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Matlock: Smedley's - Great Britain's Greatest Hydro, 1950
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Smedleys during WW1

1952, to closure

Smedley's Memorial Hydropathic Hospital

Mr. Smedley's Baths, Boxes & Douches

Charles White junior as a teenager in Scarthin

Smedley's Hydro,
1958 article

This post-war advertisement must have been amongst the last of the hydro's larger adverts before Smedley's ceased to be an hydropathic establishment, bringing to an end over a hundred years of trading in Matlock. The first half of the 1950s was to prove to be turbulent for the business.

In 1950 there was a substantial number of permanent residents at Smedley's, it was still providing treatments for the sick ("Invalids") and it also catered for those wishing to holiday in the area. Lawrence Du Garde Peach believed it was "one of the best and most up to date hydros of its kind" in the early 1950s[1]. It is interesting that over sixty years later hydropathic treatments are still available, though not at Matlock, and health farms have taken some of the ideas first used in hydropathic establishments.

Smaller adverts than the one above continued to appeared in the press. "Smedley's Hydro Matlock in Picturesque Derbyshire. Famous for nearly a Century as a Curative Resort: also provides unrivalled facilities for the holiday maker"[2] was one. A 1951 advertisement urged people to "Avoid the vagaries of the English climate by staying at Smedleys, the unrivalled ALL-SEASON RESORT for young and old, which provides a wide range of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities. FOR THOSE SEEKING REST and RECUPERATION, Smedley's stands pre-eminent, all treatments being given in an extensive wing of the hydro"[3].

Enlargement from the above.

However, in January 1950 Alderman C. F. White dropped what was described as a bombshell, suggesting "complete severance of the County Council from Derby", in what was said at the time to have been the most amazing proposal ever to come before Derbyshire County Council. Mr. White wanted the removal of the administrative offices from Derby to Matlock, with the recommendation that the County Council should purchase Smedley's Hydro. The Derby offices needed a great deal of work and a move to Matlock would save them a substantial sum of money[4].

In the meantime life at Smedley's went on as normal, even if it wasn't so behind the scenes. The West Indies cricket team stayed at Smedleys that summer when they were to play a match against Derbyshire CCC[5]. Nevertheless, White's scheme was rumbling on and in December 1950 a public inquiry was held by the Ministry of Health about the proposed County Council move in the large room at Matlock Town Hall, which could seat more than 300 people. The Smedley Hydropathic Co., the Council's Independent Group and N.A.L.G.O. all opposed the idea with urban, rural and parish councils also adding their own protests[6]. "The state of uncertainty persisted until June 1951 when the then Minister of Health, Dr. Hugh Dalton, refused to confirm the order"[7].

Du Garde Peach was very scathing about the County Council's motives and believed that "if ever there was an ill-conceived scheme this was it". He added: "Happily the scheme has not materialised, but the harm which resulted, in the loss of clients, remains. The wide publicity to this ill-advised suggestion is hard to overtake. ... In some almost undefinable way it [Smedley's] is timeless"[1]. He was not to know that just a few years later things would change.

Notice in the Matlock Mercury, 7 July 1951.

Read the final stage of the hydro's history, Matlock : Smedley's Hydro & Grounds, 1952, & the Hydro's Closure

The hydro went on to celebrate its centenary in 1952.
"There Was Red Tape at Smedley's Hydro Then", written in 1951.

Advertisement reproduced from "The Derbyshire Countryside", The County Magazine, Vol.18 No.3 July - September, 1950 (Summer Number - One Shilling), pub. St. Michael's Church House, Queen Street, Derby, p. viii.
With very grateful thanks to Jane Steer.
Public discussion notice © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Peach, Lawrence du Garde (1954) "John Smedley of Matlock and his Hydro", Bemrose Publicity Co.: Derby & London.

[2] "Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette", 1 April 1950.

[3] "Staffordshire Advertiser", 24 August 1951.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 24 February 1950. The report included the picture used in the 1950s advert above.

[5] "Derbyshire Times", 21 July 1950. The match was rained off, so the cricketers returned to the hydro and went into Matlock. It may have been raining in Derby but it was sunny in Matlock.

[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 4 December 1950.

[7] Obituary for Harry Douglas printed in the "Derbyshire Times", 7 Jan 1955. With thanks to his grand daughter, Jane Leslie.