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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, shown in both photographs, 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].

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 (below) 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]. Both pictures probably date from the 1930s. 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.

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

The fernery can be seen through the windows on the right

1. "The Winter Garden, Smedley's Hydro, Matlock". Kingsway, S14068. No date.
2. "Matlock Smedley's Hydro Winter Gardens", Photochrom, No.38388.
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Susan Tomlinson.
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