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Tufa Cottage, Viâ Gellia, near Matlock Bath, 1905
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Tufa Cottage in the Via Gellia
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Read more about the road being built

"Tufa Cottage" is in Derbyshire's Viâ Gellia, between The Pig of Lead and Grange Mill on the turnpike road connecting Newhaven and Cromford. The road was built in the very early nineteenth century and is now the A5012[1]. In 1912 Via Gellia was described in a trade directory: "The Via Gellia, partly in this parish [Bonsall], is a beautiful wooded valley nearly four miles in length from Cromford to Grange Mill; the road winding along the bottom of the valley forms a level and charming promenade and drive"[2]. A trip in a horse drawn cab through Via Gellia, often for visitors en route to Dovedale, was available from Matlock Bath and they would have undoubtedly stopped to look at this building. The house has long been a magnet for tourists.

The area around the cottage is known as Bonsall Wood and on the top of the hillside above the house are Dunsley (Petrifying) Springs. Although the sign on the gate is impossible to read properly, it could be a plea for the Edwardian trippers (the card was posted in 1905) not to enter the garden as it begins with "Please" and seems to end with "Rock". Equally, and probably more likely, the residents might have sold rock samples as a way to boost their income.

The cottage is built of tufa, which is a porous stone. According to the Oxford dictionary it is "formed of pulverised matter consolidated and often stratified ... a porous or vesicular carbonate of lime, generally deposited near the sources and along the courses of calcareous springs"[3]. An 1880 Map names the hillside behind the property as Via Gellia Quarry and the surrounding landscape suggests the house was built in the quarry[4].

"Tufa Cottage" was not the name of the house. Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth it was Marl House, or Marl Cottage[4]. We can see from various census returns that it was often the home of gamekeepers. For example, in 1911 a gamekeeper called Herbert Hinkesman, a 34 year old born in Stoke, Herefordshire, was living at Marl House with his wife and daughter[5]. It was then shown as having four rooms. In 1891 and 1901 the resident game keeper was Edward Brooks[6]. However, before 1891 it is difficult to establish who lived there with any certainty and the house was empty in 1861[7].

The date the house was built is not known, but was probably around 1830. Another example of a tufa construction is on the Lovers' Walks in Matlock Bath where there is a tufa arched shelter near the children's play area.

One of the Artistic Series, A.P. Co., 9 Bury Court, St. Mary Axe, London, E.C. No.1940.
Card posted to Miss H. Walker, the webmistress's great aunt, in Matlock Bath on July 23 1905.
Postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links go to other information on this web site:

[1] Davies, David Peter (1811) "History of Derbyshire" pub. S. Mason, Belper describes the new road through the Via Gellia and notes what was found when it was built. Read the transcript elsewhere on this web site (look under Hopton)
[2] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire" (1912) Kelly & Co., p.66
[3] "The Shorter Oxford Dictionary on Historic Principles" (1973), Oxford University Press
[4] OS Map (1880) Derbyshire 1 : 2,500. Later Maps provide the house name but the maps refer to both Marl House and Marl Cottage.
[5] The 1911 census is available on Find My Past (external link, so will open in a new window)
[6] In 1901 Edward Brooks, a 47 year old widower who was born at Youlgreave, is shown at Marl House - RG13/3241 f6 p4 s23 (2 rooms). In 1891 Brooks was living at No 1 Via Gellia with his wife and children - RG12/2756 f25 p1 s3 (4 rooms). He was also a gamekeeper in 1891, so is is probably safe to assume that 1 Via Gellia was Marl House
[7] The 1881 shows a gardener called William Charlton, who was born in Bonsall, probably living at the property - RG11/3426 f30 p2. The address provided was just Via Gellia, though. In 1871 he was living there with his father, also called William Charlton and a gardener - RG10/3602 f30 p1 s5. However, in 1861 In 1861 Marl House was unoccupied and the Charltons were living down the road. Similarly, in 1851 the Charltons were living on Via Gellia Road (HO107/2146 f692 p2 s7, but there are two unoccupied houses shown on the previous census page. In the 1841 census it is impossible to tell. William Charlton senior was living at Bonsall Hollow.

There is more on site information about Bonsall on this website:
The Andrews Pages : Picture Gallery, Derbyshire has several photographs and old cards
Kelly's Directory, 1891 - transcript of Bonsall entry