I was meandering across the internet earlier today and, on a whim, typed in ‘Xmas Decorations on Boats’ and came across something that whilst not strictly Christmassy does bring back a flood of childhood memories. I’m surprised I’ve not thought of writing about the amazing illuminated boats of Matlock Bath before.

The annual Autumn Illuminations have a long family association, with both my mum’s side of the the family and dad being employed as children to light the candles in their original glass holders… Literally thousands would be lit each evening, along the cliff edges, through the woods and on rowing boats on the River Derwent.

The illuminations were first held in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria had childhood memories of visiting Matlock Bath and seeing candlelight reflected in the River Derwent. This inspired the first illuminations which comprised of Fairy lamps, Chinese and Japanese lanterns lighting up the whole village, and a torch light procession followed by a parade of illuminated boats on the river. The rock faces of the gorge were lit by numerous coloured bonfires.

Today, the decorated and illuminated boats are produced and rowed by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders Association and the Boat Parade continues to feature one ‘candle-lit’ boat – illuminated as in Victorian times – and many battery powered electric displays.

The 2012 season was the Illuminations 115th birthday.


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