Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 8, Part 2: The Peak District

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It is observable, that as the Trent makes the frontier or bounds of the county of Derby south, so the Dove and the Erwash make the bounds east and west, and the Derwent runs through the center; all of them beginning and ending their course in the same county; for they rise in the Peak, and end in the Trent.

I that had read Cotton's Wonders of the Peak , in which I always wondered more at the poetry than at the Peak; and in which there was much good humour, tho' but little good verse, could not satisfy my self to be in Derbyshire, and not see the River Dove, which that gentleman has spent so much doggerel upon, and celebrated to such a degree for trout and grailing: So from Derby we went to Dove-Bridge, or, as the country people call it, Dowbridge, where we had the pleasure to see the river drowning the low-grounds by a sudden shower, and hastning to the Trent with a most outrageous stream, in which there being no great diversion, and travelling being not very safe in a rainy season on that side, we omitted seeing Ashbourn and Uttoxeter, the Utocetum of the antients, two market towns upon that river, and returning towards Derby, we went from thence directly up into the High Peak.

In our way we past an antient seat, large, but not very gay, of Sir Nathaniel Curson, a noted and (for wealth) over great family, for many ages inhabitants of this county. Hence we kept the Derwent on our right-hand, but kept our distance, the waters being out; for the Derwent is a frightful creature when the hills load her current with water; I say, we kept our distance, and contented our selves with hearing the roaring of its waters, till we came to Quarn or Quarden. a little ragged, but noted village, where there is a famous chalybeat spring, to which abundance of people go in the season to drink the water, as also a cold bath. There are also several other mineral waters in this part of the country, as another chalybeat near Quarden or Quarn, a hot bath at Matlock, and another at Buxton, of which in its place; besides these, there are hot springs in several places which run waste into the ditches and brooks, and are taken no notice of, being remote among the mountains, and out of the way of the common resort.

We found the wells, as custom bids us call them, pretty full of company, the waters good, and very physical, but wretched lodging and entertainment; so I resolved to stay till I came to the south, and make shift with Tunbridge or Epsom, of which I have spoken at large in the counties of Surrey and Kent.

From Quarden we advanc'd due north, and, mounting the hills gradually for four or five miles, we soon had a most frightful view indeed among the black mountains of the Peak; however, as they were yet at a distance, and a good town lay on our left called Wirksworth, we turned thither for refreshment; Here indeed we found a specimen of what I had heard before, (viz.) that however rugged the hills were, the vales were every where fruitful, well inhabited, the markets well supplied, and the provisions extraordinary good; not forgetting the ale, which every where exceeded, if possible, what was pass'd, as if the farther north the better the liquor, and that the nearer we approach'd to Yorkshire, as the place for the best, so the ale advanc'd the nearer to its perfection.

Wirksworth is a large well-frequented market town, and market towns being very thin placed in this part of the county, they have the better trade, the people generally coming twelve or fifteen miles to a market, and sometimes much more; though there is no very great trade to this town but what relates to the lead works, and to the subterranean wretches, who they call Peakrills, who work in the mines, and who live all round this town every way.

The inhabitants are a rude boorish kind of people, but they are a bold, daring, and even desperate kind of fellows in their search into the bowels of the earth; for no people in the world out-do them; and therefore they are often entertained by our engineers in the wars to carry on the sap, and other such works, at the sieges of strong fortified places.

This town of Wirksworth is a kind of a market for lead; the like not known any where else that I know of, except it be at the custom-house keys in London. The Barmoot Court, kept here to judge controversies among the miners, that is to say, to adjust subterranean quarrels and disputes, is very remarkable: Here they summon a master and twenty-four jurors, and they have power to set out the bounds of the works under ground, the terms are these, they are empowered to set off the meers (so they call them) of ground in a pipe and a flat, that is to say, twenty nine yards long in the first, and fourteen square in the last; when any man has found a vein of oar in another man's ground, except orchards and gardens; they may appoint the proprietor cartways and passage for timber, &. This court also prescribes rules to the mines, and limits their proceedings in the works under ground; also they are judges of all their little quarrels and disputes in the mines, as well as out, and, in a word, keep the peace among them; which, by the way, may be called the greatest of all the wonders of the Peak, for they are of a strange, turbulent, quarrelsome temper, and very hard to be reconciled to one another in their subterraneous affairs.

And now I am come to this wonderful place, the Peak, where you will expect I should do as some others have, (I think, foolishly) done before me, viz. tell you strange long stories of wonders as (I must say) they are most weakly call'd; and that you may not think me arrogant in censuring so many wise men, who have wrote of these wonders, as if they were all fools, I shall give you four Latin lines out of Mr. Cambden, by which you will see there were some men of my mind above a hundred years ago.

Mira alto Pecco tria sunt, barathrum, specus, antrum;
Commoda tot, Plumbum, Gramen, Ovile pecus,
Tot speciosa simul sunt, Castrum, Balnea, Chatsworth,
Plura sed occurrunt, qute speciosa minus.
CAMBD., Brit. Fol. , 495.

Which by the same hand are Englished thus:

Nine things that please us at the Peak we see;
A cave, a den, a hole, the wonder be;
Lead, sheep and pasture, are the useful three.
Chatsworth the castle, and the Bath delight;
Much more you see; all little worth the sight.

Now to have so great a man as Mr. Hobbes, and after him Mr. Cotton, celebrate the trines here, the first in a fine Latin poem, the last in English verse, as if they were the most exalted wonders of the world: I cannot but, after wondering at their making wonders of them, desire you, my friend, to travel with me through this houling wilderness in your imagination, and you shall soon find all that is wonderful about it.

Near Wirksworth, and upon the very edge of Derwent, is, as above, a village called Matlock, where there are several arm springs, lately one of these being secured by a stone wall on every side, by which the water is brought to rise to a due heighth, is made into a very convenient bath; with a house built over it, and room within the building to walk round the water or bath, and so by steps to go down gradually into it.

This bath would be much more frequented than it is, if two things did not hinder; namely, a base, stony, mountainous road to it, and no good accommodation when you are there: They are intending, as they tell us, to build a good house to entertain persons of quality, or such who would spend their money at it; but it was not so far concluded or directed when I was there, as to be any where begun: The bath is milk, or rather blood warm, very pleasant to go into, and very sanative, especially for rheumatick pains, bruises, &.

For some miles before we come to Matlock, you pass over the hills by the very mouths of the lead-mines, and there are melting-houses for the preparing the oar, and melting or casting it into pigs; and so they carry it to Wirksworth to be sold at the market.

Over against this warm bath, and on the other, or east side of the Derwent, stands a high rock, which rises from the very bottom of the river (for the water washes the foot of it, and is there in dry weather very shallow); I say, it rises perpendicular as a wall, the precipice bare and smooth like one plain stone, to such a prodigious heighth, it is really surprising; yet what the people believed of it surmounted all my faith too, though I look'd upon it very curiously, for they told me it was above four hundred foot high, which is as high as two of our Monuments, one set upon another; that which adds most to my wonder in it is, that as the stone stands, it is smooth from the very bottom of the Derwent to the uppermost point, and nothing can be seen to grow upon it. The prodigious heighth of this tor, (for it is called Matlock Tor) was to me more a wonder than any of the rest in the Peak, and, I think, it should be named among them, but it is not. So it must not be called one of the wonders.

A little on the other side of Wirksworth, begins a long plain called Brassington Moor, which reaches full twelve miles in length another way, (viz.) from Brassington to Buxton. At the beginning of it on this side from Wirksworth, it is not quite so much. The Peak people, who are mighty fond of having strangers shewed every thing they can, and of calling everything a wonder, told us here of another high mountain, where a giant was buried, and which they called the Giant's Tomb.

This tempted our curiosity, and we presently rod up to the mountain in order to leave our horses, dragoon-like, with a servant. and to clamber up to the top of it, to see this Giant's Tomb: Here we miss'd the imaginary wonder, and found a real one; the story of which I cannot but record, to shew the discontented part of the rich world how to value their own happiness, by looking below them, and seeing how others live, who yet are capable of being easie and content, which content goes a great way towards being happy, if it does not come quite up to happiness. The story is this:

As we came near the hill, which seemed to be round, and a precipice almost on every side, we perceived a little parcel of ground hedg'd in, as if it were a garden, it was about twenty or thirty yards long, but not so much broad, parallel with the hill, and close to it; we saw no house, but, by a dog running out and barking, we perceived some people were thereabout; and presently after we saw two little children, and then a third run out to see what was the matter. When we came close up we saw a small opening, not a door, but a natural opening into the rock, and the noise we had made brought a woman out with a child in her arms, and another at her foot. N.B. The biggest of these five was a girl, about eight or ten years old.

We asked the woman some questions about the tomb of the giant upon the rock or mountain: She told us, there was a broad flat stone of a great size lay there, which, she said, the people call'd a gravestone; and, if it was, it might well be called a giant's, for she thought no ordinary man was ever so tall, and she describ'd it to us as well as she could, by which it must be at least sixteen or seventeen foot long; but she could not give any farther account of it, neither did she seem to lay any stress upon the tale of a giant being buried there, but said, if her husband had been at home he might have shown it to us. I snatched at the word, at home! says I, good wife, why, where do you live. Here, sir, says she, and points to the hole in the rock. Here! says I; and do all these children live here too? Yes, sir, says she, they were ail born here. Pray how long have you dwelt here then? said I. My husband was born here, said she, and his father before him. Will you give me leave, says one of our company, as curious as I was, to come in and see your house, dame? If you please, sir, says she, but 'tis not a place fit for such as you are to come into, calling him, your worship, forsooth; but that by the by. I mention it, to shew that the good woman did not want manners, though she liv'd in a den like a wild body.

However, we alighted and went in: There was a large hollow cave, which the poor people by two curtains hang'd cross, had parted into three rooms. On one side was the chimney, and the man, or perhaps his father, being miners, had found means to work a shaft or funnel through the rock to carry the smoke out at the top, where the giant's tombstone was. The habitation was poor, 'tis true, but things within did not look so like misery as I expected. Every thing was clean and neat, tho' mean and ordinary: There were shelves with earthen ware, and some pewter and brass. There was, which I observed in particular, a whole flitch or side of bacon hanging up in the chimney, and by it a good piece of another. There was a sow and pigs running about at the door, and a little lean cow feeding upon a green place just before the door, and the little enclosed piece of ground I mentioned, was growing with good barley; it being then near harvest.

To find out whence this appearance of substance came, I asked the poor woman, what trade her husband was? She said, he worked in the lead mines. I asked her, how much he could earn a day there ? she said, if he had good luck he could earn about five pence a day, but that he worked by the dish (which was a term of art I did not understand, but supposed, as I afterwards understood it was, by the great, in proportion to the oar, which they measure in a wooden bowl, which they call a dish). Then I asked, what she did? she said, when she was able to work she washed the oar: But, looking down on her children, and shaking her head, she intimated, that they found her so much business she could do but little, which 1 easily granted must be true. But what can you get at washing the oar, said I, when you can work? She said, if she work'd hard she could gain three-pence a day. So that, in short, here was but eight-pence a day when they both worked hard, and that not always, and perhaps not often, and all this to maintain a man, his wife, and five small children, and yet they seemed to live very pleasantly, the children look'd plump and fat, ruddy and wholesome; and the woman was tall, well shap'd, clean, and (for the place) a very well looking, comely woman; nor was there any thing look'd like the dirt and nastiness of the miserable cottages of the poor; tho' many of them spend more money in strong drink than this poor woman had to maintain five children with.

This moving sight so affected us all, that, upon a short conference at the door, we made up a little lump of money, and I had the honour to be almoner for the company; and though the sum was not great, being at most something within a crown, as I told it into the poor woman's hand, I could perceive such a surprise in her face, that, had she not given vent to her joy by a sudden flux of tears, I found she would have fainted away. She was some time before she could do any thing but cry; but after that was abated, she expressed her self very handsomely (for a poor body) and told me, she had not seen so much money together of her own for many months.

We asked her, if she had a good husband; she smiled, and said, Yes, thanked God for it, and that she was very happy in that, for he worked very hard, and they wanted for nothing that he could do for them; and two or three times made mention of how contented they were: In a word, it was a lecture to us all, and that such, I assure you, as made the whole company very grave all the rest of the day: And if it has no effect of that kind upon the reader, the defect must be in my telling the story in a less moving manner than the poor woman told it her self.

From hence enquiring no farther after the giant, or his tomb, we went, by the direction of the poor woman, to a valley on the side of a rising hill, where there were several grooves, so they call the mouth of the shaft or pit by which they go down into a lead mine; and as we were standing still to look at one of them, admiring how small they were, and scarce believing a poor man that shew'd it us, when he told us, that they went down those narrow pits or holes to so great a depth in the earth; I say, while we were wondering, and scarce believing the fact, we were agreeably surprized with seeing a hand, and then an arm, and quickly after a head, thrust up out of the very groove we were looking at. It was the more surprizing as not we only, but not the man that we were talking to, knew any thing of it, or expected it.

Immediately we rode closer up to the place, where we see the poor wretch working and heaving himself up gradually, as we thought, with difficulty; but when he shewed us that it was by setting his feet upon pieces of wood fixt cross the angles of the groove like a ladder, we found that the difficulty was not much; and if the groove had been larger they could not either go up or down so easily, or with so much safety, for that now their elbows resting on those pieces as well as their feet, they went up and down with great ease and safety.

Those who would have a more perfect idea of those grooves, need do no more than go to the church of St. Paul's, and desire to see the square wells which they have there to go down from the top of the church into the very vaults under it, to place the leaden pipes which carry the rain water from the flat of the roof to the common-shore, which wells are square, and have small iron bars placed cross the angles for the workmen to set their feet on, to go up and down to repair the pipes; the manner of the steps are thus describ'd:

When this subterranean creature was come quite out, with all his furniture about him, we had as much variety to take us up as before, and our curiosity received full satisfaction without venturing down, as we were persuaded to by some people, and as two of our company were inclined to do.

First, the man was a most uncouth spectacle; he was cloathed all in leather, had a cap of the same without brims, some tools in a little basket which he drew up with him, not one of the names of which we could understand but by the help of an interpreter. Nor indeed could we understand any of the man's discourse so as to make out a whole sentence; and yet the man was pretty free of his tongue too.

For his person, he was lean as a skeleton, pale as a dead corps, his hair and beard a deep black, his flesh lank, and, as we thought, something of the colour of the lead itself, and being very tall and very lean he look'd, or we that saw him ascend ab infer?s , fancied he look'd like an inhabitant of the dark regions below, and who was just ascended into the world of light.

Besides his basket of tools, he brought up with him about three quarters of a hundred weight of oar, which we wondered at, for the man had no small load to bring, considering the manner of his coming up; and this indeed made him come heaving and struggling up, as I said at first, as if he had great difficulty to get out; whereas it was indeed the weight that he brought with him.

If any reader thinks this, and the past relation of the woman and the cave, too low and trifling for this work, they must be told, that I think quite otherwise; and especially considering what a noise is made of wonders in this country, which, I must needs say, have nothing in them curious, but much talked of, more trifling a great deal. See Cotton's Wonders of the Peak , Hobbes's Chatsworth , and several others; but I shall make no more apologies. I return to our subterranean apparition.

We asked him, how deep the mine lay which he came out of: He answered us in terms we did not understand; but our interpreter, as above, told us, it signified that he was at work 6o fathoms deep, but that there were five men of his party, who were, two of them, eleven fathoms, and the other three, fifteen fathoms deeper: He seemed to regret that he was not at work with those three; for that they had a deeper vein of oar than that which he worked in, and had a way out at the side of the hill, where they pass'd without coming up so high as he was obliged to do.

If we blessed ourselves before, when we saw how the poor woman and her five children lived in the hole or cave in the mountain, with the giant's grave over their heads; we had much more room to reflect how much we had to acknowledge to our Maker, that we were not appointed to get our bread thus, one hundred and fifty yards under ground, or in a hole as deep in the earth as the cross upon St. Paul's cupolo is high out of it: Nor was it possible to see these miserable people without such reflections, unless you will suppose a man as stupid and sensless as the horse he rides on. But to leave moralizing to the reader, I proceed.

We then look'd on the oar, and got the poor man's leave to bring every one a small piece of it away with us, for which we gave him two small pieces of better mettle, called shillings, which made his heart glad; and, as we understood by our interpreter, was more than he could gain at sixty fathoms under ground in three days; and we found soon after the money was so much, that it made him move off immediately towards the alehouse, to melt some of it into good Pale Derby; but, to his farther good luck, we were gotten to the same alehouse before him; where, when we saw him come, we gave him some liquor too, and made him keep his money, and promise us to carry it home to his family, which they told us lived hard by.

From hence entring upon Brassington Moor, mentioned above, we had eight mile smooth green riding to Buxton bath, which they call one of the wonders of the Peak; but is so far from being a wonder, that to us, who had been at Bath in Somersetshire, and at Aix la Chapelle in Germany, it was nothing at all; nor is it any thing but what is frequent in such mountainous countries as this is, in many parts of the world.

That which was more wonderful to me than all of it, was, that so light is made of them as to use; that the people rather wonder at them than take the benefit of them; and that, as there are several hot springs in this village of Buxton, as well as at Matlock, mentioned above, and at several other places, they are not built into noble and convenient bathing places; and, instead of a house or two, a city built here for the entertainment of company; which, if it were done, and countenance given to it, as is to the baths at Bath, I doubt not it would be as well frequented, and to as good purpose.

But though I shall not treat this warm spring as a wonder, for such it is not; I must nevertheless give it the praise due to the medicinal virtue of its waters; for it is not to be deny'd, but that wonderful cures have been wrought by them, especially in rheumatick, scorbutick and scrofulous distempers, aches of the joints, nervous pains, and also in scurfy and leprous maladies.

For a proof of this, and to give a just reputation to the waters of Buxton, I crave leave to give a brief account of what the learned say of their virtues, and the manner of their operation; and though I shall not croud this work with any thing from books, which is not more than common, and more than ordinary useful, yet I must be excused in this, as what I think excels in both: It is from the learned Dr. Leigh, in his Natural History of Lancashire, and of the Peak ; his words are as follows:

Here, meaning at Buxton, the waters are sulphurous and saline yet not foetid, but very palatable, because the sulphur is not united with any vitriolic particles, or but very few saline; it tinges not silver, nor is it purgative, because its saline parts are dispensed in such small proportions, which saline particles make up a corn-pound salt, constituted of a marine salt, and the Sal Catharticum Amarum , which indeed is the Nitrum Calcarium that impregnates Epsom, Northall and Dullwich waters, and others in those parts, as at Stretham, Peckham, Shooters-Hill, &. in the county of Kent.

These waters ( Buxton) if drank, create a good appetite, open obstructions, and no doubt, if mixed with the chalybeat waters that are there also, may answer all the intentions of the Bath water in Somersetshire, and that of Sir Vincent's too at Bristol, so noted for curing the diabetes; of which I have seen several instances in these parts; and likewise for curing of bloody urines, of which I saw a most noted instance at Liverpoole.

This bath is of a temperate heat, and, without question, by a reverberating halitus might be brought to any degree of heat; but, I think, in its own natural heat, it may in general be said to be more agreeable to the constitutions of those parts; and where the hot baths cannot be safely used, this may. This last summer I saw remarkable instances of its effects in scorbutick rheumatisms in persons, that could not go before without the help of crutches, who came from thence to Manchester on foot without them, distant from Buxton full sixteen northern miles.

For the antiquity of these baths too, though there is not a King Bladud to testify for them, as at Bath in Somersetshire, whose evidence we cannot be sure is very justifiable, yet hear the same author on that article:

That these baths were eminent in the Romans time, is most certain. Lucan, and others acquaint us, they were extraordinary hot, the high road, called the Roman Bath-gate, as Mr. Cambden says, further confirms it; but it is especially evident from a Roman wall cemented with red Roman plaister, close by St. Anne's Well, where we may see the ruins of the antient bath, its dimensions and length.

The waters are temperately hot, or rather warm, and operate rather as a cold bath, without that violent attack which the cold bath makes upon all nature at once; you feel a little chilness when you first dip or plunge into the water, but it is gone in a moment; and you find a kind of an equality in the warmth of your blood and that of the water, and that so very pleasant, that far from the fainting and weakening violence of the hot baths, which makes you ready to die away if you continue above an hour, or thereabouts, in them, and will shrivel up the fingers like those of women, who have been washing cloaths; on the contrary, here you are never tired, and can hardly be persuaded to come out of the bath when you are in.

The village where the principal springs are, is called Buxton; though there are several of them, for they rise unregarded in the banks of the enclosures, and on the sides of the hill, so that the number is hardly known; there is but one bath which is walled in with stone walls, and steps made to go down into it, and a house built over it, though not so close as is fit for winter bathing.

The Duke of Devonshire is lord of the village, and consequently of the bath itself; and his grace has built a large handsome house at the bath, where there is convenient lodging, and very good provisions, and an ordinary well served for one shilling per head; but it is but one. And though some other houses in the town take in lodgers upon occasion, yet the conveniencies are not the same; so that there is not accommodation for a confluence of people, as at the bath-house it self: If it were otherwise, and that the nobility and gentry were suitably entertained, I doubt not but Buxton would be frequented, and with more effect as to health, as well as much more satisfaction to the company; where there is an open and healthy country, a great variety of view to satisfy the curious, and a fine down or moor for the ladies to take a ring upon in their coaches, all much more convenient than in a close city as the Bath is, which, more like a prison than a place of diversion, scarce gives the company room to converse out of the smell of their own excrements, and where the very city it self may be said to stink like a general common-shore.

We saw indeed a variety of objects here; some that came purely for the pleasure of bathing, taking the air, and to see the country, which has many things rare and valuable to be seen, tho' nothing, as I met with, can be called a wonder, Elden Hole excepted, of which in its place: We found others that came purely for cure, as the lame man to the pool; of which some openly applauded the virtue of the bath, as evidently working a cure upon them. One object indeed, who, whether his physician mistook his disease, or he gave his physician a wrong account, (as is most probable) was very inadvertently sent thither, found himself fatally injured by the bath: What the reason of that might be, I leave to the learned; but, upon this occasion, one of our company left the following lines written on the wall in the bathing house:

Buxton, may all the silver streams unite,
And be as bountiful, as they are bright:
May every votary, diseas'd and poor,
If chaste in blood, be certain of his cure.
But let thy springs refuse that wretch to heal,
Who shall a crime in his disease conceal:
May thy chast streams quench no dishonest flame,
But as thy fountain's pure, be pure thy fame.

South west from hence, about a quarter of a mile, or not so much, on the side, or rather at the foot of a very high ridge of mountains, is a great cave or hole in the earth, called Poole's Hole, another of the wonderless wonders of the Peak. The wit that has been spent upon this vault or cave in the earth, had been well enough to raise the expectation of strangers, and bring fools a great way to creep into it; but is ill bestowed upon al] those that come to the place with a just curiosity, founded upon antient report; when these go in to see it, they generally go away, acknowledging that they have seen nothing suitable to their great expectation, or to the fame of the place.

It is a great cave, or natural vault, antient doubtless as the mountain itself, and occasioned by the fortuitous position of the rocks at the creation of all things, or perhaps at the great absorption or influx of the surface into the abyss at the great rupture of the earth's crust or shell, according to Mr. Burnet's theory; and to me it seems a confirmation of that hypothesis of the breaking in of the surface. But that by the way:

It may be deepen'd and enlarged by streams and eruptions of subterraneous waters, of which here are several, as there generally are in all such cavities; as at Castleton in this country, at Wooky Hole in Somersetshire, which I have already spoken of; and at several like caves which are now to be seen among the mountains in Swisserland, in Norway, in Hungary, and other places.

The story of one Pole or Poole, a famous giant or robber, (they might as well have called him a man eater) who harboured in this vault, and whose kitchen and lodging, or bed-chamber, they show you on your right-hand, after you have crept about ten yards upon all-four; I say, this I leave to those who such stories are better suited to, than I expect of my readers.

However, this helps among the people there, to make out the wonder ; and indeed such things are wanting where really wonder is wanting, else there would be no wonder at all in it; as indeed there is not.

The utmost you meet with after this, is the extraordinary heighth of the arch or roof; which, however, is far from what a late flaming author has magnified it to, (viz.) a quarter of a mile perpendicular. That it ? very high, is enough to say; for it is so far from a quarter of a mile, that there seems nothing admirable in it.

Dr. Leigh spends some time in admiring the spangled roof. Cotton and Hobbes are most ridiculously and outrageously witty upon it. Dr. Leigh calls it fret work, organ, and choir work. The whole of the matter is this, that the rock being every where moist and dropping, the drops are some fallen, those you see below; some falling, those you have glancing by you en passant ; and others pendant in the roof. Now as you have guides before you and behind you, carrying every one a candle, the light of the candles reflected by the globular drops of water, dazle upon your eyes from every corner; like as the drops of dew in a sunny-bright morning reflect the rising light to the eye, and are as ten thousand rainbows in miniature; whereas were any part of the roof or arch of this vault to be seen by a clear light, there would be no more beauty on it than on the back of a chimney; for, in short, the stone is coarse, slimy, with the constant wet, dirty and dull; and were the little drops of water gone, or the candles gone, there would be none of these fine sights to be seen for wonders, or for the learned authors above to show themselves foolish about.

Let any person therefore, who goes into Poole's Hole for the future, and has a mind to try the experiment, take a long pole in his hand, with a cloth tied to the end of it, and mark any place of the shining spangled roof which his pole will reach to; and then, wiping the drops of water away, he shall see he will at once extinguish all those glories; then let him sit still and wait a little, till, by the nature of the thing, the drops swell out again, and he shall find the stars and spangles rise again by degrees, here one, and there one, till they shine with the same fraud, a meer deceptio visus , as they did before. As for the Queen of Scots pillar, as 'tis called, because her late unfortunate majesty, Mary, Queen of Scots, was pleased to have it be called so, it is a piece of stone like a kind of spar, which is found about the lead; and 'tis not improbable in a country where there is so much of the oar, it may be of the same kind, and, standing upright, obtained the name of a pillar; of which almost every body that comes there, carries away a piece, in veneration of the memory of the unhappy princess that gave it her name. Nor is there any thing strange or unusual in the stone, much less in the figure of it, which is otherwise very mean, and in that country very common.

As to the several stones called Mr. Ce'ton's, Haycock's, Poole's Chair, Flitches of Bacon, and the like, they are nothing but ordinary stones; and the shapes very little resemble the things they are said to represent; but the fruitful imagination of the country carls, who fancy to call them so, will have them to look like them; a stranger sees very little even of the similitude, any more than when people fancy they see faces and heads, castles and cities, armies, horses and men, in the clouds, in the fire, and the like.

Nor is the petrifying of the water, which appears in its pendant form like icecles in the roof aloft, or rising pyramids below, if such there were, any thing but what is frequent and natural both to water and to stone, placed thus under ground, and seems to be the way by which even stone itself, like other vegetables, fructifies and grows.

So that, in short, there is nothing in Poole's Hole to make a wonder of, any more than as other things in nature, which are rare to be seen, however easily accounted for, may be called wonderful.

Having thus accounted for two of the seven things, called wonders in this country, I pass by Elden Hole, which I shall take notice of by it self, and come to two more of them, as wonderless, and empty of every thing that may be called rare or strange, as the others; and indeed much more so.

The first of these is Mam Tor, or, as the word in the mountain jargon signifies, the Mother Rock, upon a suggestion that the soft crumbling earth, which falls from the summit of the one, breeds or begets several young mountains below. The sum of the whole wonder is this, That there is a very high hill, nay, I will add (that I may make the most of the story, and that it may appear as much like a wonder as I can) an exceeding high hill. But this in a country which is all over hills, cannot be much of a wonder, because also there are several higher hills in the Peak than that, only not just there.

The south side of this hill is a precipice, and very steep from the top to the bottom; and as the substance of this hill is not a solid stone, or rocky, as is the case of all the hills thereabouts, but a crumbling loose earth mingled with small stones, it is continually falling down in small quantities, as the force of hasty showers, or solid heavy rains, loosens and washes it off, or as frosts and thaws operate upon it in common with other parts of the earth; now as the great hill, which is thick, as well as high, parts with this loose stuff, without being sensibly diminished, yet the bottom which it falls into, is more easily perceived to swell with the quantity that falls down; the space where it is received being small, comparatively to the heighth and thickness of the mountain: Here the pretended wonder is form'd, namely, that the little heap below, should grow up into a hill, and yet the great hill not be the less for all that is fallen down; which is not true in fact, any more than, as a great black cloud pouring down rain as it passes over our heads, appears still as great and as black as before, though it continues pouring down rain over all the country. But nothing is more certain than this, that the more water comes down from it, the less remains in it; and so it certainly is of Mama Tor, in spite of all the poetry of Mr. Cotton or Mr. Hobbes, and in spight of all the women's tales in the Peak.

This hill lies on the north side of the road from Buxton to Castleton, where we come to the so famed wonder call'd, saving our good manners, The Devil's A ------e in the Peak' , Now not-withstanding the grossness of the name given it, and that there is nothing of similitude or coherence either in form and figure, or any other thing between the thing signified and the thing signifying; yet we must search narrowly for any thing in it to make a wonder, or even any thing so strange, or odd, or vulgar, as the name would seem to import.

The short of this story is; that on the steep side of a mountain there is a large opening very high, broad at bottom, and narrow, but rounding, on the top, almost the form of the old Gothick gates or arches, which come up, not to a half circle or half oval at the top, but to a point; though this being all wild and irregular, cannot be said to be an arch, but a meer chasme, entring horizontally; the opening being upwards of thirty foot perpendicular, and twice as much broad at the bottom at least.

The arch continues thus wide but a little way, yet far enough to have several small cottages built on either side of it within the entrance; so that 'tis like a little town in a vault: In the middle, (as it were a street) is a running stream of water; the poetical descriptions of it will have this be called a river, tho' they have not yet bestow'd a name upon it, nor indeed is it worthy a name.

As you go on, the roof descends gradually, and is so far from admitting houses to stand in it, that you have not leave to stand upright your self, till stooping for a little way, and passing over another rill of water, which Mr. Cotton calls a river too, you find more room over your head. But going a little farther you come to a third water, which crosses your way; and the rock stooping, as it were, down almost to the surface of the water, forbids any farther enquiry into what is beyond.

This is the whole wonder, unless it may be called so, that our ancestors should give it so homely a sirname; and give us no reason for it, but what we must guess at from the uncouth entrance of the place, which being no guide in the case, leave us to reflect a little upon their modesty of expression; but it seems they talked broader in those days than we do now.

To conclude: If there were no such vaults and arches any where but in the Peak, or indeed if they were not frequent in such mountainous countries, as well here, as in other nations, we might call this a wonder. But as we know they are to be found in many places in England, and that we read of them in the description of other countries, and even in the Scripture, we cannot think there is any room to call it a wonder. We read of the cave of Adullam, and of the cave of Mackpelah, in the Scripture, able to receive David, and his whole troop of four hundred men. We read of the persecuted worthies in the 12th of the Hebrews, who wandered about in dens and caves of the earth. We read of a cave in the Apenine Mountains near to Florence, which was able to receive an army; there are also many such caves, as I have observed above, in the Alpes, and the hills of Dauphine and Savoy, and in other parts of the world, too many to run over; and some of them, such as this is not worthy to be named among them.

Indeed, had Gervaise of Tilbury been credited, this place had deserved all that wonder cou'd ascribe to it; for he tells us of a shepherd who, having ventured into the third river in this den, and being either carried over it or down the stream, he knew not whether, saw a beautiful heavenly country beyond it, with a spacious plain watered with many clear rivers and pleasant brooks, and several lakes of standing water. But who this shepherd was, how he got into that pleasant country; and, above all, how he came back to tell the story, our friend Gervaise forgot, it seems, to take any notice of; and so the tale is broken off before it was half told, like another of the same kind which Hudibras tells of,

Which, like the tale o'th" bear and fiddle, Was told; but broke off in the middle.

The next wonder, which makes up number five, is called Tideswell, or a spring of water which ebbs and flows, as they will have it, as the sea does. A poor thing indeed to make a wonder of; and therefore most of the writers pass it over with little notice; only that they are at a loss to make up the number seven without it.

This well or spring is called Weeden Well; the basin or receiver for the water is about three foot square every way; the water seems to have some other receiver within the rock, which, when it filis by the force of the original stream, which is small, the air being contracted or pent in, forces the water out with a bubbling noise, and so fills the receiver without; but when the force is spent within, then it stops till the place is filled again; and, in the mean time, the water without runs off or ebbs, till the quantity within swells again, and then the same causes produce the same effects, as will always be while the world endures. So that all this wonder is owing only to the situation of the place, which is a meer accident in nature; and if any person were to dig into the place, and give vent to the air, which fills the contracted space within, they would soon see Tideswell turned into an ordinary running stream, and a very little one too.

So much for fictitious wonders, or indeed simple wonders. The two real wonders which remain, are first, Elden Hole, and secondly, the Duke of Devonshire's fine house at Chatsworth; one a wonder of nature, the other of art. I begin with the last.

Chatsworth is indeed a most glorious and magnificent house, and, as it has had two or three founders, may well be said to be compleatly designed and finished. It was begun on a much narrower plan than it now takes up, by Sir William Cavendish, of Cavendish in Suffolk, who married the Countess Dowager of Shrewsbury, and with her came into a noble and plentiful fortune in this country.

Sir William died, having done little more than built one end of the fabrick, and laid out the plan, as I have said, or ichnography of the whole. But the lady, who, it seems, was the mover of the first design, finish'd the whole in the magnificent manner which it appeared in, when it was first christen'd a wonder , and ranked among the marvelleux of the Peak. But what would the world have called it, or what would Mr. Cambden have said of it, had it appeared in those days in the glory and splendor its last great founder, for so we may justly call him, left it in.

It is indeed a palace for a prince, a most magnificent building, and, in spite of all the difficulties or disadvantages of situation, is a perfect beauty; nay, the very obstructions and, as I called them, disadvantages of its situation, serve to set off its beauty, and are, by the most exquisite decoration of the place, made to add to the lustre of the whole. But it would take up a volume by itself to describe it. I shall only touch at those things which other writers have omitted; for, as Mr. Hobbes has elegantly set it off in Latin verse, Mr. Cotton, after his manner, in English, and others, in as good a manner as they can, in history; they have yet, all of them, left enough for me to say, and so shall I, for many after me; and yet perhaps it shall be as many years describing as it was in building, and the description be no more finished than the building, which will have always an encrease of ornament, as the noble possessors see room to add to its glory.

The front to the garden is the most regular piece of architect I have seen in all the north part of England; the pilaster seventy two foot high to the foot of the ballaster on the top; the frize under the cornish is spacious, and has the motto of the family upon it, the letters so large (and gilded) as takes up the whole front, tho' the words are but these two:


The sashes of the second story we were told are seventeen foot high, the plates polish'd looking-glass. and the woodwork double gilded; which, I think, is no where else to be seen in England.

Under this front lye the gardens exquisitely fine, and, to make a clear vista or prospect beyond into the flat country, towards Hardwick, another seat of the same owner, the duke, to whom what others thought impossible, was not only made practicable, but easy, removed, and perfectly carried away a great mountain that stood in the way, and which interrupted the prospect.

This was so entirely gone, that, having taken a strict view of the gardens at my first being there, and retaining an idea of them in my mind, I was perfectly confounded at coming there a second time, and not knowing what had been done; for I had lost the hill, and found a new country in view, which Chatsworth it self had never seen before.

The house indeed had received additions, as it did every year, and perhaps would to this day, had the duke liv'd, who had a genius for such things beyond the reach of the most perfect masters, and was not only capable to design, but to finish.

The gardens, the water-works, the cascades, the statues, vasa and painting, tho' they are but very imperfectly described by any of the writers who have yet named them, and more imperfectly by one author, who has so lately pretended to view them; yet I dare not venture to mention them here, least, for want of time, and having so long a journey to go, I should, like those who have gone before me, do it imperfectly, or leave no room to do justice to other persons and places, which I am still to mention. I shall therefore, as I said above, only touch at what others have omitted.

First, 'tis to be observed that on the east side rises a very high mountain, on the top of which they dig mill-stones, and it begins so close to, and so overlooks the house, being prodigiously high that, should they roll down a pair of those stones coupled with a wooden axis, as is the way of drawing them, they would infallibly give a shock to the building; yet this mountain is so planted, and so covered with a wood of beautiful trees, that you see no hill, only a rising wood, as if the trees grew so much higher than one another, and was only a wall of trees, whose tops join into one another so close, as nothing is seen through them.

Upon the top of that mountain begins a vast extended moor or waste, which, for fifteen or sixteen miles together due north, presents you with neither hedge, house or tree, but a waste and houling wilderness, over which when strangers travel, they are obliged to take guides, or it would be next to impossible not to lose their way.

Nothing can be more surprising of its kind, than for a stranger coming from the north, suppose from Sheffield in Yorkshire, for that is the first town of note, and wandering or labouring to pass this difficult desart country, and seeing no end of it, and almost discouraged and beaten out with the fatigue of it, (just such was our case) on a sudden the guide brings him to this precipice, where he looks down from a frightful heighth, and a comfortless, barren, and, as he thought, endless moor, into the most delightful valley, with the most pleasant garden, and most beautiful palace in the world: If contraries illustrate, and the place can admit of any illustration, it must needs add to the splendor of the situation, and to the beauty of the building, and I must say (with which I will close my short observation) if there is any wonder in Chatsworth, it is, that any man who had a genius suitable to so magnificent a design, who could lay out the plan for such a house, and had a fund to support the charge, would build it in such a place where the mountains insult the clouds, intercept the sun, and would threaten, were earthquakes frequent here, to bury the very towns, much more the house, in their ruins.

On the top of that mountain, that is to say, on the plain which extends from it, is a large pond or basin for water, spreading, as I was told, near thirty acres of ground, which, from all the ascents round it, receives, as into a cistern, all the water that falls, and from which again by pipes, the cascades, watenvorks, ponds, and canals in the gardens, are plentifully supplied.

On the west side, which is the front or entrance of the house, and where the first foundress built a very august portal or gate; I say, on the west side, runs the River Derwent, which, though not many miles from its source here, is yet a terrible river, when, by hasty rains, or by the melting of the snows, the hills are pleased to pour down their waters into its channel; for the current is so rapid, and it has so many contracted passages among the rocks, and so many little cataracts amongst the stones, of which sometimes we see some of an incredible bulk come rouling down its stream; I say, there are so many of these, that the river, on the least motion of its waters above their ordinary highth, roars like the breaches on the shores of the sea.

Over this river there is a stately stone bridge, with an antient tower upon it, and in an island in the river an antient fabrick all of stone, and built like a castle. All these are the works of the first foundress, the Countess of Shrewsbury, and shew the greatness of the first design; but, except the bridge, are now, as it were, eclips'd by the modern glories of the later edifice.

In my discourse of the palace of Chatsworth, must not be forgot that fam'd compliment which the Mareschal Duke de Tallard pass'd upon it, when the Duke of Devonshire entertained him at Chatsworth, namely, "That when he should give his master the King of France the history of his seven years captivity in England, he would leave out those three days which he had spent so agreeably with his grace, in seeing the finest palace in the world."

But I must dwell no longer here, however pleasant and agreeable the place. The remaining article, and which, I grant, we may justly call a WONDER, is Elden Hole: The description of it, in brief, is thus: In the middle of a plain open field, gently descending to the south, there is a frightful chasme, or opening in the earth, or rather in the rock, for the country seems thereabouts to be all but one great rock; this opening goes directly down perpendicular into the earth, and perhaps to the center; it may be about twenty foot over one way, and fifty or sixty the other; it has no bottom, that is to say, none that can yet be heard of. Mr. Cotton says, he let down eight hundred fathoms of line into it, and that the plummet drew still; so that, in a word, he sounded about a mile perpendicular; for as we call a mile 1760 yards, and 884 is above half, then doubtless eight hundred fathoms must be 1600 yards, which is near a mile.

This I allow to be a wonder, and what the like of is not to be found in the world, that I have heard of, or believe. And would former writers have been contented with one wonder instead of seven, it would have done more honour to the Peak, and even to the whole nation, than the adding five imaginary miracles to it that had nothing in them, and which really depreciatcd the whole.

What Nature meant in leaving this window open into the infernal world, if the place lies that way, we cannot tell: But it must be said, there is something of horror upon the very imagination, when one does but look into it; and therefore tho' I cannot find much in Mr. Cotton, of merry memory, worth quoting, yet on this subject, I think, he has four very good lines, speaking of his having an involuntary horror at looking into this pit. The words are these:

For he, who standing on the brink of hell,
Can carry it so unconcern'd and well,
As to betray no fear, is certainly
A better Christian, or a worse than I.
COTTON'S Wonders of the Peak .

They tell a dismal story here, of a traveller, who, enquiring his way to Castleton, or to Buxton, in a dark night, two villains offer'd to guide him; but, intending to rob him, led him to the edge of this gulph, and either thrust him in, or persuaded him to believe there was a little gall of water, and bad him take a large step, which the innocent unfortunate did, not mistrusting the treachery, and stept at once into eternity; a story enough to make the blood run cold through the heart of those that hear it told, especially if they know the place too: They add, that one of these villains being hanged at Derby some years after for some other villany, confess'd this murther at the gallows.

Having then viewed those things with an impartial mind, give me leave to reduce the wonders of the Peak to a less number, and of a quite different kind.

  1. Elden Hole I acknowledge to be a wonderful place, as I have said above; but to me the greatest surprise is, that, after such a real wonder, any of the trines added to it could bear the name of wonders.
  2. Of Buxton; the wonder to me is, that in a nation so full of chronical diseases as we are, such as our scorbuticks, rheumaticks, cholicks, and niphriticks, there should be such a fountain of medicine sent from heaven, and no more notice taken of it, or care to make it useful.
  3. That in a nation so curious, so inquiring, and so critical as this, any thing so unsatisfying, so foolish and so weak, should pass for wonders as those of Mam Tor, Tideswell, Poole's Hole, &.
  4. As to Chatsworth, the wonder, as I said before, seems to me; not that so noble and magnificent a palace should be built, but that it should be built in such a situation, and in such a country so out of the way, so concealed from the world, that whoever sees it must take a journey on purpose.

Having thus viewed the two counties of Nottingham and Derby, as beginning that part of England, which we call north by Trent, I resolved to go northward on the east side of the island, taking the western shore, or the Irish Sea in my return.

The Peak concludes the northern part of Derbyshire; nor are there any towns on that side worth noting. There are some other curiosities in the Peak indeed, which would deserve a fuller account, had I leisure to enlarge or descend to particulars, as the tottering stones at Byrch Over, the Roman causeway, called Bath-Gate, the several minerals found in the hills, and in the lead mines, as black lead, stibium or antimony, christal, and other things, all much more rare than the wonders they speak of.

Bakewell, is the best town in the north west side of the Peak, near which the Duke of Rutland has a very noble palace, called Haddon; but after Chatsworth no house in the same county can bear a description; so we left the Peak, and went to Chesterfield, a handsome market town at the northermost border of the county, north east from Chatsworth.

There is indeed an extended angle of this county, which runs a great way north west by Chappel in the Frith, and which they call High Peak. This, perhaps, is the most desolate, wild, and abandoned country in all England; The mountains of the Peak, of which I have been speaking, seem to be but the beginning of wonders to this part of the country, and but the beginning of mountains, or, if you will, as the lower rounds of a ladder. The tops of these hills seem to be as much above the clouds, as the clouds are above the ordinary range of hills.

Nor is this all; but the continuance of these mountains is such, that we know no bounds set to them, but they run on in a continued ridge or ledge of mountains from one to another, till they are lost in the southern parts of Scotland, and even through that to the Highlands; so that they may be said to divide Britain, as the Appennine Mountains divide Italy. Thus these hills joyning to Blackstone Edge divide Yorkshire from Lancashire, and going on north divides the Bishoprick of Durham from Westmoreland, and so on. It is from this ridge of mountains that all the rivers in the north of England take their rise, I may say ALL, for it is so to a very trifle, not a considerable river north of this county, nay, and in this county too, but begin here; those on the east side run into the German Ocean, those on the west side into the Irish. I shall begin the observation here; the Dove and the Derwent rise both at this south end of them, and come away south to the Trent; but all the rivers afterwards run, as above, east or west; and first the Mersee rises on the west side, and the Don on the east, the first runs to Warrington, and into the sea at Liverpoole; the other to Doncaster, and into the sea at Humber. I shall carry on the observation as I go, for to give an account of rivers, is the true guide to the giving the reader the best account of the country. But to return to my progress.

Chesterfield is a handsome populous town, well-built and well inhabited, notwithstanding it stands in the farthest part of this rocky country; for being on the north west side next to Yorkshire, it enters Scarsdale, which is a rich fruitful part of the country, though surrounded with barren moors and mountains, for such the name Scarsdale signifies, according to that master of etymologies, Mr. Cambden. Here is, however, nothing remarkable in this town but a free school, and a very good market, well stored with provisions; for here is little or no manufacture.

From hence (travelling still north) we entred the great county of York, uncertain still which way to begin to take a full view of it, for as 'tis a country of a very great extent, my business is not the situation or a meer geographical description of it; I have nothing to do with the longitude of places, the antiquities of towns, corporations, buildings, charters, &. nor much with the history of men, families, cities or towns, but to give you a view of the whole in its present state, as also of the commerce, curiosities and customs, according to my title.

The county is divided into three ridings; as I entred it from the south, it follows, I went in, by what they call the West Riding, which, as it is by much the largest, so it is the wealthiest and the most populous, has the greatest towns in it, and the greatest number of them; the greatest manufactures, and consequently the greatest share of wealth, as it has also of people.

Daniel Defoe, A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies (London: JM Dent and Co, 1927)

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