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Matlock: Poplar Hydro, later Chatsworth Hydro, 1900-05
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Other hydros run by the Davis family


Poplar Cottage / Chatsworth Hydro


Chesterfield House


Oldham House Hydro & Woodlands School (Miss White's)


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[1].

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[2]. Just over a decade earlier members of Derby County spent a training week at Poplar Cottage with their trainer, a Mr. Dakin[3]. 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.


Whist players



1. "Bowling at Poplar Hydro, Matlock Bank". No publisher. Not posted.
2. "Whist on Lawn, Poplar Hydro, Matlock Bank". No publisher. Not posted.
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ray Ash. Thomas Davis, the founder of Poplar Cottage, was his 4 x great uncle. Researched by and ©Ray Ash and Ann Andrews Intended for personal use only

References (coloured links to onsite information):

[1] Reported in the "Derbyshire Times", 13 September 1902, "Derbyshire Courier", 20 December 1902 and "Derbyshire Times", 10 January 1903.

[2] In 1901 Grimsby Town football team were staying at Poplar Hydro on census night

[3] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 16 January, 1890. The report of the Derby County v Matlock match was more about who wasn't playing than who was! Two County players, Higgins and Holmes, were named but Bromage, usually the goalkeeper, had to umpire the match. The home team managed a 0-0 draw.