. During the tourist season there had been a charge to cross the bridge and stroll along the Lovers' Walks and the kiosk and turnstile had been beside the bridge since shortly before 1910[2]. Julie Bunting's book shows a photograph, dated 1905, of the kiosk and turnstile at the Promenade's entrance[3].

Shot showing the depth below the road level that had to be dug out

More piles being lifted onto the site

A sheet steel cofferdam extending for 150 yards was piled along the riverbank so that the workmen could dig out the footings for the concrete retaining wall. They excavated 15 feet below the normal river level and removed large quantities of rock and river silt and gravel.

In the photograph below the original stone retaining wall can be seen. The same picture shows the old Fountain Baths (third from the left with the green doors, next to the whitened windows of the dress shop that had been run by Miss Barnes). The final photograph is a close up view of the piles that were being driven into the river bed.

The end result is an uninterrupted view of the River Derwent, a much wider road and a wide pavement connecting North Parade with South Parade and providing a long and pleasant walkway next to one of Derbyshire's largest rivers.

The river, the piles and the old retaining wall

Colourful piles

About 1900

Before 1902

About 1904-05

Before 1905

Before 1904

About 1905

About 1915


Tufa fountain
War memorial

Band stand

Photographs in the collection of, kindly provided by and © Ken Smith.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only

References (coloured links are to transcripts elsewhere on this website):

[1] See Michael Fay's article "The End of a Long and Winding Road". Scroll down to the section called "Difficult civil engineering work" as there are several photographs showing the work done at Scarthin Rock. The road widening was done in stages as the buildings opposite Masson Mill were not compulsorily purchased until 1971.

[2] Barton, David A. "Around Matlock in Old Photographs", (1998) part of a series called "Britain in Old Photographs", Budding Books, ISBN 1-84015-076-9

[3] Bunting, Julie (2002) "Matlock and Matlock Bath", Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2QG ISBN 0-7524-2455-6