The Emergence of Modern Matlock

The Merging of the Matlocks

At the time of the 11th C Domesday Survey, Old Matlock was the area’s original main settlement, a small community of farmers and – perhaps – lead miners, located where the ancient Wirksworth-to-Chesterfield route was joined by a way from the west via ‘Mestesforde’ and Pic Tor Lane. Dominated by St Giles’ Church, it still retains a measure of old-world charm. During the 18th & early 19th centuries, the development of the thermal springs at Matlock Wood led to the creation of Matlock Bath, which then became the area’s principal centre. Indeed, although there was a very small settlement at the bridge, the town of Matlock did not exist at that time. Matlock Bridge (including Crown Square & Dale Road) and Matlock Bank came to prominence during the second half of the 19th century when the increasing popularity of hydropathy and the arrival of the railway, together with the ambition and drive of the wealthy industrialist-cum-hydropathist John Smedley, brought about the establishment and rapid growth of his hydro in an area of outstanding scenery.

The success of Smedley’s Hydro immediately spawned the foundation of other hydropathic establishments which led to a growing community of patients, hydro staff, service providers and their families. Very soon, they required houses, shops, churches and schools; and within half a century, Matlock had emerged. Matlock Bank is thus inexorably linked with Matlock Bridge and Crown Square – where the Town Hall, on the town centre’s north-eastern flank, evolved from Bridge House, one of Matlock Bank’s former hydros. The splendid Hall Leys Park links Matlock Bridge with Knowleston Place and Matlock Green – areas which have strong historic connections with Old Matlock; whilst high above both the Green and the Bridge, Matlock Bank spilled over the 210-metre contour during the first half of the 20th century to merge with the old community on Matlock Moor. This, together with infilling over the years, has further blurred the boundaries between The Matlocks and other areas (such as Starkholmes, Snitterton Road, The Dimple, Cavendish Park and Hurst Farm) to create the town of Matlock which we recognise today. Matlock Bath, however, remains a village, parish and tourist centre in its own right, clearly separated from Matlock by High Tor Grounds and the semi-rural Matlock Dale.

Post War Matlock

The town has grown considerably during recent decades, as indicated by the addition of a number of substantial residential developments, including Hurst Farm, Cavendish Park, Asker Lane, Sheriff Fields, Gateway Court, Presentation Avenue/Barley Way, Bentley Brook Road, Cardinshaw Road and Matlock Spa Road (2020s). Not surprisingly, there have also been various changes and additions to the town centre. The arrival of the (then very popular) Woolworth store in 1956 heralded the development of Firs Parade, whilst Bakewell Road’s food store, complete with roof-top car park and associated bus terminal, opened with Fine Fare at its heart c. 1983. Around the corner in Bank Road/Imperial Road, the town’s once popular ‘luxurious’ outdoor lido (which opened in 1938) had become shabby and outdated by the end of the century. In 2011, it was replaced by the Arc leisure centre, and the old lido site now accommodates shops and a car park. Across the bridge, the opening of a new edge-of-town supermarket and town-centre relief road, together with an additional car park and grandiosely named bus interchange (all c. 2007), not only improved Matlock’s facilities, but also helped to relieve traffic congestion in the town centre. Furthermore, it at least partly removed the eyesore of a derelict Cawdor Quarry. The remaining north-western section of the quarry is part of the 2020s Matlock Spa residential development, begun by Alfreton-based Wildgoose Construction. The company, which originated as the Matlock firm of J.W. Wildgoose, built scores of properties in Matlock, including Smedley’s, Rockside and many other hydros. Sadly, it ceased trading in 2021.