Let us away to the hills, to the green meadows decked with daisies, to ths field path, to the banks of Derwent's stream. This is the village of Matlock, nestling in the bosom of mother earth, a charming spot in the plains of Derbyshire, famous all the world over for its petrifying wells. These are the Hights of Abraham; that towering rock is High Tor, " frowning at night and smiling in the morning ;" between them flows the river Derwent. From the sides of these rocks little streams issue, and (marvelous as it may seem) everything this water runs over turns to stone ! This is no fiction, but a positive fact. For instance, if you take a favorite rose bush, and so place it as to allow the stream to drip down its thorny side, it will, in the course of twelve moons, become petrified—a rock of beauty, in fact, defying the sculptor's art. No matter what you put there, the effect is the same. Some of the wicked wags of Matlock went over to Ambergate one evening, and stole from John Wiggins his wig, which they" placed in the petrifying well, and it was turned to stone. The favorite things to petrify are birds' nests and eggs, which are very beautiful. The three petrifying wells here are literally filled with all sorts of things undergoing the rocki-fication process. Many of these things have been brought from a great distance, (even from Canada and Ceylon,) as tokens of affection and love. Toys, once the favorite playthings of a now departed child, are here petrified ; and thus they become a real treasure, the only one mamma has left. With very few exceptions, spring water contains lime, magnesia, and other stony stuff dissolved in it, which accumulates during its subterranean travels. You know that if water runs over a bed of sugar, a sweet well is the result. In Cheshire there are salt beds; these produce salt or brine wells, from the springs of water that come into contact with them. Thus we have also water containing lime, magnesia, strontia, and baryta. The petrifying springs that trickle out of the perpendicular sides of Mount Abraham and High Tor, at Matlock, are highly charged with lime ; on exposure to the air, a large portion of the water evaporates, and the lime remains ; whatever this reduced quantity of water trickles over, therefore, soon becomes coated with a thin film of lime, which increasing in substance partakes of the property of limestone. Woody fiber that will absorb the water will have lime deposited within its cells, and which, hardening to the consistence of stone, imparts at length that solidity which we call petrifaction. The petrifying wells, however, are not the only natural curiosities that are to be seen at Matlock. You can, if so disposed, penetrate into the earth's crust. What is called the Speedwell lead mine is in truth a crystal cavern of resplendent beauty, full of stalactites and staglamites, spar, dogtooth crystals of carbonate of lime and doubly refracting spar. As you walk through the Strand, in London, the shop of Mr. Tennant, the mineralogist, will be likely to arrest your attention, for in the window may be seen a fine specimen of this double refracting spar from Derbyshire. If you draw a black ink line on a piece of paper, and look at it through this glassy spar, there will appear two lines. Everything, in fact, appears double that is seen through it. Now the production of all these beautiful crystals, these stalactites, these staglamites, these spars, has been the work of many hundreds of years. Chemistry assures us that they are all composed of the very same ingredients as are now found in the waters of the petrifying Well. SEPTIMUS PIESSE.
This article was originally published with the title "Petrifying Wells" in Scientific American 13, 37, 291 (May 1858)