Matlock Bath Gardens

The Derwent Gardens in Matlock Bath are a formal park, located on the southern side of the Pavilion, overlooking the River Derwent. They are the centrepiece every autumn of Derbyshire Dales District Council’s popular Venetian Nights and Illuminations Festival.

Several thermal springs emerge in the park and have been used to create the water gardens and other pools and the emphasis of the gardens is definitely all about water. Grottoes and alcoves provide unique features within the beautiful gardens and a river bridge, which opened in 1969, features The Lovers’ Walks, a series of footpaths both along the riverside and up and over the spectacular cliffs. Woodland covers all but the paths and its classified along with High Tor’s woodlands as ancient, and has been designated a site of special scientific interest.

The Derwent Gardens in Matlock Bath are the result of an amalgamation of two areas, the Ferry Grounds and the Orchard Holme. The latter is the original name for the southern section of the gardens and there are several thermal springs which have their outfall to the river. Having been cleared of trees in the mid-19th century, the site was used as a rubbish tip by the Royal Hotel. Herbert Buxton, a local businessman, bought the site in 1880, and erected a gravity powered rollercoaster, which opened with great excitement in 1889. He also offered more traditional amusements including the landscaped gardens, thermal fishponds, a cafe and a petrifying well. The roller coaster survived until 1934, but then the grounds fell into disrepair. The land was requisitioned by the army during World War II, and after the war, some of the former army buildings turned into the aquarium and aviary. The gardens were purchased by Matlock Urban district Council in 1951 and we used as an amusement area until 1969.

Derwent Gardens became the new home for the illuminations when the original promenade location was lost during the A6 road widening in 1968. In 1984 Derbyshire Dales District Council took over the responsibility for the gardens and still look after it today.

The Ferry Grounds for the top end of the Derwent Gardens and contains landing stages which have been in existence since the 18th century. They formed an important element of the local leisure industry and housed the ferry. As well as being used for both boating a national swimming competitions, the area between the landing stage and the main road remained rough ground and housed the entrance to the Providence Lead Mine and many fairs and travelling shows setup on this area.

In 1897, the Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Urban District Council leased the Ferry Grounds to obtain access to the Lovers’ Walks, which it also leased in the same year. In 1911, the Kursaal, now known as the Pavilion, was built and the grounds were landscaped.