Oldham House and Prospect Place on Wellington Street in Matlock was,
for many years, run as a hydropathic establishment by members
of the Davis family. At the outbreak of the Second World War
it was taken over by the Royal Air Force. After the War it was
bought by the two White sisters, Winifred (Mrs. Dimmock) and
Annie Gladys (Mrs. Hyde), who ran a private school in the building.
Below is a brief account of the Davis family, followed by the
story of the school.
Oldham House and Prospect Place Hydro
The story of these buildings begins with Thomas Davis. Thomas
had worked a framework knitter before hydropathy became such a
runaway success in Matlock and his daughter Rachel, who was important
in the history of Oldham House, was employed as a cotton winder
when she was young.
By 1861 Thomas was one of several of the Davis brothers practicing
hydropathy in Matlock.
Thomas, Horatio, Ralph, Phineas and George were
all sons of William Davis and Hannah (née Botham).
Not all the Davis boys became hydropathists, but several were
key to the success of the industry and they ran establishments
that were amongst the largest in the town. When Thomas Davis
died one of the obituary notices stated that "the deceased
was a well-known hydropathist, and was connected with Mr. John Smedley
in the founding of the treatment at Matlock Bank three decades ago".
Thomas Davis had opened Prospect Place in 1859 and Oldham House
opened in 1890 with
Rachel, by then Mrs. Wildgoose, at the helm; it catered for just
ten visitors at that time. It is quite probable that the hydro
was named after the abode of Edmund Josiah Wildgoose, a son of
Rachel and her husband John, who was working in Oldham as a printer
from before 1881 and died there in 1909.
It is also possible that it was no co-incidence people from Oldham
were amongst the hydro's guests.
During the winter of 1893-4 a large drawing room, which faced
south and was said to command views of the finest scenery in Matlock,
was added along with ten bedrooms.
Mrs. Wildgoose advertised Oldham House hydropathic establishment
in Kelly's 1895 Directory as having comfortable apartments and
She and John, a stone merchant,
were still there is 1901,
having bought the adjoining Prospect Place in 1899.
Additions and alterations, overseen by their son Davis Mark Wildgoose
who was an architect, converted the two buildings into one institution
and included the latest improvements in the treatments provided
by the establishment.
Rachel died in 1909, aged 72.
Lubin George Wildgoose, another
son of Rachel and her husband John, succeeded his mother although
he had begun his working life as a Joiner's Apprentice. By
1925 Oldham & Prospect
Hydro Company Limited offered "tennis, bowls &c; evening
entertainments & dancing ; electric light throughout".
The postcard above shows the building when it was possibly in its
heyday as a hydro. Oldham House ceased to be a hydropathic establishment
very abruptly one weekend when the Second World War began. After the
War its role changed yet again and it went from accommodating paying
guests to serving the needs of children, whose parents paid for their
See samples of their notepaper
Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (4), N - R
Vernon Lamb Archive, Hydros and Convalescing, Index has 15 photos
of the hydro's staff and guests
The following information has been supplied by Colin Goodwyn, to whom
I am very grateful.
Woodlands School opened in 1925 or 1926 with three pupils. Miss Winifred
White, the Headmistress, told Colin that she had taught for a short
period in a state school and gave him the impression that she had
worked in private schools in the South of England prior to returning
to Matlock in 1923 to look after a relative - probably her father,
Charles White M.P.
The post-First World War hydropathic trade provided a continued demand
for local private education for the children of long-term visitors'
and, following the death of her father in December 1923, Miss White
decided that there was sufficient potential for another small school
in Matlock. The family home on Bakewell Road, known as "The Woodlands",
provided sufficient space for a few pupils and Miss White's original
intention was not to exceed a maximum of twelve. However, over the
next few years the numbers increased steadily to forty girls and boys
aged from five years upwards supervised by up to four teachers.
The Second World War had little effect upon "The Woodlands"
other than causing the cellar to be strengthened with railway sleepers
for use as an air raid shelter. During the conflict the Government
gave considerable thought to the future educational picture.
The new all-embracing approach to nationalised education in
fact increased demand from parents for private schools to assist
their children in passing the selection test (Eleven-Plus) and
also for those who failed the test but required something approaching
a Grammar school-like education. The day of the dame school,
too, was now past due to the requirements for improved standards
and equipment and, for Woodlands, this meant larger premises
The need for change coincided with the death of Miss White's brother-in-law,
Alderman William Hyde, in Oxford in 1945, and with the return to Matlock
of his widow, Mrs A G R Hyde. The two sisters appear to have then
pooled their resources and, when the RAF gave up its occupation of
Oldham House & Prospect Place Hydro, which had been used for hospital
and recuperative accommodation, purchased it. Woodlands School (still
known as Miss White's although she was married in 1938) moved up to
Wellington Street in January 1946. Within this new building there
was space to accommodate boarders.
Soon, the school choir was established and, from 1947, swimming
lessons commenced at Matlock Lido.
Woodlands School Choir became quite renowned and subsequently
made many recordings and broadcast on radio.
Although the post-1947 establishment was usually described as a girls'
school and a preparatory school for boys, Miss White claimed that
its principal concern was coaching for the Common Entrance exams,
but considerable attention was paid to Eleven-Plus cramming, and pupils
who were over CE age were accepted to take GCEs.
Administratively, the classes were divided into groups of Junior,
Middle and Senior Schools and the pupils were said to be separated
by ability rather than age. No class ever exceeded twenty five
despite the school once reaching a high point of 260 pupils. For
competitive purposes the pupils were allocated to Houses named
Hyde (probably after Miss White's sister Mrs Hyde or her late
husband), Charlesworth (Miss White's mother's maiden name), Nightingale
(after the local heroine)
and Bright (reason unknown, though Bright is a local surname);
their colours being green, blue, purple and yellow respectively.
The uniform was blue (with yellow blouses for girls) but changed to
the fairly commonplace grey and yellow sometime after 1947. The school
badge comprised a yellow tree between the letters W and S on a grey
shield. The school had its own troops of Girl Guides, Boy Scouts,
Brownies and Cubs.
Mrs Hyde (Annie Gladys R) and Mrs White (Winifred Alice) were
the eldest and next youngest respectively of five sisters and a
brother who were all born at Bonsall, Derbyshire, between 1884
and 1899 to Charles Frederick White, a boot and shoe maker from
Tetbury, Gloucester, and his wife Alice.
In 1918 Charles successfully stood as the local Liberal parliamentary
candidate. His son, also named Charles (and Miss White's brother),
became the Independent Labour MP for West Derbyshire in 1944 and,
two years later, Chairman of Derbyshire County Council. Although
she retained her single title Miss White was the wife of Bert
(Herbert John) Dimmock who had been born in Oxfordshire and died
in October 1964, not long after which she suffered a partial stroke.
It was doubtless the combination of her poor health, the age of the
senior staff and the pressing need for improved standards in equipment
and curriculum which ultimately forced Miss White to close her school.
An undated letter announcing the closure was sent to all pupils' parents
who received it on 23 January 1965 - the day after the subject was
published in the local paper. The last day of the last term occurred
on 14 July 1965. Miss White died on 16 July 1974, aged 80.
Blazer badge, provided by former pupil Rosemary Lockie