A formal park located on the southern side of the Pavilion in Matlock Bath, overlooking the River Derwent, Derwent Gardens is also the centrepiece every autumn of Derbyshire Dales District Council's popular Illuminations festival.
The distinctive emphasis of the gardens is water. Several thermal springs emerge in the park and have been used to create the water gardens and other pools. Grottos and alcoves also provide unique features within the beautiful gardens.
Across a river bridge opened in 1969, the Lovers' Walks can be found - a series of footpaths both along the riverside and up and over the precipitous and spectacular cliffs.
The origin of Derwent Gardens
Derwent Gardens is the result of the amalgamation of two distinct areas, the Ferry Grounds and the Orchard Holme.
Orchard Holme is the original name for the southern section of Derwent Gardens and here several thermal springs have their outfall to the river. Having been cleared of trees in the mid nineteenth century the site was used as a rubbish tip by the Royal Hotel. However Herbert Buxton, a local businessman, bought the site in 1880 and erected a gravity powered roller coaster which opened amid great excitement in 1889.
Buxton also offered more traditional amusements including landscaped gardens, thermal fishponds, a petrifying well and a café. The roller coaster survived until 1934 when the grounds appear to have fallen into disrepair.
The land was requisitioned by the army during World War II and after the war some of the former army buildings were used to house a variety of attractions including an aquarium, and aviary. The gardens were purchased by Matlock Urban District Council in 1951 and were used as an amusement area until 1967.
When the original Promenade location for the Illuminations was lost during the A6 road widening in 1968, Derwent Gardens became the new home. In 1984, Derbyshire Dales District Council took over the responsibility for the gardens and illuminations when the Illuminations Committee went into liquidation.
The Ferry Grounds forming the top end of what is now known as Derwent Gardens contained landing stages which had been in existence since the eighteenth century. This formed an important element of the local leisure industry housing the ferry and also being used for both boating and for 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. Many fairs and travelling shows set up 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 the same year. The Council purchased this land in 1908 under the auspices of the 1905 Improvement Act. In 1911 the Kursaal, now known as the Pavilion, was built, and the grounds landscaped.
Visiting Matlock Bath?
Enjoy the District Council's Green Flag Hall Leys, Matlock and the fabulous Arc Leisure Matlock, opened in 2011. The District Council also manages the picturesque grounds at High Tor above Matlock Dale and Lovers' Walks across the river from Derwent Gardens in Matlock Bath.