These unusual postcards of the recreational
activities available to the guests of Poplar
Hydro provide a fascinating
glimpse into hydro life before the Great War. The top picture shows
four gentlemen playing bowls on the hydro's side lawn whilst
below are four guests playing whist, something they would have
been only able to do outdoors when the weather was warm! They
are possibly using the same lawn as the bowls players, though
obviously not when a bowls match was underway.
Such postcards would have
been commissioned by the hydro to sell to their guests. These two
are no later than Edwardian; whilst
it is hard to assign an exact date they were probably taken between
1900 and 1905. This means that they were taken either right
at the end of the hydro's ownership by the Davis family or, more
likely (see below), just afterwards. They post-date the death of
the hydro's founder, Thomas Davis. The Hydro
is referred to solely as Poplar Hydro on the cards, so neither
Poplar Cottage nor Jeff's Poplar Hydro.
In 1902 there was a rather messy court case involving the hydro
and the Matlock contractor, Thomas Needham, who had laid the bowling
green and done other work at Poplar Cottage as a sub-contractor.
Jeff's would not pay the bill and counter-claimed for defective
work, a second trial was refused by the court and the matter had
to go to arbitration. Neither party seemed to come out of it well.
Bowls and cards weren't the only activities and hydros such as
Poplar Cottage would arrange dances in the evening, for example.
Nor were all the guests of more mature years. The 1901 census lists
members of Grimsby Town football team amongst the visitors.
Just over a decade earlier members of Derby County spent a training
week at Poplar Cottage with their trainer, a Mr.
Dakin. A newspaper
report of their stay described the footballers as "hors de
combat" with only three members uninjured - some were lame
whilst others were "bruised from the efforts put forth in
the league matches" although they did manage to play a match
against Matlock Football Club. A Sheffield Wednesday player, E.
Brayshaw, was also at Poplar Cottage for treatment.