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Matlock: The Winter Garden, Smedley's Hydro
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Smedley's, early 1900s

There is another photograph in Smedley's brochure

Smedley's brochure, 1939

Smedley's, the inter-war years

Harry Douglas, the hotel's Manager, gave many Organ Recitals

Smedley's magnificent Winter Garden, with its fernery and ballroom, was opened over the weekend of 17th and 18th November 1900[1]. It had cost about £3000[2].

John Smedley had disapproved of dancing and the hydro had an "ancient rule ... against dancing" which was observed for years after Smedley's death[3]. However, things changed and by the late 1880s Smedley's was hosting its "customary" grand ball on Christmas Eve with Barnes's Quadrille Band playing the music; this included a selection of the latest dance compositions of the day, including the "Yeomen of the Guard" and all recent operas[4]. Before the Winter Gardens opened dances were held in the Corinthian Hall[2].

The building's ballroom floor would hold 100 couples. It was made from polished English oak and was built on spiral springs. Surrounding the oak were marble blocks, with floral designs on them. The building also had a conservatory and what the Victorians called "promenades", which were lit by electricity provided by the Hydropathic Company's own plant. There was also a back up system of gas brackets when it first opened, should they be needed. The fernery ran nearly the whole of the right side of the hall and can be seen through the windows in the lower picture. Seventy tons of tufa, with some pieces weighing as much as 35cwt. [hundredweight], was used and about 200 different varieties of fern were incorporated into the display. The floor was marble mosaic and there was a grotto at the northern end. There was also a fresh water lagoon filled with goldfish on the same side. The heating was hidden in the outer walls, with the hot water system set to maintain a temperature of 65 degrees. Even if the Garden were full [of, say, 350 visitors] the temperature would not rise[1].

The fernery can be seen through the windows on the right.
Another version of this Photochrom card was posted in 1909.

Music was an integral part of Smedley's; in 1908 they had their own orchestra and "Instrumental" concerts were a daily occurrence in the 1920s[5]. The Hydro's then manager, Harry Douglas, was a gifted musician and undoubtedly ensured the tradition continued. The second postcard (above) shows the stage end of the Winter Garden where, in the late 1940s Ron Farrell's band were playing live music on the stage[6]. The first two pictures probably date from the both before and just after the First World War; they have the same light fittings. The bunting in the top image is an eclectic mixture of flags and includes White Ensigns, naval signal flags, various Commonwealth flags and the United States Stars and Stripes. It is not know what the hydro was celebrating.

The image of "The Ballroom" below is also pre-war and was taken at the latest in 1939, but more probaly a few decade before that. Chinese lamp shades are suspended from the ceiling, although whether they signified anything special, or whether they had become permanent fixtures, is not know. The same lamp shades feature in the 1939 brochure.

The palms and ferns in the Winter Garden had become very large by this time.
There are two people sitting at the far end of the room and behind the seats is a large film projector,
used for the cinema entertainments announced in the post war Christmas programmes. Films
were being shown in the 1930s. We can see the source and take-up film spools on the right and the
large light source and single lens is on the left, probably mounted on a metal table or frame. Its date is
not known but similar designs were produced from the latter part of the 19th century.

One journalist was struck by the sheer size of the hydro building in the early 1950s - "its vastness" - and described the main access to the Winter Garden as "along the 100-yard corridor leading from the main entrance", which he considered to be "a suitable introduction to the size of the building, which towers high above Smedley Street"[7].

Unfortunately, a few of years ago a water main burst on Smedley Street and caused considerable damage to the Winter Garden.

View Smedley's Christmas and New Year Menus & Programmes.
They show that balls, tea dances and concerts held in the Winter Garden over the years.

1926 & 1927
1928 & 1929
1930, 1931, 1932, 1934
1946, 1947, 1948 & 1949

1. "The Winter Garden, Smedley's Hydro, Matlock". Kingsway, S14068. No date.
2. "Matlock Smedley's Hydro Winter Gardens", Photochrom, No.38388. Another version of this image, and by the same publisher, was posted in 1909.
Postcards 1 and 2 in the collection of and provided by and © Susan Tomlinson.
3. "The Ballroom, Smedley's Hydro, Matlock". Published by Bridge House, No. S.19124. Printed in England. Real Photo Series. Not used. Date not known, but another card was posted in 1943. © Ann Andrews collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only

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

[1] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 17 November 1900.

[2] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 27 December 1899.

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

[4] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 29 December 1888. John Herbert Barnes lived in Matlock Bath: see his entries in the 1871 census | the 1891 census | the 1901 census. His MI. He and his orchestras were in demand, playing at a number of the hydros.

[5] Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment Matlock, Brochure, about 1925.

[6] There is a photo of Farrell's band in residence in the late 1940s in: Barton, David A. : Collected by (1993) "Around Matlock in Old Photographs", Alan Sutton Publishing, Stroud. ISBN 0-7509-0502-6

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 March 1950. Smedley's Hydro - A Vast Hotel-Hospital Towering Over Matlock.