Multi- view postcard of Matlock's largest hydro printed in their
centenary year and showing, clockwise from top left, the grounds,
bowls, the front (part) and Winter Garden, tennis courts and (centre)
general view of the hydro and grounds.
In the Second World War Smedley's was requisitioned and used by
the Army, somewhat surprisingly, as a Military School of Intelligence;
this seems a strange and rather wasteful choice for a building
filled with medical equipment and set up to cater for patient
treatments and convalescence. After it was de-requisitioned in
1946 the hydro was able to continue, albeit in a very different
world and after a great deal of repair work. "The reopening
of Smedleys in the post-war world and under the post-war conditions
of 1946 [i.e. rationing and taxes], was a task which
might have daunted John Smedley himself. That it was accomplished,
and successfully accomplished, is a tribute to everyone concerned".
The hydro's managing director, Major Harry Douglas, and his team
must have been delighted that they got it back on its feet. Sadly,
everything they had worked so hard for was to be taken away.
After several years of uncertainty the hydro's
shareholders decided to sell to Derbyshire County Council in April
on 24 May that year a special meeting approved
a scheme to transfer the county's administrative headquarters from
Derby to Smedley's, with the purchase of the hydro set at
an agreed price of £122,800.
There was criticism of the County Council for forcing Smedley's
into a position where the business had lost money for the preceding
four years whilst under the threat of compulsory acquisition.
Alderman C. F. White's persistence must have been soul destroying
for Harry Douglas, who had a lifetime's commitment to Smedley's,
but he would undoubtedly have seen things through if had been able
to do so. "He
was too ill to attend the last public enquiry in September 1954
and he died without knowing the result, but the strain he suffered
during the last eight years unquestionably affected his health".
See previous page about
what led up to the shareholders' decision.
"Mr. Henry", who oversaw Smedley's closure.
In August 1955 both Alderman White, Chairman
of Derbyshire County Council, and Mr. E. L. Wilmot, Secretary
of the hydro, were reported as saying that there were no new
developments in the plan for the take-over. The hydro was to
close on 17 September (see closure letter below) and the building
was to be adapted and altered for Council use once they owned
Nearly 140 permanent residents, mostly elderly people who
had lived there since the hydro re-opened after the war,
had to find new homes in six weeks. The staff of 100 had
to find new jobs.
This difficult task was overseen by Henry Douglas, who had
worked for his father and had become the hydro's Manager
as well as acting for his father as M.D. when Harry was unable
to be there.
He was the fourth generation of the Douglas family to work
at Smedley's; Henry Challand, whom Major Douglas had taken
over from, was also a relative as he was the brother of Henry's
Henry and his brother George both went to Birmingham University
where Henry studied Economics and George studied science.
The brothers graduated in 1934 and Henry then went to hotels
in Paris and Hyeres to learn the trade, returning to Smedley's
as his father's assistant - and known as "Mr. Henry" -
until he went into the army in 1939.
It was Henry Douglas, pictured left, who came to the rescue
of several of the elderly residents who were left stranded
with nowhere to go. His solution to the problem was to buy
a 40 bedroom hotel in Buxton and some the hydro's occupants
moved there with him. The residents must have held him in
high esteem as some helped by buying shares in the Buxton
hotel, as did various member of the family.
On the penultimate day taxis came and went and the entrance hall was
stacked with the luggage of the permanent guests. About fouteen people
enjoyed the final lunch, amongst whom was Miss Edith Grant Hunter
who had travelled from Edinburgh to Matlock
to revisit her childhood home. She was the daughter Dr. William Bell
Hunter, the Scottish physician who was appointed as the
hydro's first medical officer by John Smedley. It seems rather appropriate
that a fourth generation Douglas and the first physician's daughter
were there at the end.
Once the hydro closed Smedley's held a large sale of all the furnishings
and fittings, which lasted for eight days, during which time nearly
50,000 articles were sold.
When Smedley's changed hands in early December 1955 it was the end
of an era. The only hydro left in Matlock was Lilybank, which was not
by then offering hydropathic treatments, and that was not to last
Letter confirming the Hydro's closure circulated by Henry Douglas.
links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web
 Peach, Lawrence du Garde (1954) "John
Smedley of Matlock and his Hydro", Bemrose Publicity Co.:
Derby & London.
 Obituary for Harry Douglas printed
in the "Derbyshire Times", 7 Jan 1955. With
thanks to his grand daughter, Jane Leslie. Major Douglas
was diagnosed with was was to prove to be a terminal illness
in the autumn of 1954, so missed some of the formal proceedings
of the second public enquiry. His final illness had nothing
to do with the closure of Smedleys, as has sometimes been alleged
(this with thanks to Jean Douglas).
 "Yorkshire Post and Leeds
Intelligencer", 25 May 1954.
 "Yorkshire Post and Leeds
Intelligencer", 25 September 1954.
 "Belper News", 5
 Information supplied by Jean Douglas,
with grateful thanks. Henry Douglas who had been in the territorial
army before the war, reached the rank of Major before he was
 Henry Douglas's grandmother died
in 1928. See the newspaper
report of her funeral.
 "Yorkshire Post and Leeds
17 September 1955. There is more about Dr. Hunter on Smedley's
Hydro, Public Drawing Room.
 "Belper News", 18