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Matlock: Rockside, the Former Hydro and its ups and downs
Matlock : Twentieth Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings

Between 1860 and 1988 Rockside had been successful, first as a top rated hotel and later as part of Matlock Teacher Training College. The only interruption had been during the two Wars when it was used by the Royal Air Force, albeit for only a short time in World War One. However, things changed dramatically in 1988 when the college moved to Derby. Afterwards Rockside went through a very unhappy period.

In 2001 Paul Kettle was able to take a series of photos of the building in its then current state. His pictures, taken from Cavendish Road, show how badly Rockside fared after the College had departed. The building suffered from neglect, trespassing, vandalism and arson and part of the internal structure was ruined. Virtually every window was broken. Internal fixtures and fittings, including period bathrooms, were spirited away.

Rockside, the former Matlock hydro which was a top rated hotel at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Image supplied by and Copyright of Paul Kettle

When their services were been needed, which was alarmingly very often, the local fire brigade faced an extremely dangerous situation. Local residents complained when glass fell out of the broken windows onto Rockside Steps, which was obviously very hazardous. The Matlock Mercury, the local paper, covered the story and there were frequent updates on the state of the building, reflecting a range of views, including those of the police and the people who lived nearby. Rockside was decidedly unloved by almost everyone and there were even calls for the building to be demolished despite part of the frontage being Grade Two listed.

Rockside, back, 2001
The rear of the building

Rockside, the former Matlock hydro in its current sorry state. Is anything ever going to be done?
Image supplied by and Copyright of Paul Kettle
The east end of Rockside. Broken glass in some
windows and others which needed to be boarded up
are clearly visible.
Rockside, the former Matlock hydro is both neglected and vandalised, leading to very rapid deterioration.
Image supplied by and Copyright  of Paul Kettle
The appalling state of affairs at the back of the building,
where the retaining wall collapsed in January 2001.
The interior was then exposed to all weather.

After these photographs were taken the situation worsened considerably, as another section of the rear wall fell away. Deterioration continued, though rescue was promised and should have been under way. Permission was supposedly given to developers to begin their renovations and for Rockside's conversion into luxury apartments in 2001, but at the end of that year nothing had happened. In the last week of November 2002 there was finally an announcement by the District Council of plans to turn Rockside itself into flats and developers could then build additional housing within the grounds. But a year later and the building was in a fairly ruinous state. It was not until the first week of December 2003 that news finally came of new, local, owners of the site and plans for redevelopment beginning with Phase I in January 2004. What a time it had taken to reach this stage.

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Rockside in Matlock Training College Brochure 1946-47

Summer School 1952

Staff & Students 1955

Studying at Rockside, 1954-6

Commemoration Weekends, 1955 & 1956

Staff & Students 1958

A Change of Fortune

Luckily for Matlock as a whole and the building's neighbours there was to be a turn around in Rockside's fortunes at the beginning of 2004. Restoration, and some redevelopment of the grounds, was at long last underway.

In mid February 2004 the developers opened an entrance from Cavendish Road at the back of Rockside and created hard standing for machinery behind the former hydro. The level of this was about 3 or 4 feet below the old level at the back. The images you can view below were taken of that work in progress.

All images where you can click on a link will open in a new window.

Back of Rockside, Feb 2004 - View 1
Back of Rockside, Feb 2004 - View 2
Back of Rockside, Feb 2004 - View 3
At the back, view towards the new houses - View 4
Back of Rockside, Feb 2004 - View 5
Back of Rockside, Feb 2004 - View 6

April 2004, work in progress

Work in progress, April 2004

By August 2004 the main building had been almost completely re-tiled and re-windowed on the top floor. Scaffolding has been put up around the section of roof that had been sagging very badly. There were girders and acrowprops holding the roof up, so things were really moving.

How it looked in Sept 2004
Sept - View 1
Sept - View 2
Sept - View 3, side view of the tower
Sept - View 4, the bottom of the Tower
Sept - View 5

By Dec 2004 further progress can be seen
Dec - View 1
Dec - View 2, from the top of Rutland Street
Dec - View 3
Dec - View 4
Dec - View 5, building next to the tower

In early April 2005 the developers held an Open Day, providing a unique opportunity for both prospective purchasers and townspeople to see around the newly restored listed building. Not all of the work was finished at that time, but these pictures show both the restoration and some of the superb craftsmanship and wonderful design there was when Parker and Unwin extended the building between 1903 and 1906.

Spring, 2005 - View 1
Rear view - the restored back of the building and levelling the ground. The conservatory is just visible in the image below - you can see the arched roof on the top left of the photo.
What a difference from the photos at the top of the page!

Spring 2005
Spring 2005 - View 1

Spring, 2005 - View 2
(Rear - more levelling)
Spring, 2005 - View 3 (Frontage - newly restored and with additions)
Spring, 2005 - View 4 (The imposing twin turreted tower front - newly restored)
Spring, 2005 - View 5 (Entrance and Conservatory)
Spring, 2005 - View 6 (Conservatory, interior. Wrought iron supports the roof)
Spring, 2005 - View 7 (Conservatory, exterior, wonderful arched roof)
Spring, 2005 - View 8 (A double fireplace on all floors)
Spring, 2005 - View 9 (Front - showing newly built unit)
Spring, 2005 - View 10 (The original parquet flooring retained)
Spring, 2005 - View 11 (Room in one of the turrets, with central oak pillar)
Spring, 2005 - View 12 (Stairway - beautifully designed triple window)
Spring, 2005 - View 13 (Stairs up - a mixture of brick, stone and wrought iron)
Spring, 2005 - View 14 (Beautifully crafted wrought ironwork on the landing)
Spring, 2005 - View 15 (Rockside Steps, a steep climb up to Cavendish Road)

There is more about Rockside




From the South



Tennis 1920s


Kitchen Staff & Waitresses 1920-5

Staff Ball

Claremont & Mr Rowland

Photographs of Rockside in dire straits supplied by and Copyright of Paul Kettle and intended for personal use only.
Photographs of the rebuilding work donated to and © for the sole use of this website.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
You may like to view
About Matlock Bank
Rockside Hydro, "Watered-Down Future for a glorious icon of the age of the hydro"