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Smedley's Practical Hydropathy


John Smedley



Lea Mills



Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment



Smedley's, early 1900s



1926, includes bath's list



The Inter-War Years



1950 advert, and Ald White's bombshell



John Smedley wrote:
" In 1853 I purchased a small house to accommodate six or eight patients. I put a little shed over front door and next the verandah, as above".[1]

"I took a few men, upon whom to try the Hydropathic remedies, which proved successful; and many more making application, I made a place for the free board, lodging and baths to a certain number of males and females : and hundreds since have found restoration to health and body, and peace of mind, through the renewal of the Spirit .. we made our house a free hospital, until we found we could not afford room enough. I then bought a small house at Matlock Bank for six patients, board, lodgings and treatments at 3s. per day. Soon again we had to refuse applicants".
From Preface to a former edition of "Practical Hydropathy".[1]

Smedley was vague about the detail but he appears to have bought the house where Ralph Davis was already working as a hydropathist from Thomas Bunting[2]. Davis continued working for him for a time after Smedley bought him out, but he moved on and opening Southview Cottage on Matlock Bank[3]. By 1854 Mr. and Mrs. Stevens were the hydro's managers.


One beneficiary of the free treatment provided at Lea was a man called Peter Gregory.

"CASE OF PARALYSIS. - Peter Gregory, of Riber, a carpenter aged about sixty, stout, was seized in bed, about 4a.m., with insensibility and paralysis ; lost power of limbs and speech. I had him removed to my Free Hospital at once, and put him in pack 47, Bath List,[2] and in one hour he regained the use of his limbs and speech. He had then body bandage put on, a bread poultice over stomach, and flannel wrapper over, and 137,[2] and then put to bed again. He was so far recovered that" he wanted to walk home on the mountain top that evening, but I kept him in the hospital for four days, gave him 48, 50, 51, 59, 13, 10,[2] and he got to work on Monday following. I showed him to Lord Ossington, then Speaker of the House of Commons[5], who paid me a visit, and expressed his admiration of out Institution and treatment. I have had many cases restored to the use of their limbs by our treatment the last twenty years, who would have dragged out a miserable existence but for our original inventions. Contrast the above case with any under doctors' hands, who never fully recover, and seldom get out of their hands without losing all chance of nature's powers of restoration.[1]

Peter Gregory can be found in the 1871 census.
He was buried at St. Giles on 22 Feb 1872, aged 65.


Smedley was to write that "much may be done to preserve health and save life, by strict abstinence from stimulants, attending to clothing, as laid down in this work ("Practical Hydropathy"), and to simple diet. Stimulants, instead of enabling persons better to endure cold and damp, have directly the contrary effect; they lower the power of the body to resist cold ..." He added that "houses built on the plan of our establishment, with outer glazed saloon, gives the inmates space for exercise and good air in any weather."[1]


(This is the case of a wealthy man, supposed by the various doctors he had consulted to have heart disease, of which he might die at any hour. He remains now - three years ago - perfectly well).
"I have great reason to be most grateful I visited your establishment. No day passes without some of your modes of treatment, which I take in my own house. I have not had, though much exposed, what is called a cold since I was at Matlock, which I attribute to the mild water treatment I acquired with you. My wife joins me in kind regards to you and Mrs. Smedley". (Undated)[1]


In 1863 the Derby Mercury reported: "The following is a list we have procured from the steward of Mr. Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment, Matlock Bank, consumed in four weeks last month: - 5,4711lbs of beef, mutton, lamb and veal ; 74 rabbits, 45 fowls, 143lbs of fish, 5,053lbs of bread, 268 rolls, 392lbs of various bread, 7,300 pints of milk, 550 puddings, large quantity of stewed fruit, 3,360 eggs"[6]. Diet was important to Smedley and in Practical Hydropathy" he recommended several milk based puddings and jellies, beefsteaks or cutlets - "the only way to have them is tender" - and stewed fruits. He found ginger, when "put through a sausage machine, softens and mellows it. Very good instead of butter, for some invalids". The stewed fruit consumed in 1863 would undoubtedly have included apples and pears ("very wholesome and valuable article of diet"), figs, dried apricots and peaches and French plums and Smedley provided helpful hints on how to cook them. Perhaps he had a butterfly mind or wanted to note down everything that he thought of in a rather a rush as amidst his food suggestions he, rather curiously, inserted a recipe for pomade for the hair![1]


View from the Matlock Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment

View from the Matlock Hydropathic Establishment.
G. Bailey, Sc : C. Smedley, Del.
Look carefully and you can see a train going over the railway bridge.


From the same book:
e_smedley1_frontispiece.htm
View from Bank

Drawing Room

Extensions

Riber Hall
 

Matlock Bath

The Heights

High Tor

Baths

Riber Castle


You may also like to view
Advertisement in Hall's "Days in Derbyshire" (1863)
Advertisement for Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment, Bemrose's Guide, 1869
"There Was Red Tape at Smedley's Hydro Then"
About Matlock Bank
See Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment Enumeration Book in the 1891 census
And in the 1901 census


The above mid 19th century engravings and quotations have been taken from:
Smedley, John "Smedley's Practical Hydropathy, 15th ed.", James Blackwood & Co., Paternoster Row, London. By the time this edition was published Mr. Smedley had died and the business had been taken over by Smedley's Hydropathic Company (Limited)
Image scan and information Copyright Ann Andrews and is intended for personal use only.
References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Smedley, John "Smedley's Practical Hydropathy, 15th ed.", James Blackwood & Co., Paternoster Row, London.
[2] Thomas Bunting is shown owning two adjacent properties on the Smedley's site in the 1848 Tithe: no.713 (House, Coal-house, Privy, Court and Garden) and No.714 (House, Outbuildings, Court, Yard, and Gardens). Thomas Bunting was a lead miner, living on Matlock Green in the 1851 census. In 1851 George Ludlam was occupying one property and Robert Bunting the other (see census extracts).
[3] There is more about Ralph Davis on Chesterfield House Hydro.
[4] The treatments from the Bath List include a fomenting pack with pads applied to legs (47), a hot mustard leg bath that included rubbing the legs upwards afterwards (137), a liver pack (48), a stomach pack (50), a 6-8 minutes steam bath (51), a hot soaping (13) and a sponge over.
[5] Lord Ossington visited John Smedley in 1868. See: Matlock, Riber & Starkholmes Newspaper Cuttings
[6] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, September 16, 1863.