The Smedley's of the inter-war years was "established as
a recognised and widely known hydropathic institution second to
none in Europe ... Smedley's became, in those twenty years, streamlined
to modern conditions and modern need, without losing that atmosphere
of kinship with a past age of which all who enter it are conscious,
and which gives it character".
The senior staff and people running the hydro
in the 1920s were almost unchanged from those who were there in
However, Henry Challand who was the managing director for many
years died suddenly on
29 June 1925. He was almost
60, and at his funeral the Congregational Church Minister, Rev.
G. H. Russell, noted that he had been in Matlock for
nearly half a century.
Ernest Wilmot was the secretary and George Harbison and Robert
MacLelland were the two physicians. There were now electric passenger
lifts connecting all the floors and in the basement were "hairdressing
salons for ladies and gentlemen, complete with all modern appliances.
Smedley's was "equally
suited to the requirements of the chronic invalid, or the merely
tired business man or woman desirous of a change of air or environment".
Mr. Challand was replaced by his nephew Harry Douglas, the third
member of the Douglas family to hold a senior position at the hydro
(excluding Henry Challand). It was Harry Douglas who would have
been responsible for the publicity supplement "Truth" in
1926 and for the
extremely informative in-house brochure that was published about
The family photograph below shows the front of Smedley's Hydro
and the Winter Garden, which, according to "Truth", had
a well sprung dance floor.
The hydro's public rooms led off from the main lounge-corridor;
they extended for one hundred yards along the front of the building
from the entrance hall to the Winter Garden and fernery.
The picture was taken on a snowy day in the 1920s, almost certainly
by Jim Kempster, the manager's son in law. Someone
has even begun to make a snow man or a giant snowball! The spire
(shown top, left on the photo) belongs to the United Methodist
Free Chapel that John Smedley built in the hydro's grounds. It
was later converted into an engine house.
At the end of March 1931 there was fire in the air filtration
plant over the dining room, put out by the hydro's hydrants and
chemical extinguishers. The water caused damage to carpets, linen
and other furnishings but most of the hydro was unharmed.
Several long serving members of staff died in the 1930s including
the head bathman, Mr. Henstock. Dr. George Casement Reid Harbinson
had been on the medical staff for the previous 40 years and had
been the consulting physician for 35 years at the time of his death
in 1939. A former visitor to the hydro who passed away in 1936
was the Communist M.P. for North Battersea, Mr. Shapwiji D. Saklatvala.
He had stayed at Smedley's for three months before the first war,
working as secretary to Mr. Raylon Tata. He befriended and subsequently
married one of the domestic staff, Miss Sarah E. Marsh.
One of the residents who died at Smedley's just before the outbreak
of the Second World War was a well-known and wealthy Cumberland
ship owner, Mr. Richard Williamson, who had lived at the Hydro
for some 14 years.
By 1939 a member of the fourth generation of the Douglas family
was working at Smedleys. "Mr. Henry", as he was known,
had become the hydro's assistant manager and was working for his
father. Both men were involved in military matters. Henry was in
the Territorial Army and would serve in the regular Army during
the War. Harry Douglas was the Chief A.R.P. Warden, a position
he had held since 1938. He resigned the post in February 1940,
citing a number of reasons relating to poor management at County
Council level. This included a revision of the census which was
supposed to be done by the wardens. As he pointed out, it would
have meant the wardens going round the blacked-out district at
night in the middle of winter as it was the only time they could
do the work. Captain, later Major, Douglas continued to serve as
a Warden alongside the other volunteers.
At the end of 1939 The Derbyshire Times was somewhat scathing
about their inability to comment on the government taking
over Smedley's for the duration of the War and its repercussions
on Matlock. The initial announcement about the hydro being requisitioned
had been made on the day War was declared and when Smedley's had
about 300 guests; it was also the home of many people who had lived
there for over twenty years. Before late November The Derbyshire
Times had been unable to report on the takeover
and were questioning "why no mention had been made of the
serious repercussions, particularly in regard to unemployment,
which the transforming of the hydro has had on the locality. ...
We were not allowed to mention Smedley's by the censor". However,
a national daily paper broke the story and the local paper saw
no reason why they should remain silent.
The residents had to leave and the building had to prepared quickly
for its new occupants. Yet despite
all the evictions and upheaval, the Army did not move in for six
months, although they had made the alterations necessary for the
change from hospital and hotel to an Army school relatively quickly.
The changes included the installation of hundreds of telephones.
There was just one civil servant taking care of a building on which
no rates were seemingly being paid. The hydro was to remain in
Army hands for the duration of the war and was used as a School
of Military Intelligence. It was derequisitioned on 1 Feb 1946.
The second postcard (above) is a slightly different view of the
imposing frontage of Smedley's Hydro, probably published by the
same company as the top image. The angle of the photograph seeming
to make the side of the building that faces Matlock and High
Tor look shorter than it is. Virginia Creeper is beginning to
obscure the lettering on the front, but it was certainly large
enough to have been easily spotted from some distance away. But
most people would have recognized this striking building on the
Bank, anyway, from its sheer size.
1935 advert from Operatic Society programme
Advertising leaflet for Smedleys Hydro, 1938
On the back fold, prospective visitors were advised to:
"Spend the perfect holiday at Smedley's.
Eight-five years ago a tentative experiment with the soft
water from the surrounding moors ... and now the greatest
hydro in Great Britain. Smedley's combines under one roof
every variety of hydropathic and specialised electrical
treatment by a Bath Staff of 60 under the direction of
two Resident Physicians".
Outdoor activities on offer included golf, tennis, swimming
(at the recently opened Lido nearby) or resting in the sunshine
on Smedley's sheltered verandah whilst indoors there were musicians
and dancing -"modern tunes, old favourites, new crazes
- yes, even the Palais Glide!". There were weekly concerts,
but also quiet areas for reading, billiards or bridge.
Read the next stage in the hydro's
history, Matlock: Smedley's - Great Britain's Greatest
View Smedley's Christmas Banquet Menus by clicking on the images
hyperlinks are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this
 Peach, Lawrence du Garde (1954) "John
Smedley of Matlock and his Hydro", Bemrose Publicity
Co.: Derby & London.
 "Kelly's Derbyshire Directory",
 "Derby Daily Telegraph",
29 June 1925 and "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 July
1925. Reports of death and funeral. Henry Challand can be found in the
1891 census | the 1901 census | Kelly's
1891 Directory | Kelly's
1895 Directory | Kelly's
1899 Directory |. Also as M.D. of Smedleys in Kelly's
1908 Directory | Kelly's
1912 Directory | Kelly's
1916 Directory |
 "Truth" Special
Publicity Supplement - No.77. The Quest of Health. 25th Aug., 1926.
Printed for the Proprietors by St. Clement's Press, Ltd., Portugal
Street, Kingsway, W.C.2 and Published by the Advertising Department
of the Truth Publishing Co. Ltd at 10 Cartaret Street, Westminster,
S.W.1. Also see: Smedley's
Hydro & Grounds, Matlock, 1926 - from "Truth" | Smedley's
Hydro Grounds, Matlock, 1926 - from "Truth".
 "Derby Daily Telegraph",
1 April 1931.
 "Sheffield Independent",
18 January 1936. Miss Marsh was the daughter of Henry Marsh of
Tansley and later of Oakerthorpe. She was born at Tansley.
 "Derby Daily
Telegraph", 10 April 1939. Mr. Williamson died intestate
aged 83. He was noted as a generous benefactor of several Matlock
 "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26
February 1940. Captain Douglas explains why he resigned.
 "Derbyshire Times",
1 December 1939. Matlock's dilemma. Preparations For Government
Officials Who Have Not Come. Decision Needed.
 "Derbyshire Times",
21 December 1945.