The exterior of Smedley's looked grander and grander with every
extension and internally the addition of such modern inventions
such as the electric light, installed in 1886, kept apace of nineteenth
and early twentieth century advances. In 1908, a year before this
particular postcard was sent, a garage for fifteen cars was built.
This was a major change and not just because motor cars were beginning
to replace horse drawn carriages as the chosen means of transport.
As Lawrence du Garde Peach was to later observe, the type of "patient" to
visit the hydro in a motor car in 1908 would not have been an invalid.
He or she would have travelled along deeply rutted limestone roads
that also had quite a few potholes in vehicles that were not well
sprung. Not ideal if you were really unwell! In 1908 this was "an
adventure for a healthy man, not the sort of risk to be taken by
The card's sender thought this view of Smedley's was "not
a good one, as it only gives an idea of a quarter of the size of
Smedley's was not without its share of people coveting what wasn't
theirs. Billed as the "Matlock Hydro sensation" in 1912,
jewellery and a purse belonging to a Miss Ethel Quick, who was
a guest (and a relative of Mr. Barney Barato, the late South African
millionaire), were reported missing on 13th March. A Swiss governess,
one Leah Schneider, had also been staying at the hydro but on the
Saturday morning she was arrested at Matlock station, her luggage
was searched and the missing items found.
Whilst it seems to have been a fair cop, Miss Schneider was only
19 years old. This may have helped her case, as when she
appeared in court she was given a nominal sentence of one day and
She had a lucky escape as about three years earlier a notorious
gentleman thief who used several aliases and was said to be the
most expert hotel thief in the country was given seven years penal
servitude for stealing from the hydro's visitors.
James Robertson had stayed at Smedley's and was seen "walking
smartly to the station with a lady's jewel case in his hands".
Miss Schneider and Mr. Robertson were not the only ones to be prosecuted,
but their stories are the most interesting.
The hydro continued to expand up to World War One, with new features
added each year. Despite a smoke room being built in 1888, smoking
was not allowed either in the corridors or in the public rooms
until 1915. This was all in sharp contrast to the days of John
Smedley when Reverend Charles H. Spurgeon was rebuked for smoking
in his room and Smedley wouldn't have tolerated either a smoking
room or smoking anywhere in the hydro.
The two advertisements below, the first from the back cover and
the second from within the text of a local guide, show what was available
at the hydro in the first decade of the twentieth century.