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Matlock: Smedley's Hydropathic Institution, 1890s
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Smedley's, 1870s

United Methodist Free Church, Smedley's Hydro

Matlock Bridge,
early 1890s

Prospectus 1885-6

Smoke Room,
added in 1892

Early 1900s

World War 1

Smedley's Memorial Hospital

Sons of Alfred Douglas

"Grandeur had come to Smedleys[1]" in the post Smedley era, with "new grounds and terraces laid out in 1885[1]" and major alterations to the building following on afterwards.

The works were divided into four sections from the outset, the first being "the new and stately entrance hall and reception room, which cost upwards of £9,000." The second phase was completed in 1886; there was a new dining hall, additional bedrooms and a 100 foot long "lofty" corridor connecting the wings of the older part of the building. The third phase was to include a new drawing room, with more bedrooms above, and above these it was proposed to erect a central tower to add to the beauty of the building and act as a landmark to visitors "exploring the many labrynthian woods and forests that surround the mansion of hydropathy". The estimated cost was £25,000. It was planned to rebuild and enlarge the kitchen; it was then to be fitted with the latest improvements. A sitting room for the servants was also to be included in this phase[2]. In addition to Dr. William Bell Hunter and his junior physician, Dr. Tennant, the hydro's senior staff at this time included Alfred Douglas[3] senior (secretary), Mr. Challand (cashier), Mr. Alfred Henry Douglas[4] (manager) and Mrs. Walton who was the matron.

The well in the grounds was considered to be no longer adequate in 1887 and was closed the following year. A reservoir was built on Wellington Street adjacent to that of the Local Water Board[1].

In May 1890 the tenders received in connection with building the fourth (which was also the last) phase of works were opened at a meeting of the hydro's directors. Smedley's Hydropathic Company had spent no less than £40,000 on extensions and improvements already and the cost of the latest project was estimated at £10,000[5]. Smedley's continued to operate with all the construction in its midst. At Christmas time a ball was given at the hydro with Mr. J. H. Barnes's Quadrille Band supplying the music; there were upwards of 150 guests[6].

The new billiard room, part of the fourth instalment, was formally opened in March 1892 by Robert Wildgoose, J.P., the chairman of the directors. The "apartment" had a frontage to the main promenade, which ran the whole length of the sanatorium. It was said to be magnificent. There were six large plate glass windows and the stained glass in the windows depicted national games such as cricket and skipping. The billiard room was also lit by skylights. The wooden panelling on the lower parts of the walls (wainscoting) was relieved by costly Sienna marble pillars. There were recesses along one side of the room that were designed for small parties. The louges [sic] placed around the room were upholstered in frieze velvet. Two massive oak billiard tables had been supplied by Messrs Orme & Co. of Manchester. Mosaic marble tiles were inlaid on the floor; the entrance hall also had the same flooring[7].

The new chimney for the boiler house, planned to be 140 ft. high, was started in the summer of 1893. It was built by Mr. Wildgoose[8]. You can see the chimney quite clearly on the top image. The chimney behind Smedley's on the second image belonged to the tram depôt and was a little shorter, a mere was 100 feet high[9].

Unfortunately Mr. Alfred Henry Douglas, who had been the manager of Smedley's for over ten years and must have been heavily involved in the rebuilding programme, died at his father's house in Holloway in August 1893. He was only 35 and had been connected with the hydro for 17 years. His funeral, at which the Rev. Valentine Ward officiated, was held at Matlock Congregational church and he was then interred at Holloway Cemetery. A large number of people attended the funeral, including Smedley's directors: Mr. R. Wildgoose, J.P., Mr. J. H. Quilliam (Matlock) and Mr Jos Crowther (Huddersfield), Dr. Hunter's representative, Mr. Bunny (Liverpool), Mr. Cooper (Ripley), Mr and Mrs. Bramah (Sheffield). About 50 of the hydro's employees also went[10]. Henry Challand, his brother-in-law, had been filling in as manager since Alfred Douglas junior had become ill and was now appointed in his stead[10]. It will be seen that the Douglas family, and their relative Mr. Challand, were to provide a stability for Smedley's that passed down through the generations, lasting until the hydro closed its doors for the last time.

When the four phases of building programme were finished in 1894 the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire "formally opened the new general bath, with boiler house attached[1]", exactly 20 years after the death of John Smedley. The Terrace had been extended over the baths, provision was made for al fresco concerts and "an artistical kiosk had been erected on a level with the drawing-room terrace[11]".The latest additions had cost £20,000 and were all "on the Bank Road side of the establishment[11]" The Duke was given a key to open the doors of the new bath houses at the ceremony. Since Smedley's death the building had been greatly altered, with the older portions rebuilt on a much larger scale. Smedley would scarcely have recognised it. As Dr. Hunter pointed out is a statement he made after the opening ceremony, even 19 years before "the building was one of the most awkward and ill-constructed erections that could well be imagined. About that time the directors decided on a scheme for complete reconstruction, and although it was still far from complete the greater and more difficult part had been accomplished[12]".

Amongst the junior physicians working alongside Dr. Hunter over the years were:

  • Thomas Maccall M.D. - found in Kelly's 1881 Directory | the 1881 census (Moved to North Meols, Ormskirk)
  • Dr. Tennant - attended the Christmas dinner at Smedley's in 1885 when he said he had every faith in the future of the establishment and was proud to be associated with Dr. Hunter. He was still in post at the end of 1886. He became the physician at Ben Rhydding, Ilkley in 1887.
  • Joseph Geo. Garibaldi Corkhill L.R.P.C. Edin. - found in Kelly's 1887 Directory (Moved to Birkdale, Ormskirk)
  • Charles Jos. Whitby B.A., M.D - in Matlock in 1889 and found in Kelly's 1891 Directory (Moved to Hydro Establishment at Limpley Stoke, Bradford on Avon by the 1891 census). He had been one of the management committee of Smedley's Memorial Hospital.
  • William Cecil Sharpe M.B. - found in the 1891 census | 1895 Kelly's Directory | Kelly's 1899 Directory (Moved to the Red House, Darley Dale before 1899 and died there in 1928). Both he and his wife were involved with Smedley's Memorial Hospital.

William Bell Hunter died at the end of 1894 and was replaced by William C. Sharpe[13]. Life at Smedley's carried on much as normal up to the turn of the century. There were more balls, and not just at Christmas, with Barnes' orchestras supplying up-to-date music[14]. At the annual Christmas Day Banquet in 1899 a minstrel's gallery had been erected for the orchestra, which played appropriate airs during the meal[15]. A telephone was installed in 1896 and a refrigerator and typewriter the following year[1]. The hydro was entering the twentieth century with what was then modern technology.

Read the next stage in the hydro's history, Smedley's Hydro, early 1900s

  Notice how one of the field below Yew Tree House sticks out into the road. This was the reason the road is wider at that
point today and explains why that section of the tramlines was not straighter.
See Bank Road & the Steep-Gradient Tramway (1893-1927).

Other pages of interest:
Advertisement in Hall's "Days in Derbyshire" (1863)
Advertisement for Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment, 1869
"There Was Red Tape at Smedley's Hydro Then"
Bank Road & the Steep-Gradient Tramway
About Matlock Bank
See Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment Enumeration Book in the 1891 census
And in the 1901 census
The Vernon Lamb Archive, Hydros and Convalescing includes several photos of the hydro staff that were before the war
Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (5), S-T


1. "Smedley's Hydropathic, Matlock Bank". Reliable Series, W R & S, No.R1969. Unused. © Ann Andrews collection.
2. Smedley's Hydro, from an albumen print "Matlock Bank and Matlock Bridge", No.3903 by G.W.W. © Susan Tomlinson collection. Now though to date from 1893-4.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Peach, Lawrence du Garde (1954) "John Smedley of Matlock and his Hydro", Bemrose Publicity Co.: Derby & London.

[2] "Derbyshire Times", 2 January 1886. Also see Smedley's Hydro, Grand Dining Room which was part of the second phase of works.

[3] Alfred Douglas senior was born in Matlock Bath and christened at Bonsall. He went to work in the office at Smedley's Lea Mills at the age of 14 (this with thanks to Jean Douglas). In 1871 he was the Clerk, living in Lea wife his wife Charlotte and two sons Alfred Henry and John. By 1881 he was widowed, living at Lea Mill with his son John and occupation was given as cashier at the hosiery factory. He also became the Cashier at the hydro. Alfred died at Matlock 27 Nov 1907 aged 69 of Bradford Villa, Chesterfield Road.

[4] Alfred Henry Douglas can be found in the 1881 census (as Duglas) | the 1891 census | Kelly's Directory 1891.

[5] "Derbyshire Courier", 3 May 1890. Extension of Smedley's.

[6] "The Derby Mercury", 1 January 1890. Mr. Barnes also played at a ball at Matlock House over the holiday season.

[7] "Derbyshire Times", 19 March 1892.

[8] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 28 July 1893.

[9] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 31 March 1893.

[10] "Derbyshire Times", 26 August 1893. Funeral of the late Mr. A. H. Douglas.

[11] "The Derby Mercury", 13 June, 1894.

[12] "Derbyshire Courier", 12 June 1894.

[13] See Smedley's Hydro, Public Drawing Room for more about Dr. Hunter.

[14] "Derbyshire Times", 24 April 1897. Easter Bank Holiday balls at the principal hydros.

[15] "Derbyshire Times", 27 December 1899. There was dancing in the Corinthian Hall and on Boxing night a visitors' ball was held.