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Matlock: Bank Road & the Steep-Gradient Tramway
Matlock's Cable Tramway, the steepest in the world, ran for 34½ years.
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28 March 1893 - 23 September, 1927

Tram car no.3 in Crown Square, early twentieth century

The Cable Tramway was a remarkable piece of engineering and enabled, for about 34½ years, both residents and visitors to get up and down Matlock Bank with ease. The single line tramway, with one passing place by the Gate Inn, went straight up Bank Road from Crown Square[1], crossed Smedley Street and continued on up the hill to the junction of Rutland Street and Wellington Street. The gradient is approximately 1 in 5 and the tramway rose 300 feet along its course.

The idea had come from North America[2]. The hydropathist and councillor Job Smith had visited California as a young man in 1862[3]. He was very impressed by San Francisco's tramway and on his return to Matlock a few years later he attempted to interest John Smedley in the idea but Smedley just wasn't interested. However, Job Smith did not let the matter drop entirely and in late 1884 a friend of Smith's, an Australian engineer called J. C. Donaldson, surveyed the land for a proposed scheme for not only a tramway up Matlock Bank, between Crown Square and Smedley Street, but also for lines to be laid between Matlock Bath and Matlock Bridge[4]. Rutland Street proved to be too narrow at that time, and the plan was abandoned[5].

Job Smith occasionally mentioned the idea in his speeches; a report of one speech was picked up by the engineer G. Croydon Marks who had designed the Lynton Cliff Railway for the M.P. Mr. George Newnes. At a Local Board Meeting in July 1890 Mr. Smith, by then the Board's Chairman, read out a letter he had received from Mr. Newnes, who had been made aware of the proposal for a lift or cable tram between Matlock Bridge and Matlock Bank by Mr. Marks. George Newnes had been born in Matlock Bath and some of his family lived in the area, hence his interest[3]. Mr. Newnes wrote that had instructed Mr. Marks to survey the area and report back to him, after which the M.P. would probably be prepared to submit a scheme for approval.

The Board offered to support the scheme should it go ahead[6]. Rutland Street had been widened by this time[5], so the earlier problem had been removed. Once George Newnes was satisfied with the survey he agreed to help, but it was felt local businessmen should be involved and a limited company was formed. The plans went the Board of Trade later in the year[7].

Land had to be bought for the Depot and a plot at the foot of the hill was considered, but rejected because the Derwent flooded from time to time; the flood water would have been both dangerous and inconvenient. A site was chosen at the corner of Rutland Street and Wellington Street and the depot and engine house were built in local stone supplied by Mr. Drabble from the Bentley Brook quarries. The complex included the depot, boiler house, engine house, repair shop, ladies' cloakroom and waiting room. "Two engines were erected, each of a sufficient power to work the line, the motive cable of which is driven by large wheels worked from the engine crank shaft"[2].


Job Smith, photographed by Barber.
The picture was published in Famous Derbyshire
Health Resorts. The Matlocks, about 1892

A single track was laid down the length of Rutland Street and Bank Road, with pulleys and the 3" steel cable buried below the surface. The cable went round a terminal or guiding wheels in Crown Square, hidden in a brick lined inspection chamber under the road[5].

There was a trial run on Wednesday 12 October 1892 when it was reported that the speed had been fixed at six miles per hour (later reduced slightly). The cars, supplied by Messrs. Milnes and Co. of Birkenhead, were to carry thirty one persons at a time. It was proposed to run two continually, and three if needed. The preliminary runs were made with a bogie and were watched by both residents and visitors. Mr. Colam was the project's consulting engineer and everything was said to have been working admirably[8]. At the time it was believed that the tramway was ready for inspection the following week, thought this did not take place for a further five months.

The final Board of Trade inspection, by Major-General Hutchinson, took place on 1 March 1893. The tramway, the only one of its kind in Europe, was officially opened with much good humour on 28th March 1893 by Mrs. Newnes.
There are three newspaper reports about the inspection and the opening ceremony and celebrations lower down the page.
See: What the papers said in 1893 (below)


"The tramway from Crown square, near the Bridge, to Matlock bank, constructed, with the assistance of Sir George Newnes bart. under the provision of the "Tramways Act, 1870," was opened 28 March, 1893 ; the tramway, worked by a single cable, is three-quarters of a mile in length and the gradient probably the steepest in the world"[9].

The directors of the limited company were:

  • Sir George Newnes M.P. of Putney Heath, London[3]
  • Mr. Robert Wildgoose J.P. of Matlock[10]
  • Mr. Job Smith of Matlock[3]
  • Mr. Charles Rowland of Matlock[11]
  • Dr. W. Bell Hunter of Matlock
  • Mr. Charles Hill of Bridge House, Cromford
  • Mr. G. Croydon Marks of Birmingham
Tram Car No. 2, about 1898   Tramcar No. 2, about 1898.

Seaman's photograph predates the tram shelter, erected in 1899. The staff were wearing uniforms, seemingly introduced when Matlock District Council took over from Matlock Cable Tramway Company Limited. Neither the buildings at the lower end of the south east side of Bank Road nor the Crown Hotel's side entrance porch, which extended over the pavement, had been built. As for the people in the picture, on the left there is a man in a leather apron, possibly one of the Crown Square boot makers. At the rear of the tram car is a railway porter with his trolley. It was not unusual for the trams to be piled high with luggage and porters would be needed to transport it to the railway station across the bridge.
In 1899 one tramcar did 1088 journeys per month[12].

The driver is standing by the handwheel and below the tram is the gripper mechanism, also described in What the papers said in 1893, below.

The Crown Hotel did not have the glass roofed canopy over the side entrance which features in images dating from a few years later (below).

By August 1893 the tramway had carried nearly 190,000 passengers[13]. It was thought that after the first year the novelty might have worn off, but in early 1895 the company's second annual returns showed there was a steady flow of traffic using the tram. The total number of passengers for the year ending December 1894 was 246,560, "and the three months from October to December compare with the previous year within a fraction". The fares collected totalled £1027-6s-8d. The directors reported that there had been a trade depression in the manufacturing districts, plus unfavourable weather during the previous summer, so excursion traffic had been disappointing although residential traffic was well maintained. It had cost George Newnes about £15,000[14].

The tramway was proving to be an asset for Matlock Bank businesses, and several hydros began to include in their advertising the fact that trams passed by their premises every ten minutes. The building trade was also profiting as land that had previously been considered inaccessible was being "opened up for building purposes"[14].

However, less than a year after the tramway had opened, the employees went on strike in January 1894. The trams did not run for a week following a mishap to one of the cars when the wrong cable was gripped, causing a stoppage whilst it was put right. It was reported that the management thought some of the staff had been careless but there was then a misunderstanding regarding overtime pay so, after they'd repaired the damage, the men decided to leave the company. Mr Marks, the engineer, and Mr J. Smith, managing director, met the men involved and the disputed points were settled[15].

In March 1902 local tailor William Basquil secured the contract to make the uniforms of the tramway's employees. The uniforms were replaced annually on Good Friday[16] but as it didn't include the provision of a winter coat their job wouldn't have been much fun in cold or wet weather.
The 1901 census shows that several people who worked for the Matlock Cable Tramway were living on Matlock Bank:

Chas. Foster was a Mechanical and Electrical Tramway Engineer lived on Wellington Street
Charles Killick, described as a Cable Train Driver on the Tram, was in New Street
George Hallam was also a Driver and lived on Matlock Bank
John Parker, a Conductor on Tram, was also living in New Street
Teenager Percy Ballington was also a Conductor and lived with his family on Matlock Bank

Crown Square, Matlock. No date.
Tramcar 2 is at the bottom of Bank Road.

A winter scene, and the light gives us the opportunity to see the seating inside the shelter.

A short ceremony marked the official opening of the shelter by Mr. Robert Wildgoose and his wife on 12 December 1899 after they arrived home from London. It was a bitterly cold evening but a brass band and torchlight procession escorted the couple to Crown Square. A short speech by Mr. Slack, the Council's chairman, was followed by Mrs. Wildgoose starting the clock. It had cost £250 in total, which Mr. Wildgoose had paid for[17].

Not everyone appreciated the generous gesture as some of the Crown Square residents had asked for the shelter to be placed in a different location.

Crown Square, Matlock. Registered in 1903.

A sign for the Crown hotel's motor garage and inspection pit (see Kelly's 1908 Directory) can be seen on the left, above the laden four wheel wagon drawn by two horses. There are a number of other horse drawn vehicles in the picture, including a pony and trap, a carriage (the horse and the carriage are next to the shelter and are covered) and a wagonette is behind the shelter. Judging by the number of people in the square, the tram had just departed.

Problems with the cables were unpredictable and the tram was out of service once more during the Easter holiday period in 1903 when a car leaving Crown Square gripped the wrong cable once more, this time at the crossing point. Despite it being released, it caused a strand to break. This unravelled, became caught in the points and the damage was complete. The company telegraphed for a replacement cable, something that was already on order in case of such emergencies. However, the public holiday meant the new cable was not delivered and laid down until the Tuesday morning[18].

There were three double decker tramcars painted royal blue and white, with open tops and external stairs to the upper deck, providing seating for thirty one passengers - thirteen inside and eighteen outside. M. J. Arkle[16] mentions a fourth tramcar being introduced, a single decker designed for quiet periods with seats that ran the length of the tram rather than going from side to side across the width. This is said to have caused some interesting mishaps for the passengers who slid along the seats to the rear of the coach on the way up and to the front on the way downhill but this design quirk did not last overly long! According to Glynn Waite, this tramcar was in operation for three years leading up to the first world war, but there are no known pictures of it[19]. Councillors were informed, at a meeting in November 1916, that "The body of an old tramcar had been disposed of for £12"[20].

Twenty six Bye-Laws and Regulations had been passed for the Cable Tramway, including the banning of smoking in the tramcars. Passengers were not allowed to play musical instruments on board and people whose clothes might soil or damage the cushions could not travel on the tram. Presumably this was to aimed at workers doing dirty jobs. Neither drunkenness nor swearing were to be tolerated on board and offenders could be asked to get out, especially if they were offensive to other passengers[7]. Although luggage could be transported, it had to be placed on the boarding platform beside the driver.

Crown Square, Tram and Tram Shelter - 1903

  The Square, Matlock Bridge.

Crown Square, the tram and tram shelter, dating from about 1903. The new Crown Hotel had been built in 1883, approximately 100 yards from its original position. The buildings on the left of the hotel were the hotel's stables.

The shops on the left of the picture were (from the left) Richard Hilton's tailors and drapers and next door was that of Hodgson Genn Hartley who was a saddler and cycle agent.
See another picture of Hartley's

There is a man standing at the entrance to Hartley's shop - probably Mr. Hartley. Above his head are two signs. One is for the shop but the white circular one below it, which has a black hand on it, announces that he was "Agent For Rudge Whitworth Cycles".
Tramcar No. 1 in Crown Square, Matlock, about 1907

  Crown Square, Matlock

Tramcar No.1 is drawing to a halt in Crown Square, having descended the hill. There seems to be a flurry of excitement as people appear to be hurrying to get on board for the return journey. Shops had been built at the bottom of Bank Road (there were none in the Seaman photograph above).

Beside the barber's pole on the right is a sign that reads "Ladies and Gentleman's Hairdressing Rooms".
The hairdresser's advertisement can be found on another web page.

Despite the postcard's number (40203) this view is a year or two later than the image immediately above it. The trees in front of the Crown Hotel and the one on Bank Road are marginally bigger, for example. Plus road direction signs had been added to the shelter, just beneath the clock.
  The Square, Matlock Bridge.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the A. P. Company of London produced some very attractive postcards of views in the Matlocks, of which this is one.

Two ladies are hurrying purposefully past Hilton's drapery towards the County Bridge, possibly to catch a train just as Tramcar No. 1 is coming to a stop, its driver glancing to his right. He was either looking to see if passengers were waiting to alight or was possibly checking on the movements of the driver of the horse drawn that has two more horses behind it.

The wheel outside Mr. Hartley's shop on the left is clearly visible. At the time a number of bicycle shops seemed to display signs like this.

There are two black and white photographs in the Vernon Lamb Archive of the drapery on the right, taken between 1910 an 1914. The shop was by then run by the Margerrisons., but here was the outfitters Castle & Hurd.
VLA5019, Margerrisons, Crown Square
VLA5026, Margerrisons, Crown Square

Sir George Newnes, who had by then been knighted, bought out the other shareholders and decided to transfer the ownership of the Matlock Cable Tramway Company Limited to the Council, as a gift to his birthplace, in June 1898. "The property, valued at £20,000, was formally handed over to the chairman and officials of the Matlock District Council at the Town Hall"[21]. Unfortunately, two years later the Council were finding its upkeep to be it rather an expensive luxury and it was proposed to stop the service. A meeting of the Matlock Ratepayers' Association discussed the tramway's figures and commented that since the Council had raised the fares to 2d. per. passenger up and 1d. down, all the year's expenditure were covered in eight month's takings, exclusive of advertising receipts and ticket monies. Before the fare was raised the losses had been enormous[22]. It is unclear how long the "penny up, tuppence down" fares lasted (based on the fact that it was easier to walk down the hill), but the price of a book of tickets increased in June 1914[23].

The press was full of reports concerning the death of Sir George Newnes in 1910 (see Biographies, Newnes). He had been extremely generous to the town.

Tramcar No.4, painted with the Town Council's livery, photographed by W. N. Statham in 1904.

The advertisements are for the local businesses of John William Wildgoose, a building contractor and quarry owner, and W Pilkington, who had a chemist's shop on Dale Road[9]. The sign at the front of the upper deck reads "Rockside Hydro". Whilst other advertisements on the tram came and went, the Rockside one remained on the tramcars throughout their life. It was an excellent strategy, as everyone standing either at the Smedley Street junction or in Crown Square would have seen as the car came towards them when it was on its downward journey.

The picture was taken slightly below the Rutland Street depot and there is a second tram (no.2) waiting on the part of the track immediately outside the depot's tramcar shed (behind the delivery boy on the right of the car).

The driver was John William Handley, who subsequently became the engineer in charge of machinery before joining the Council's water department.
  Tram, outside the depot

There were fare dodgers (and children) who clung on to the back step and the tram also proved to be an excellent way for the youngsters to get back up to the top of the sledging run in snowy conditions, as they tied their sledges to the back for the journey up the hill. The sledgers took a different route down to central Matlock, going down from outside the Duke of Wellington pub via the Chesterfield Road (Lime Tree Hill) and Steep Turnpike. No sense in colliding with one of the trams.

Matlock, Crown Square, about 1907.

Tramcar No.1 at the end of the track in Crown Square, where the line split into two for a short distance - it did not go across the County Bridge and the plans to extend the tramway to go to Matlock Bath never bore fruit[24].

An advertisement for W. Pride, the Crown Square poulterer, is on the plate next to the number but is difficult to read.

Passengers were waiting beside the shelter and a horse drawn cab was also there to pick up passengers.
Over the door of the shelter is a sign that reads "TRAMS START HERE. 9.0 LAST CAR.

This is an unusual view as the majority of the images of the tram that were taken in the square were from the bridge, so looking up Bank Road.
  Tramcar No.1 and tram shelter, Crown Square
The sepia image replaces a black and white version.

The shops on the left were later demolished.
Matlock: The Bridge (4), and the Broad Walk discusses these shops, which were demolished before the Whitsun holiday in 1926.
Across the bridge, at the corner of Snitterton Road and Holt Lane, is the former post office.

The first shop on the right hand side just before the bridge, so next to the tram, was still Kirkhams bootmakers but the shop next to it changed hands about 1907. The former proprietor, Richard Hilton had lived above their shop but he and his wife had buried one of their sons at St. Giles in 1906, and the family had left Matlock; they were living at Longton in 1911. The Addys had taken over the premises and Mrs Addy (Clara Ann) had turned it into a confectioners. The shop's sun blind had changed, there is a sign for Cadbury on the stone wall and above the awning are signs for Rowntrees. Clara Ann is listed here in Kelly's 1908 Directory. Her daughters helped in the shop and Maud Addy died here in 1968.

At the Council's monthly meeting in March 1914, the year war broke out, the tramway manager reported that the number of passengers who had used the tram in the previous month was 11,378; with income of just under £73 and expenditure just under £71. Mr. Foster stated that there was still a deficit, and one wag on the Council suggested they should hold a bazaar, but Lubin Wildgoose's proposal for £100 to be set aside from the contingency account was agreed.

Mr. E. Drabble was elected chairman of the tramway committee at their AGM in the April. Other members were Messrs. Baxter, Dakin, Hurd, Ludlam, Shaw and Shenton.

In July the trams had carried 20,241 passengers, some 367 less than 1913, but 240 more than in 1912. Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 and things would change in the town.

The question of continuing the trams' summer service was raised at the September meeting. The passengers in August had numbered 25,368 which was down on the previous year by 6,449. The Chairman suggested prolonging the summer service provided by the three trams until the middle of October. It was eventually decided to run a two car service between 9a.m. and noon, with a three car service for the rest of the day. It was also agreed that tramway "servants" should not have to pay use the trams when they weren't on duty[25].

In 1911 the tramway employees were:

Charles Peacock Foster of Wellington Street, who was still the Tramway Manager;
John Robert Evans of Hackney Lane, aged 18, was a Conductor for the Cable Tramway Co ;
George Hallam was still a "cable driver";
Frederick Hardy of Albert Terrace, Smedley Street was shown as a Luggar / Carrier;
John William Handley, also of Albert Terrace, Smedley Street was a tram driver;
William Ernest Smith, aged 37, of Industrial Road who was the Head Mechanical Engineer (he became the manager);
Amos John Upton of Snitterton Road was a Tram Driver.

Cable Cars on Bank Road, Matlock   Cable Cars on Bank Road, Matlock.

Tramcars 1 and 2, at the passing point at the junction of Bank Road and Smedley Street. The conductor and driver of car 2 are the same men shown in the Statham photograph above.
The Gate Inn is on the right, behind Tramcar 2 and Central Buildings is the large three storey block that faces down the hill. They were built by Herbert Housley, a Smedley Street provision dealer, about 1890[27]. There are two shops on the ground floor: Henry Bailey's Chemist's and the studio and photographic premises of Charles Colledge, the stationer. He was able to take some iconic views of Matlock from the windows of the upper floors of his home.
The large sign on the top of the bus says Rockside Hydro Tram Station.

The Cable Cars at Smedley Street, Matlock
The Cable Cars at Smedley Street, Matlock.

Tramcars waiting at the passing point at junction of Smedley Street and Bank Road, the only point where they stopped apart from at either end of the journey. Smedley's Hydro is behind the two trams with two inter-connecting bridges spanning the street. Only the doubled decked bridge remains today[28].
The tram's bell can be seen in the left hand car, above the driver's head.
The views from the top deck as passengers travelled down the hill would have been spectacular.

There was nowhere for the cars to turn round at either end of the line and this image shows us how everything was duplicated with not only two sets of stairs but also two handwheels. The driver always had to be facing the direction of travel whilst the conductor was required stand on the rear platform during the journey. Both could apply the emergency break if needed[29].

Both photographs were taken by Charles Colledge (see Photographers).

At the end of 1915 the cable tramway traffic was stated to have increased over the record a year ago. This was the year that street lighting had been reduced for economic reasons but this was abandoned and the full service was resumed[26].

Curtailing the evening service was discussed by the Council in November 1916; it was decided to continue to keep the trams running until 8p.m., with the exception of Saturdays when the last car would ascend the Bank at 10p.m. Tenders for a new cable were submitted and one from Messrs. Wright of Birmingham was accepted; the last rope had cost £150 whereas the new one would be £179 5s. The shelter was reported to be in a disgraceful condition and J. D. Evans, the manager, said he had make arrangements for it to be cleaned daily[20].

Rockside Hydro, Matlock, Derbyshire (no date, but 1906-19).

Although the main subject of this postcard is Rockside, we can see part of the entrance to the tram depot and waiting area on the left, below the Rutland Street/Wellington Street junction. The track curved round at a 90 degree angle from Rutland Street, which probably wasn't easy to navigate. However, the tram carriages were not allowed to finish their upward journey on Rutland Street itself because of the steep gradient[29].
Waite draws attention to the pulley hatch covers in the tracks[19]. When it was inspected in 1893 comments were made about the "pleasing elevation" and J. Turner, the architect, was congratulated for having "successfully dealt with that which is not normally considered to be a subject for ornamental treatment".

In 1898, when Sir George Newnes presented the Tramway to the town, part of the ceremony involved a visit to the depot, where Lady Newnes unveiled a brass tablet that had been fixed over the main door. It was engraved with the following: "This tramway, with all buildings and working appliances, was presented to the Matlock Urban District Council by Sir George Newnes, Bart., on Tuesday, June 24th 1898". All the guests then went for lunch at Rockside.

The railings are still in place today.

Before the end of the war the boom shown in the tramway's receipts had continued, and for July the income was 25 per cent above the record for the same period in the previous year[30].

The Tramway started to lose money when cars, buses and lorries came into use. In 1920 the steam engines were replaced by a modern suction gas plant but the losses were greater than the profit[31]. So the pride of Matlock turned into a bit of a millstone, though the enterprise struggled on until 1927 when the Council decided to take action. The issue was debated over some months, with Councillors Lubin Wildgoose and Charles White (junior) putting forward opposing views. Lubin Wildgoose wasn't satisfied the buses could offer a good alternative service for the residents of Matlock Bank, whereas Charles White was solely concerned with the financial aspect. After 1917 the losses had been about £1,000 per annum.

  18th January 1921.

A rather battered looking tramcar was surging through the receding floodwater at the entrance to Crown Square, creating an impressive bow wave. Perhaps the owners of the business premises on either side of Bank Road were less pleased by the surges created.

Whilst the card is itself undated, we can be certain of the date because of the Crown Hotel's notice board advertising a Police Ball Whist Drive. The large print is not overly clear on this image but can be seen on another on-site image.

See Flooding in the Matlocks, where there are two images of the 1921 flood.

The Council voted to close the tramway at a meeting on Monday 18 July 1927 by eight votes to four; they also decided take immediate steps to make an agreement with bus proprietors, local or otherwise, to run a service of buses to replace the tramway[32]. Four firms were approached but did not include that of W H Furniss, who wrote to the Council pointing out that he had not been given the same chance as the others. The Council's response was that they didn't consider his vehicle suitable for the route.

There was quite a heated exchange of opinions through the letters pages of "The Derbyshire Times" newspaper about the Council's decision to close down the Tramway. A Mr. Skidmore, a London solicitor who had been born in Matlock and often visited the town, used some fairly strong words to voice his opposition to the council's proposals. His was not a lone voice but Charles White clearly did not like someone he considered to be an outsider expressing a view and robustly defended the stance he and others on the Council had taken[33]. There were special meetings to debate the issue, including a public one in the Town Hall on 12th August[34].

The tramway service ended on Friday 23rd Sep 1927 when the cable broke[35]; it was perhaps an appropriate ending but it was a week before the date the Council has set, i.e. Friday 30th Sept[36]. The bus service that was introduced to replace the trams on 1st October 1927 was unable to make the journey up the hill and the bus companies found alternative routes to get round the problem of the steepness of Bank Road. In December 1927 the Council's surveyor was instructed to ascertain the most economical method of taking up the old tramway track[37]. The cable tramway depot, machinery, sheds, waiting-rooms, shops etc. were offered for sale on 4 June 1928 but the lot was withdrawn at £2,000[38].

Top of Bank Road, Matlock.
This is the view the tram passengers would have enjoyed when going down the hill.

The photograph of Bank Road dates from about 1923 and was taken from just below the chapel opposite Smedley's, looking down the hill towards Crown Square. Whilst the road on this part of the Bank is wider here, it was never a passing point for the trams. You can see the tramlines in the road and there are more pulley hatch covers between the lines.

There is a tramcar at the bottom of the hill in Crown Square. A horse drawn cab is being driven up the hill. The lady on the far right was Mrs. Hannah Gregory; she was talking to "Percy" outside her home in Devonshire Terrace[39].
Only the two houses we can see here remain today, but there were then two units of semi-detached dwellings that made up the terrace. The others were demolished when the Bank Road entrance into Smedley's was widened after it became County Hall and parking spaces were needed for the employees.
  Postcard dating from about 1923 of Bank Road, looking down the hill towards Crown Square
The photo on the right, enlarged from an albumen print dating from around 1893-4, explains why Bank Road is wider at this point. The corner of a field used to jut out into the road and the kink was not removed until after the tram had been built.
There is a bigger image.
See Smedley's Hydropathic Institution, 1890s (scroll down).

Tramcar 3 on Bank Road, about 1926.

This is a similar view to "the Top of Bank Road", above, but was taken a couple of years later. There could have been either a small sprinkling of snow or a heavy frost, although it is not a particularly good quality image. The photographer also seems to have been keener to snap the tram than create a good picture as the Methodist and United Reformed Church spire looks like a top hat above the tram! Or perhaps a tail fin. The spire itself had lost the cockerel on top in the interim.

There was plenty of room for the three wheeled cycle car that is tucked under the wall on the left. It has clearly aroused the interest of the tram driver, although those sitting on the top deck were oblivious to the novelty.
We believe we are looking at the rear of the vehicle, where there is a number plate and single wheel, with what appears to be a pannier above it. Between the two front wheels is a full width seat but the quality of the picture isn't good enough to work out where the driver sat.

The tram was nearing the end of its life in the final pictures, having served Matlock Bank well over 30 years. Despite some of the criticism, which largely centred on the cost of the upkeep, it was by today's standards a greener option than the petrol driven vehicles that replaced it.

  Unnumbered tram car departing from the Crown Square end of the single line tramway, mid 1923-1927.
Orme's had moved into Crown buildings about the middle of 1923.

A woman can be seen clinging onto the tram's rear platform, having probably rushed to get on board once the car was moving. There were actually two latecomers. This was despite the sign on the shelter announcing that there was a "CAR EVERY TEN MINUTES".

The signs below the clock were rather difficult to interpret as, if you had crossed the County bridge, small arrows pointed you to Chesterfield and Alfreton on the right and another arrow on the left pointed to Bakewell and Buxton. If you had come if from the Causeway Lane side you were directed across the bridge to Belper and Derby. It must have been frustrating for drivers, even though their vehicles could not travel overly fast.

The shelter now had doors and windows. Tucked behind it was a parked bus, which meant that traffic entering the town from the Bakewell direction could not use the space.

The shelter's structure had been damaged in 1923 when a Williams double decker bus ripped off a launder (gutter) and damaged the ironwork. The driver had also damaged the side of his bus.[40] In June the same year the dilapidated condition of the Matlock Cable Tramway Power Station had been drawn to the Council's attention. It had not been painted for 25 years and D. M. Wildgoose stated that it was going to ruin and glass was dropping about the boiler house floor[41].

The image below appears to have been taken after the tram shelter had been removed from Crown Square; its demolition began on 23 August. "The demolition of the tram shelter in Crown Square, Matlock, is being effected rapidly",[42] according to one newspaper. Crown Square was becoming congested, even though most of these pictures seem to show the opposite. One item the Council had discussed was the shelter's clock, which councillors wanted to keep even if it wasn't to be in the centre of Crown Square any longer. It clearly proved to be a good incentive to keep the whole building, although a number of councillors needed to be reminded that the shelter had been a gift to the town. Councillor White, for example, would only have been 8 years old and living in Bonsall when Robert Wildgoose presented it to the town and Cllr. Baxter, another critic, was not living in Matlock either. Indeed, Francis Baxter was later to declare, when he retired from the Council in 1939 that he included in his list of improvements and schemes carried through in his time on the Council "the scrapping of the trams"[43].

This is one of the last pictures of the tram, probably taken at the very end of August or in early September 1927.

Tramcar 2, by now looking as if it needed to be refurbished, was waiting in Crown Square for its passengers to board.
The large advert along the top deck was for Councillor Lubin Wildgoose's hydro, Oldham House and Prospect Place.
Behind the male passengers on the upper deck was an advert for Rockside Hydro, which was just above the tram depot.
Both these hydropathic establishments must have provided countless customers for the tram service over the years.
The Rockside ad was only ever on the side facing downhill, with no advertising board on the opposite end of the vehicle.
Higton's advertisement is on the side at the front and J. W. Walker of Matlock Green advertised lorries and taxis as well
as repairs on the side advertisement at the rear of the car. Pasted in the central window is a cinema poster that
advertised two films, Mantrap and a Gloria Swanson film called Fine Manners, that were in general circulation during 1927.
In the driving compartment at the back is the bell, the handwheel of the gripper mechanism used by the driver[44]
(covered for safety whilst not in use) and large wheel (the emergency brake according to Waite[19]).

Although the tram lines are no longer visible, some of the buildings are still to be found in Matlock. The depot. just below Rockside (the former Hydro), on the corner of Rutland and Wellington Street, is now a garage. It is without the original chimney, which had become redundant after the installation of the suction gas plant and was removed, probably in the late 1920s.

The tram shelter with the clock on top, which was given to the town by Robert Wildgoose in 1899[45], is also still a notable presence. Unfortunately, several newspapers published in the 1920s erroneously reported that the shelter had been given to the town by Sir George Newnes. The building was originally in the middle of Crown Square - as shown on the postcards above - but was moved to the side of the Square into Hall Leys Park once the trams had ceased to function. The photograph below, taken on an October afternoon, shows the shelter as it is now; it has changed considerably in the intervening years as the roof line has lost its distinctive curve and much of the detailed iron work and glass below the roof, including the date, has gone.

The tram shelter used to be in the middle of Crown Square but is now at the entrance to the Hall Leys

The shelter wasn't the only item from the tram that was re-used in the town. The cables were replaced a number of times and the redundant cables were recycled and turned into fencing around both the Hall Leys park and the football pitch. Residents had to be careful not to lean against them[46].

What the papers said in 1893
{ "Western Mail", 3 March, 1893.
{ "The Derby Mercury, 8 March, 1893.

A single line of cable tramway, the only one of its kind in Europe, and having steeper gradients than any public road tramway in this country, was inspected by General Hutchinson at Matlock Bridge on Wednesday. The line is for uniting Matlock Bridge with Matlock bank district, and the roads being too narrow for a double line the bold expedient has been successfully adopted of a single line capable of being worked by means of passing-places, with cars running in opposite directions. The unparalleled scenery of this romantic health resort of Derbyshire is seen to full advantage form the cars as they journey up and down this cleverly-designed little line, and much enthusiasm was evoked as the cars rapidly glided over the steep roads under the most complete control of the attendants directing the movement of the operating levers. Mr. G. Croydon Marks, of Birmingham, is the engineer of the line, Mr. Edward Marks has been resident engineer and Mr. Colam the consultant engineer. The brakes, upon which so much depends, have been specially designed and patented, with a view of enabling the cars to be arrested at any position on the line with little expenditure of energy by the driver. The whole of the work has been carried out by Messrs. Dick, Kerr, and Co., of London, and it expected that the line will be thoroughly working before Easter. The chairman and chief shareholder of the undertaking is Mr. George Newnes, M.P., who is a native of the district. Very severe tests were made by General Hutchinson and the engineers for the purpose of thoroughly proving the efficiency of the brakes.
"Daily News", 30 March, 1893.

Opening of Matlock Cable Tramway.
Matlock Bridge was en fete on Tuesday afternoon, on the occasion of the opening of a cable tramway by Mr. George Newnes, M.P., formerly a resident in the district. The tramway is under one mile in length, and so far has been erected at a cost of 16,000l. The difficulty attendant upon the means of communication between Matlock Bridge, on the lower level and the upper district of Matlock Bank, renowned for its pure air and invigorating breezes, has been one drawback to the development of this health resort, the gradients of the public roads being so great as to almost isolate one district from the other. A cable tramway for the district of Matlock Bridge is one which has been before the inhabitants for many years, but owing to the narrow and exceedingly steep roads, no scheme has actually been carried beyond the preliminary stage until Mr. George Newnes, M.P., took the matter in hand in June, 1890, by instructing Mr. G. Croydon Marks, C.E., of Birmingham, to prepare the Parliamentary plans and forthwith carry out the work. The gradients of the main road along which the cable tramway now passes vary from a rise of one foot in fifty to a rise of one foot in a length of 5½ feet, the steepest known public road tramway in the world. The cable is three inches in circumference, and the speed with which it travels is five and a half miles per hour. Any number of cars can be run upon the same cable. The whole of the machinery and the line equipments have been supplied and laid by Messrs. Dick Kerr and Co., of London and Kilmarnock. Mr. Newnes, who was accompanied by his wife and Mr. Victor Cavendish, M.P., were met at Matlock Bridge Station by a procession of yeomanry, volunteers, members of the fire brigade, and others, and in Crown-square was presented with an address of welcome. Mr. Newnes having suitably replied, Mrs. Newnes afterwards started the first tram-car. Subsequently a luncheon was held in the Market Hall, and the town was illuminated at night.
[Some of this is repeated in the next report]
"The Derby Mercury, 5 April, 1893.
Opening of the Cable Tramway at Matlock.
Matlock Bridge was en fete on Tuesday afternoon, on the occasion of the opening of the new cable tramway. The town looked its brightest and best. A lovelier day could not have been desired. The sun shone from a cloudless sky through a clear and balmy atmosphere, and in another month, when the fauna and flora would have been in fuller bloom, the picture would have been complete. The inauguration of the new tramway was in every respect a satisfactory one. Everything combined to make the proceedings unusually successful and the auspicious event will, it is hoped, be an augury of great success, commercially and otherwise, for the new venture which was yesterday opened by Mrs. Newnes. That the tramway will considerably enhance the attractions of the beautiful Derbyshire inland health resort is unquestionable. Visitors will not have passed the meridian of years, and who are sound in wind and limb, are not likely to find fault at being compelled to climb the lofty and breezy heights, which are one of the charms of the district, but for invalids and those advance in age the limited facilities of cheap locomotion has been a most serious objection. However, to overcome this difficulty has been a question which has occupied the attention of many prominent and worthy residents during recent years, and it is probable that the matter would still have been deferred but for the intervention of Mr. George Newnes, M.P., who supplied the necessary capital, and whose services in the direction referred to were ungrudgingly recognised by the people of Matlock on Tuesday. Until Mr. Newnes interested himself in the matter a solution of the difficulty was despaired of. Somewhere about the middle of 1890, after he had had a number of consultations with his local coadjutors, Mr. Newnes instructed Mr. Marks, C.E., of Birmingham, to prepare [the Parliamentary] plans for the work on a gradient of 1 in 5½, which makes the line the steepest in the world. The road up Matlock Bank was so narrow that only a single line could be run, but this difficulty has been met by what is a novel system - a single cable line, which serves alike for the up and down track for the same cars to run upon, with a passing place at the two main roads at Smedley-street. The cable itself is of Craddock's best steel, having 42 wires, stranded onto a patent system for resisting wear and tear. It travels at 5½ miles an hour, and it is supported in a concealed culvert by a number of specially designed pulleys arranged some on each side of the culvert to carry the two portions of the cables, which are travelling in opposite directions. Each car possesses a gripper to embrace the moving cable. The gripper has one moving jaw or block, which, upon being raised by the controlling hand wheel, causes the cable to be seized and the car thus to be carried forward by it ; and when the wheel is turned so as to open the jaws the cars remain stationery while the cable travels on. The car is, of course, checked by a brake. The ordinary brakes have been discarded as altogether useless on a gradient such as Matlock Bank, where there is a rise of 300 feet vertically in less than half a mile. Mr. Newnes has had to deal with steeper gradients in the patent cliff railways at Lynton, Bridgnorth, and Clifton, but in those places the rails are laid on private ground, and the rails being above ground, a good grip brake was obtained by the system of clipping the rail head by hydraulic or other pressure. In the present case a patent emergency slot brake has been introduced ; and this met most successfully the very exacting tests which Major-General Hutchinson imposed when he inspected the line on the 1st of this month. The motive power is obtained from a specially designed steam engine erected at the depot., which is at the top of Matlock Bank. Here duplicate engines have been erected, and steam is supplied to them by steel boilers arranged with mechanical stokers and special appliances for the consumption of their own smoke, so that the pure atmosphere of the Bank shall not be defiled. The line opened will, it is hoped, be considerably extended. The greater part of the difficulty has been overcome, and to extend the tramway to Matlock Bath and Cromford is what the promoters think will now be a question of time. That the residents attach considerable importance to the undertaking was clearly manifest yesterday. There was a general holiday, and thousands of people came from the surrounding district. Mr. and Mrs. Newnes, accompanied by Mr. Victor Cavendish, arrived by the 1.40 train, and were met at the station by the committee, the Local Board and prominent residents (among those present was Alderman Whittaker). Mrs. Newnes was presented with a bouquet, and then the procession, headed by the band, was formed in the following order:- Mounted yeomanry, volunteers, fire brigade, members of the Local Board, Mr. and Mrs. Newnes, and Mr. Victor Cavendish, directors of the company, the officials, county councillors, clergy, press, committee, &c. A halt was made at the Crown Square, where a decorated daïs had been erected, from which Mr. Slack, chairman of the Local Board, welcomed Mr. Newnes, and presented him with a large and handsome album of views of the district, and an address in red morocco, bearing the inscription:-To George Newnes, Esq., M.P., on the occasion of the public opening of the Cable Tramway, Matlock, 28th March, 1893.
[Summaries of speeches by Mr. Slack, Mr. A. C. Else (secretary to Mr. B. W. Millward) and Mr. G. Newnes, M.P., followed but these are not included]
... The procession as it passed up Matlock Bank was a very effective site. The bright uniforms of the yeomanry, the burnished helmets of the firemen, and the gaily decorated houses, innumerable festoon, banners, and floral inscriptions making up a scene which will long be remembered in the town. Mrs. Newnes started the engines, and after the cars had once or twice run up and down the hill a banquet was held in the Assembly Rooms.
[More speeches and toasts followed]

Read: Derbyshire's First Non-Horse Tramway, an article written by Julie Bunting and published in the Peak Advertiser in 1990
(an external site so will open in a new tab or window).

Other pages on this site that show the tram on Matlock Bank or the shelter, both in Crown Square and in its present position on the Hall Leys.
Click on the images below.

about 1900





About 1907







Park &


And in the Vernon Lamb Archive

VLA4938, tramlines, Rutland Street

Images, in the order displayed on the page:
1. "Crown Square, Matlock", showing tramcar No 3. Postcard published by E T W Dennis & Sons Ltd., London & Scarborough --- Series, no.2658. © Ann Andrews collection.
2. Photograph of Job Smith, by Barber. The picture was published in Famous Derbyshire Health Resorts. The Matlocks, about 1892.
3. Photograph of Tram Car No. 2, about 1898, published here with the very kind permission of and © The Alfred Seaman Photographic Archive. Also see Photographers
4. "Crown Square, Matlock". B & D's KROMO Series. No. 20241. Published by Pict Postcard Pioneers, London E C. Printed in Saxony. Other cards posted in 1906 and 1910. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
5. "The Square, Matlock Bridge". Valentine's Series. Registered by Valentine's and postmarked 1903. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
6. "Crown Square, Matlock". Valentine's Series of "Famous Throughout the World", No.40602. Printed in Great Britain. Registered in 1903 but this card posted in 23 Aug 1909 in London and sent to Burnley. Its message not relevant to image. © Ann Andrews collection
7. "Crown Square, Matlock". Valentine & Sons, Ltd., Dundee and London No.40602. Not posted but card registered in 1903. © Ann Andrews collection. There is some confusion with this image as several Valentine cards appear to have been given the same number.
8. "The Square, Matlock Bridge". Published by A. P. Co., 9 Bury Court, St. Mary Axe, London E. C., No.2596. Artistic Series Postcard. Chromotyped in Saxony. Unused. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
8. Postcard of tram, photographed by W. N. Statham (see Photographers). Scan © (PC) Private collection.
10. "Matlock, Crown Square". Postcard showing the tram and tram shelter. No publisher. Not posted but dates from about 1907/8. There are sepia and black and white versions. © Ann Andrews collection.
11. "Cable Cars on Bank Road, Matlock". Postcard from a photograph by Charles Colledge, Smedley Street, Matlock (see Photographers) © Ken Smith collection.
12. "The Cable Cars at Smedley Street, Matlock". Published by C. Colledge, Stationer, Matlock, about 1904 (see Photographers). Printed in Germany. © Ken Smith collection.
13. "Rockside Hydro, Matlock, Derbyshire". Published by Charles Colledge, Matlock. Printed in Britain. Unused. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
14. [Tram entering a flooded Crown Square] Untitled postcard. No publisher and unused. © Maureen Smith collection. Added 2020.
15. "Top of Bank Road, Matlock". W & K postcard No.17 is unposted but dates from about 1923. © Ann Andrews collection.
16. Smedley's Hydro, from an albumen print "Matlock Bank and Matlock Bridge", No.3903 by G.W.W. © Susan Tomlinson collection. Now though to date from 1893-4.
17. [Tram on Bank Road]. Photograph. On the back is stamped, in purple ink, 3 CM Matlock U D C Tramways. This image not added until 2019. © Ann Andrews collection.
18. "Matlock, Bank Road". Published by Photochrom Co Ltd., London and Tunbridge Wells, No.62678. Unused. Added 2021. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
19. [Tramcar 2 in Crown Square] published by David Bayes, --- Road, Walthamstow, E.17. Unused. Added 2021. © Ann Andrews collection. Added 2021.
20. Tram shelter photograph kindly provided by and © Paul Kettle.

Researched, written and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links lead to more on site information):

[1] Bank Road, or "The Bank"' as it is now often referred to, was known as Dob(b) Lane before 1891.

[2] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.

[3] See Biographies of Job Smith & Sir George Newnes. Newnes was not knighted until 1895, so there are some references to him as Mr. Newnes and later ones as Sir George Newnes.

[4] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 12 December, 1884 - A Tramway for Matlock.

[5] "The Matlock Steep Gradient Tramway". Reprint of the Report of the Inaugural Ceremony (1893) with new introduction by S. V. Fay, Arkwright Society, August 1972.

[6] "The Derby Mercury", 9 July, 1890. Report of Local Board Meeting of Mon 7 July. Newnes wrote that he was "in a better position than anyone else, in consequence of certain patents which were very valuable in that kind of work".

[7] "The London Gazette", 21 November 1890. Matlock Tramway (Construction of Tramway: Gauge, Motive Power, Compulsory User of Streets, Power to take Tolls, Purchase of Land by Agreement, and other purposes.). See the onsite extracts/references from the London Gazette about the tram 1890 and 1892 in 1898.

[8] "Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser", 13 October 1892. Matlock Cable Tramway.

[9] "Kelly's Directory of the Counties of Derby, Leicester, Rutland & Nottingham" (1908), pub. Kelly and Co., London. Transcripts of Matlock businesses in 1908 are on this site.

[10] "Sheffield Independent", 14 December 1899. Information about Robert Wildgoose & his wife.

[11] Matlock: Cavendish Road, Claremont and Mr. Rowland - Charles Rowland was one of the company directors.

[12] "The Derbyshire Times", 7 October 1899. Comment made by Job Smith at a Matlock Council Meeting when fare dodging was discussed and it was decided the tramway should cease running after 8.30 in the evening.

[13] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 28 August, 1893. Matlock Cable Tramway.

[14] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 28 January, 1895 and 1 February, 1895. Matlock Cable Tramway.

[15] "The Derby Mercury", 17 January, 1894.

[16] Arkle, M. J. (1983) "Tuppence Up, Penny Down", printed by Geo. Hodgkinson (Printers) Ltd.

[17] "Sheffield Independent", 14 December 1899. Report of the opening ceremony.

[18] "The Derbyshire Times", 18 April 1903.

[19] Waite, Glynn (2012) "The Matlock Cable Tramway", Pynot Publishing. ISBN 9780956270658.

[20] "Belper News", 17 November 1916. Troublesome Tramway. Matlock Cable Car Service. Council Meeting.

[21] The generous gesture was reported in several papers, but the quotation is from the "Nottinghamshire Guardian", 2 July, 1898.

[22] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 12 December, 1900. Matlock Cable Tramway.
"The estimated working expenses come to £75 a month, and although the profit of about £100 was made in some summer months, the losses for November totalled nearly £1 a day".

[23] Taylor, Keith (2010) "Matlock and the Great War 1914 - 1919", Country Books/Ashridge Press. ISBN 978 1 906789 38 1.

[24] "The Times", 13 May, 1911. The Select Committee of House of Lords gave their decision on a Bill seeking to establish a system of railless traction in Matlock on 12 May. It was not allowed to proceed after opposition from Matlock Bath U.D.C.

[25] The 1914 references have been extracted from the "Derbyshire Courier", 14 March 1914, "The Derbyshire Times", 29 April 1914, the "Derbyshire Courier", 18 August 1914 and the "Derbyshire Courier", 19 September 1914 (Question of Continuing Summer Service) .

[26] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 14 December 1915.

[27] "The Derby Mercury", 3 September, 1890. Death of Matlock Tradesman. Mr. Housley had recently erected Central Buildings, one part of which was occupied by the Matlock Social Club and [he] was adding another block of business premises to adjoin Smedley's Hydro when he died.

[28] You can see one end of the single decked bridge in a photo in the Vernon Lamb Archive - VLA 4952.htm

[29] Derbyshire Record Office, D6831/1/6, Regulations referring to the Matlock Tramway Company Ltd., made by the Board of Trade, 19 March 1893.

[30] "Derby Daily Telegraph" 13 August 1918.

[31] Hall, C. C. (1951) "The Matlock Cable Tramway". Article published in "The Tramway Review" No.5. The story was also reported in the "Derbyshire Courier", 15 November 1919.

[32] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 July 1927.

[33] "The Derbyshire Times", various correspondence and reports, 1927.

[34] "Nottingham Evening Post", 13 August 1927. Cable Tramway's Doom.

[35] The cable had needed to be replaced many times over the tramway's life. Hall[31] mentions, for example, a new cable in 1910, replacing one that had only been in use for seven months. The problem then was possibly caused by a dirty conduit. Glynn Waite lists the numerous cables bought by the Council; there were 8 short lengths purchased for patching and 26 complete cables, including the first one[19].

[36] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 27 Sep 1927. The Council had set the date for closure as 30th Sep 1927 and this date has been taken by some sources as the date the tramway ceased to run. Waite[19] also confirms the date the tram actually stopped working.

[37] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 Dec 1927. Matlock Trams. Still Furnish a Problem for the Council. They were still having difficulty in reaching an agreement about the bus service. C. F. White moved that" Messrs Hands should join the firms presently working the route".

[38] "The Times", 6 June, 1928. The disposal of the cable tramway plant and depot. had been discussed by Matlock UDC on 14 Nov 1927, which is when they decided to advertise the plant for sale ("Derby Daily Telegraph", 15 Nov 1927).

[39] We know Hannah Gregory's name from another copy of this card, sent by her daughter to her future husband on 4 Aug 1923. Although it doesn't quite show the Gregory family's home, the properties on the right were part of Bank Road's Devonshire Terrace. See the Gregory family in the 1901 census. In 1911 Hannah's husband, James Robert, was still employed at Smedley's and their two eldest children, although only 16 and 13, had jobs in the hydro. Percy was mentioned on the card but only Christian name is known.

[40] "Derbyshire Times, 4 August 1923. Tram shelter damaged.

[41] "Derbyshire Times, 16 June 1923. Mr. F. D. Baxter, no fan of the tramway, presided at the Council meeting. Cllr. Wildgoose estimated the repairs would be £100, exclusive of painting which was to be deferred until the following year. A sum of £80 was to be allowed in the current rate.

[42] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" 26 August 1927.

[43] "Derbyshire Times,14 April 1939.

[44] The website Cable trams and how they work discusses the San Francisco tram and how the gripper works.

[45] "The Derby Mercury", 8 Mar 1899. Robert Wildgoose made the offer to pay for the shelter. Also see The Park and Tram Shelter.

[46] From conversations with Frank Clay, Ken Smith and others. Glynn Waite[19] also discusses the cables being reused; he mentions some being around Pic Tor until recent times and other remnants at the top of St. John's Road.