Updated: Dec 21, 2021
It's that time of year again. Hill climb season. That time of year when those anorexic-appearing, anaerobosis-enduring, nanogram-obsessed individuals seem to find fun in battling against gravity for a couple of minutes of painful pleasure.
It's that time of year again. That time of year when I offer my services to assist with the running of my club's double-header promotion, the Riber and Bank Road Hill Climbs. I'm quite happy to give something back to the sport as 'I don't do hills!'.
With parking usually being at a bit of a premium at the venues I decide to hop on a bike and pedal down. Pedal down, you'll notice. Yes, I know I'll have to pedal back up, but at least I'll be awake by then.
As I cycle through an almost deserted Matlock town centre I pass the once Greene King-owned Railway Hotel - closed (plans for its revamping were turned down earlier this year) and the former Crown Hotel and then head for the old, original part of the town.
Over the years the centre of Matlock has migrated, with the original part of the settlement being around the area known as Matlock Green. Unsurprisingly there are some historic bygone boozers in the area, but the closure of the first that I pass is not that historic. It was still trading in 2010 but closed by 2011. I even had a pint in it many years ago. The former Horseshoe, or Horse Shoe, or even at some point I believe, Three Horseshoes, stood on the corner of Lime Tree Road and has been converted to residential use, with some additional building having taken place on the site to produce Horseshoe Mews.
And here it is about a century earlier with Frank W. Bailey as the licensee, which leaves me a little confused.
From at least 1829, according to all the directories and census records that I've seen, the Horseshoe Hotel was run by the Bowens, with a little variation in the spelling from time to time. Firstly by William and then, after his death, by his widow Mary Ann. She retires from the scene somewhere around 1850 as she's still there in the 1848 Kelly but the 1851 census has her living on nearby Church Street where her occupation is listed as 'formerly inn keeper'.
The same census now has one John Froggatt, a wheelwright, in residence and the Horseshoe remains with the Froggatt family for at least the next two generations. Harrod's 1870 directory entry has this listing:- 'FROGATT JOHN, Horse Shoe hotel, wine and spirit vaults. Licensed to let horses, carriages, and equipages of every description ; cabs to meet, every train. This hotel is within five minutes' walk of Matlockbridge station - Matlockgreen' . I have to say that I think I might have a bit of a problem with walking to it from the station within five minutes. I suppose the advertising world has always been pretty good with its exagerated claims.
Two years later sees John being buried and the running of the Horseshoe taken on by one Thomas Evans who'd married Froggatt's daughter, Sarah. Kelly (1876) has him there as does the 1881 census. It seems that around this time the hotel was rebuilt, but I have so far been unable to track down any hard and fast detail about this. I've seen the date of 1880 mentioned for this, but also the 1850s and 1860s. Anyhow, Thomas continues in residence, sometimes also listed as a farmer, up until the 1901 census. The 1911 one also gives Thomas Evans there, but by now we've moved on yet another generation. Thomas junior's widow, Mary, continues on after his death. I've followed her all the way to the 1941 edition of Kelly, by which time the Horeshoe's had a telephone installed - Matlock 247. Nowhere can I find reference to Frank W. Bailey. There is/are a person/persons by that name living in Church Street or associated with other hostelries not too distant according to various pieces of census evidence. However, I can find nothing to link the elusive Mr. Bailey to the Horseshoe around the time that the old photograph was taken, which I reckon to be about 1910. (There is a photograph in the Vernon Lamb Archive on Ann Andrews', site taken in 1911, in which the Horseshoe is of similar appearance.)
I turn opposite the Horseshoe and, despite my 'I don't do hills!' mantra, it's all uphill from here. I enter Church Street heading into the oldest part of town and soon come across another bygone boozer, the King's Head.
According to Matlock Town Council's Matlock Trails leaflet, this building possibly dates back to 1628 but the earliest reference that I can find to it being a pub is in Freebody's 1852 directory which has William Gaunt at the King's Head. The previous year's census gives William as a victualer and butcher but fails to name an establishment. He's in the right location though, as is William Gaunt, butcher, in the one carried out a decade earlier. Peabody's 1842 directory lists a William Gaunt as a beer retailer in Matlock so it's probably safe to assume that he was at the King's Head from at least around 1840.
It seems that William's there for a while as he's in White's 1857 edition, but by the time of the 1861 census four years later he's gone. Really gone. Six feet under gone. As has Sarah, his wife and then widow. In charge now is Mary Hendry. She's in charge as her husband is away gardening at some hall or other. She's also in charge at the time of the next census as her husband's now dead.
Mary's still at the King's Head in 1876 according to the Post Office directory, which is interesting as I think she herself was buried in the January of the previous year. The butchery connection is re-established by her successor, Joseph Marsden. The same directory that gives the deceased Mary as running the place also lists him as a butcher in the town and he remains at the King's, combining beer and butchery until his death in 1908 whereupon his widow, Rose takes the place on, complete with the butchery side. Rose died in 1919. Here's a shot of the place in the early 1900s when the Marsdens had it.
Quite when it closed I don't know. Its listing in the 1941 edtion of Kelly gives one George Ling as the proprietor, just as he had been nine years earlier, and that's the latest reference to it that I have found so far, although the 1967 Ordnance Survey 1:2500 plan still marks it as a pub. Was George a butcher? I don't know that either, but with that surname a fishmonger would have been more appropriate.
Outside the King's Head is an old mounting block but it is not needed for me to continue on my travels, for a short push of the bike further up the hill takes me to Wheatsheaf House.
This Grade II* listed property dates to 1681 and is named in the 1829 editions of both Glover and Pigot with Jane Lowe as the innkeeper. Jane would've been in her sixties at that time, so it was probably operating as an inn for a while before that.
By the time of the 1841 census Jane is described as a publican at the Wheatsheaf and so is a Timothy Spencer. Spencer had married Jane's widowed daughter, also Jane, in 1832. Was he the same Timothy Spencer who, in 1835, was running the Queen's Head Hotel? If so, things become even more interesting as Jane junior's first husband was Anthony Walton. Could he possibly have been the same Anthony Walton who was running the Queen's Head Hotel before Timothy Spencer? Interesting indeed. What would a 19th century Jeremy Kyle have made of things?
Anyhow, I digress. Jane senior died in 1843 and Timothy is named as the innkeeper in all subsequent directory and census entries up to, and including, the 1864 edition of Kelly. After his death the following year it seems that one of Jane junior's sons, another Anthony Walton, took the place on as he's there according to Kelly in 1876. It looks like he decides that he's had enough of innkeeping and would stick to farming as the 1881 census records him living at the Wheatsheaf Inn (closed) and I can find no later references to it operating as a hostelry.
I had originally thought that that was that as far as bygone boozers of the area went, but in studying the old records I came across references to both the The Blue Ball and The Star. Peering at the 1880 and 1899 OS plans I notice that the Star is marked a little further up the hill and according to this item from the local paper before it was The Star it was The Blue Ball.
The Blue Ball features in Pigot's Directory's 1831 edition with a William Oakley in residence. In those days, what is now the A6 between Matlock and Cromford did not exist and the route south went past this bygone boozer. There are a number of theories as to the origin of the Blue Ball name for pubs with one being that a blue ball was put up to advise coaches that a passenger awaited inside, so this one would appear to be appropriate in this case.
In the 1876 Kelly's Directory Joseph Kirk is in The Star, the first reference to it that I have found. He's given as an innkeeper in town in the previous census, but no establishment is named.
Whilst the aforementioned newspaper article suggests that the two bygone boozers are one and the same, locals, including a former resident of Helston, seem to be of the opinion that they were two different establishments - The Blue Ball being Helston, the end house, and The Star being immediately next door. They also suggest that the closure of The Blue Ball, for what the article describes as being 'a house of ill repute', occurred in the 1920s and it involved police from outside the area as many members of the local constabulary were good customers. Whatever the reality is it's definitely a case of another bygone boozer - or two.
Back on the bike. Past the start of the Riber climb and into Starkholmes Village Hall. Time for the numbers game. Give them out, take them in and then it's off to the Imperial Rooms in Matlock to do the same again for the Bank Road event.
So, what of the events? Well, it was sunny. Whilst I was busying myself indoors clubmate Andy Woolf took these pics. I think that they give a good impression of the day's efforts. Literally. Firstly Riber...
...and then Bank Road.
If you fancy a look at what it's like to ride Bank Road then have a peek at this video that Courtney Blockney-Campton made of his effort on the slightly longer version of the course used for the national championship in 2016. If you do watch it then you'll understand why I'm often heard to remark, 'I don't do hills!'
Well, that's four, or possibly five, bygone boozers and two hill climbs. Now it's time to pedal back home. As it was downhill to get to Matlock now, just as this post's title suggests, it's all uphill from here.
If you've read this far, then thank you. Like me, you must have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. If you haven't done so already you can subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.