Matlock During the Railway Age

As noted in the previous section, the coming of the railway in 1849 opened up Matlock to visitors. The growth of hydros demanded other facilities to serve these visitors, as well as the growing number of residents.

Churches and Schools on Matlock Bank

By the turn of the 19th century, there were possibly as many as thirty hydros (some of which were very small) on Matlock Bank, enabling the Matlock and District Improvements Association to promote the area as the ‘Metropolis of Hydropathy’. As well as the hydros, of course, there were private dwellings, churches, schools, pubs and shops, which had been built to accommodate the needs of the growing population of both local residents and visitors. Although two or three former churches on the Bank have been converted to residential use, there are some strong survivors including: (a) Matlock Bank Methodist and United Reformed Church (formerly Matlock Wesleyan Chapel, 1882), Bank Road; (b) St Joseph’s R.C. Church (1883), Bank Road; and (c) All Saints’ Church (1883-4), Smedley Street. With regard to free schools in the area, Ernest Bailey’s has already been mentioned (See link). However, there are also a couple of others, both of which originated in Victorian times as all-age establishments: (a) All Saints’ Infant School (formerly All Saints’ C.E. School*, founded c. 1873/4), Dimple Road, which was used as a mission until All Saints’ Church was built; and (b) Castle View Primary (formerly Matlock Board School, founded 1897, later split and renamed Matlock County Infant & Junior Schools), School Road.                                             

*Junior pupils currently attend All Saints Junior School, Hurds Hollow.

Public Houses and Shops on Matlock Bank

A couple of historic pubs are also worth a mention: (a) The Duke of Wellington, Wellington Street, which originated as an early 19th C farmhouse; and (b) The Gate (now Designate), Smedley Street/Rutland Street, founded in 1869, which was known as The Vicarage to the guests at Smedley’s, where alcohol was not permitted. Behind the pub, Boden’s livery stable was taken over in 1903 by the local (Pope Carr) firm of Hand & Sons, who built the small office block. As far as shops are concerned, Smedley Street once boasted a wide variety of retail outlets serving hydro guests and then the students of Matlock College (1946-1988), as well as residents and (since 1955) County Hall staff. Some survive as bars, food outlets, hairdressers, etc. One former concern is of particular interest. At the junction of Smedley Street with Wellington Street are the former premises of Michael Wright, who founded an ironmongery business here in 1870. As well as being a general dealer, Wright was a tin & coppersmith who originally manufactured douches, baths of all types, and other equipment for the hydros. Known locally as Tinker Wright’s, the business survived until 2005, with the old shop front being preserved within the mixed redevelopment of 2007/8. 

Boarding Houses on Matlock Bank

It is interesting to note that in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, hydro patrons did not always book their accommodation in advance. In 1899, for example, it is recorded that the Smedley’s coachman ‘hated telling people that there were no places’. And Matlock House was so busy at Christmas that people ‘slept in bath cubicles’; whilst in 1900, newcomers to Rockside had to board out as some visitors ‘refused to leave’. The fact that so many visitors were forced to ‘sleep out’ in the 1900s was a boon for guest houses, or for residents with a spare room. There are indeed numerous substantial 19th C properties – potential hydros or boarding houses – on Matlock Bank, whose histories are lost; and these may well be included in the sixty or so addresses (additional to the hydros) which were listed in 1908 as offering accommodation – plus fifty or more at Matlock Bath. So it was that establishments such as the distinctive property once known as Daysmill (1906-1922), now Golding House, Henry Avenue; The Mount (opened c.1900), Steep Turnpike/Lime Tree Road; and Lime Tree Guest House (c.1857- c.1889), Lime Tree Road, served a useful role in providing ‘overspill’ board as well as accommodation for children, their carers and others who did not require the mild water treatment. In 1922, the Daysmill property was sold to the Teachers’ Provident Society for use as a convalescent home, which was named ‘Golding House’ after the Society’s treasurer. The premises subsequently housed government offices, and since c. 1990 have been used by Enable charities. Details concerning The Mount are scarce, but it is now divided into apartments etc; whilst Lime Tree House, which not only advertised its proximity to the hydros, but also offered pony rides to the Fountain Baths (Matlock Bath), was used as a convalescent hospital (1899-1922) and a rest home (latterly The Lindens) before being converted into residential units.

The Growth of Matlock Bridge and Dale Road

Many of the visitors to the hydros arrived by train, a fact which led to the subsequent development of the Dale Road, Matlock Bridge and Crown Square areas – especially during the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s. The roofline on the eastern side of Dale Road boasts an astonishing variety of Victorian architectural features such as corbels, domes, dormers and pediments, with several buildings being of particular interest because of their striking, but contrasting designs. They include a couple of former banks – the HSBC (no.5 Dale Rd; 1914), with its arched windows, roofline balustrade and corner entrance complete with clock; and the splendid red-brick Parr’s Bank (no.19; 1902-1917; later NatWest Bank), with its stone front and cupola; together with several former hotels including the double-fronted Brown’s Temperance (no. 23; 1878-c. 1891), and the impressive Victorian Gothic Olde Englishe (no.77; c. 1881-c. 2010).

Beyond the Olde Englishe are the premises of William Evans & Son, jewellers and watchmakers*, which has operated from number 93 – with its feature bracket clock – since it was built by William’s son, Walter in 1894. Nearby is the former Picture Palace (nos. 131-133), which opened in 1913. On the western side of Dale Road (beyond the Queen’s Head building at the junction with Snitterton Road) is the historic former Market Hall (nos. 8-10; opened 1868), with its pointed arched windows and roofline corbelling. Until 1894, the upper floor assembly room was the venue for meetings of the Matlock Local Board, the forerunner to Matlock Urban District Council. Further down (opposite the junction with Olde Englishe Road) is the Red House, built in the very early 1900s for Dr Albert Orme, the surgeon at Darley Dale’s Whitworth Hospital; and his wife, Dr Marie Goodwin of Rockside Hydro.  

*The company was founded in Wirksworth by William Evans in 1850. His son Walter moved the concern to Matlock in 1893 before building this new shop on Dale Road the following year.

The Emergence of Crown Square as the Town Centre

Across the bridge, the newly named Crown Square stood at the meeting point of four routes, and was overlooked by a number of (then) recent commercial and retail developments. These include the late 19thC Jubilee Buildings and Princes Buildings (1894), which curve from the bridge into Bakewell Road and face the former Crown Hotel (1883). The latter features gables, curved window heads and an elaborate first-floor oriel window on the Bank Road corner. It is interesting to note that 100 metres or so along the right-hand side of Bakewell Road is the former Crown pub*, complete with a filled-in central archway, which was rebuilt in 1998 using stone from the site’s earlier building of 1899 – a building which at the time housed part of William Furniss’s livery business, hence the archway.

Back in the so-called Square (opposite the former Crown Hotel*) are Crown Buildings (1889)*, whose tower is a miniature replica of that on County Hall; and the Tudor-style Park Head (c.1904), with its distinctive turret and lead-covered dome. In the centre of the Square was the terminus of a cable tramway (1893-1927), which conveyed visitors and locals alike up Bank Road (formerly Dob Lane), past the Town Hall to their hydros or homes on the hillside. Accordingly, by the turn of the century, Crown Square had clearly established itself as the centre of a thriving town. Indeed, following pressure by local councillors, the railway company officially changed the name of the station from Matlock Bridge to Matlock in 1905.  

By this time, Matlock Bath was no longer considered the main settlement in the area. Matlock was born. The town centre was greatly enhanced by the creation of Hall Leys Park (ca 1908), whose opening ceremony in 1911 was part of King George V’s coronation celebrations. The tram shelter-cum-clock tower (1899), guarding the entrance to Hall Leys, was donated to the town by Robert Wildgoose JP** and originally located in the centre of Crown Square. During the 1890s and early 1900s quarrying was an important activity, with local building stone (sandstone) being sent from the station yard to destinations across the UK. The horse-drawn wagons bringing this stone to the station were frequently delayed at the bridge, which was widened to accommodate two-way traffic in 1904/5. The early 1900s also saw further development on Causeway Lane, where the Cinema House opened in 1922 (closed 1999); and Bank Road, which was the chosen location of the fine new Post Office (1912), complete with decorative parapet and corner entablature in stone featuring a carving of a judge’s wig.

*Despite having similar names, the former Crown Hotel, the former Crown pub, and Crown Buildings are three completely separate properties.

**Robert Wildgoose JP, a Methodist preacher and prominent local figure, was the manager of Lea Mills for many years and chair of the company which ran Smedley’s Hydro after the founder’s death.