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The village of Matlock, in Derbyshire’s Peak District, developed as a tourist destination through the course of the eighteenth century, as a result of the discovery of warm springs and the establishment of therapeutic baths. Its impressive setting on the steep sided valley of the River Derwent, dominated by the limestone crag of High Tor, made it attractive to artists by the 1770s, including Joseph Wright of Derby and John Warwick Smith.
Edward Dayes made an ‘Excursion through Derbyshire and Yorkshire’ in 1803, and completed an account of it just before his death in the following year. When it was posthumously published in 1805, its editor, E W Brayley stated that the ‘principal object’ of the trip was ‘to contemplate the romantic Character of Dove-Dale; and to inspect, and to make Drawings of the sublime and picturesque Scenery of the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire’. In a footnote to his account, Dayes wrote of Matlock, that ‘between the bath and the village, every twenty yards will afford a new scene, from the sudden turns of the river, and the majestic elevation of Matlock High-tor, which forms a fine abrupt contrast to the opposite and more gentle bank of the Derwent’.