When I put together the Derbyshire Taking the Waters: the history of spas & hydros tour, I made a point of including some of the obscure, rarely noticed relics of the ancient custom of using natural springs for therapeutic purposes.
The village of Stoney Middleton has twin bath houses, hidden behind the parish church.
They were built by the local landowner, Thomas Denman, in 1815. Before that, according to James Pilkington, in his A View of the Present State of Derbyshire (1789) the baths were open to the elements and “discouraging”.
Denman provided male and female baths and changing rooms, complete with fireplaces.
That must have counted as luxurious in the wilds of Derbyshire in the time of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë.
Nowadays they are used for an associated purpose: restored in 1985-92 by the parish council, they provide storage for the village’s well-dressing team.
The 72-page, A4 handbook for the 2009 Derbyshire-based Taking the Waters: the history of spas & hydros tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.