A petrifying well is one that can make an object acquire a stony appearance over a period of months or years. In the past, this was believed to be a result of magic or witchcraft but it is an entirely natural phenomenon and is caused by deposition of minerals in the water. The Well is one of the few surviving sources of spa water in Matlock Bath where once several wells existed. The Thermal Pool is fed with water at a constant 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), from a spring believed to be around 610 metres (2,000 feet) below ground. This water gushes out and through the pool at a rate of 27,000 litres (600,000 gallons) a day. You can visit the thermal pool and petrifying well at the Matlock Bath Aquarium & Exhibitions at 110, North Parade, Matlock Bath.
Elizabeth Barrett, who later married Robert Browning, visited Matlock Bath as young child. She later describes her experience in one of her poems, written after this family’s visit in 1814. The poem is entitled On Visiting Matlock:
The carriage stops – the neat and smiling Inn,
The works of Man we leave – Gods works to win.
Now then up shaggy hills we climb
To get to Natures cavern, grand and fine,
This scene is Natures work, these trees are hers,
These oaks, these elms, these yews, these firs. –
Now to her Palace, swiftly draw we near,
Which ever must inspire great awe and fear;
Where shaggy rocks are opening to our view,
Her jewels sparkle o’er, with wat’ry dew,
Now burning tapers in each hand is put,
To light the way, to guide the weary foot,
Down the abyss o’er rugged path we stray,
And steps descending reach the wat’ry way,
Here heedless Ba, with magic wonder struck,
With eyes upraised, she gave her foot a duck.
The cavern dark, Papas laugh resounded,
Mama’s, Bro’s, Addles,’ all loud rebounded;
Vast chambers now expanding to our sight,
Glittering in various gems, of spar so bright, 20
The massive rocks upon an angle rest,
Nature bears all these wonders in her breast,
Now then advancing to the morning sun,
We quit this shadowy cave with vapours hung,
And joy to see the beauteous glowing day, 25
The rocks, woods, waters, all in bright array,
Then running, tumbling down the hill,
New wonders rise, our thoughts to fill,
Papa so ever kind, our joys to swell,
Led us to see the petrifying well,
Where heads, wigs, baskets, eggs, lie on the ground
Soon turned to stone, in dropping waters drowned.
Farewell, farewell, ye scenes of joy so sweet,
All other joys lie humbly at thy feet.
For more details consult the Matlock Bath Aquarium & Exhibitions website.