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Matlock Bath: Photograph of the Prom Café, North Parade
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The Royal Hotel, for a time a Canadian Convalescent Hospital

The photograph of the Prom Café was taken during the Second World War. Both the café and the shop on its left are Rockvale House.

The two storey building on the right of the Café is the Canadian Stores, which was run by George Washington Stoddart. Stoddart had been a Major in the Canadian Army and arrived in Matlock Bath during the First World War when he received medical treatment at the Canadian Memorial Hospital[1] that had been set up at the Royal Hotel[2]. He was to return to Matlock Bath in 1933 and married Bernice[3], one of the daughters of Joseph and Elizabeth Hardstaff, who ran the café next to the Albion Restaurant further down the Parade and who had lost a son during the 1914-18 war[4]. The Stoddarts went to Canada in 1934[5] but returned to Matlock Bath about four years later. They ran both the store, which sold ice-cream and groceries, and the Prom Café[6].

In July 1943 the American film star Clarke Gable, who was serving in the American Army Air Force, visited Matlock Bath[7]. He was visiting army barracks in Chesterfield and arrived in Matlock Bath by jeep. He went into the café and asked if he could sit somewhere quiet, away from prying eyes. It was mid morning, so he just had coffee and biscuits in the back kitchen. Whilst Bernice's sister recognised him and asked for an autograph, her niece was probably too young to realise how famous he was but she asked for an autograph anyway. He signed the autograph for her on the reverse of a photo of her dog, Spot. She still has the photo[8].

At first floor level, running the length of the building, is a wrought iron balcony. At some stage, presumably post war, the section over the shop adjacent to the café - Mr. Gale's Gift Shop in the 1950s and 60s - was removed and the window replaced probably because of rot[9]. Above the arched windows on the third floor are stone corbels. The premises has small back yard that used to accommodate a toilet and an old bake oven right up against the rock face, but the oven eventually had to be removed.

It is not known if the soldier was heading for the George Hotel but the railway trolley on the pavement is loaded with fish boxes[10].

Bernice Stoddart was involved with musical theatre and drama groups in the Matlocks for many years
(more will be added, probably in 2021)





Photograph in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Image re-scanned for this website in 2020, to replace the 2010 version.
Information researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] The role of the hospital is examined in great detail in Charles Beresford's "The Bath at War, A Derbyshire Community and the Great War" (2007). Country Books/Ashridge Press. ISBN 978 1 901214 91 8

[2] There is more about the Royal Hotel. See the Royal Hotel | Royal Hotel & Baths (1) | Royal Hotel & Baths (2)

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 June 1933. Report of their marriage earlier that day.

[4] Joseph and Elizabeth Hardstaff's MI is on this web site. They are also in the 1901 census. Information about Dick Hardstaff can be found on Names on Matlock Bath's War Memorial. Mr. Leggoe was involved with the Promenade Cafe in the nineteenth century - see Kelly's Directory 1891

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 May 1934.

[6] "Kelly's 1941 Directory": G W Stoddart Prom Café.

[7] "Derbyshire Times", 30 July 1943. Clark Gable at Matlock Bath. Although the paper say he signed a number of autographs, it is believed that he only signed two - one for the daughter of his hosts at the café [see [8] below).

[8] Anecdote from Gina Clarke.

[9] See North Parade, Matlock Bath, about 1960. The gift shop was Rockvale House and behind it, up until at least the 1960s, was an old disused bakery.

[10] From conversations with Ken Smith, who was given this photograph by Peter Moore of Moore's Café.