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Matlock: Smedley's Memorial Hydropathic Hospital
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Smedley's 1890s



Smedleys, early 1900s



The inter-war years



Caroline Anne Smedley founded the hydropathic hospital which was erected on Bank Road in 1882[1] in memory of her husband, the hydropathist and mill owner John Smedley. Mrs. Smedley was an adviser at the Memorial Hospital, and for many years took an active part in diagnosing the cases of the patients free of charge[2]. The hospital site was where Ralph Davis's first hydro, South View, had been[3]. Here are two very similar views of the hospital, with the top image probably dating from around 1915-20 judging from the clothes of the two pedestrians on the far left are wearing. The second photograph was taken quite a few years before as the trees were less mature and there was no clipped hedge behind the wall.

As Robert Wildgoose, J.P., the hospital's chairman, pointed out in 1892, the institution was intended for the sick poor. The hospital was not endowed, nor was it in any way connected with Smedley's Hydropathic Company. It relied on subscribers, though by 1892 several had died so the institution's managers were seeking replacements. Dr. Cecil Sharpe was administering hydropathic treatment at that time, Dr. Hunter was the consulting physician and Mr. Challand, the hydro's manager, was also giving his services. So the hospital may not have been connected with the company, but it was using the hydro's staff and had the support of its directors[4].

"A wing was added in 1897 in memory of the late Dr. William Bell Hunter, chief physician at the Smedley establishment[5]" and there were then 28 beds for patients who paid their board but received free treatment. In 1912 the board was 10s per. week[1]. By 1916 this had risen to 12s 6d and in 1925 the charges had become 21s for men and 17s 6d for women; it was still that rate in 1941 although the number of beds had dropped slightly to 26.


Smedley's Memorial Hydropathic Hospital  on Bank Road


Electric lighting was installed in 1939 thanks to the generous gift from W. Williamson, a resident of the hydro who died that year. At the hospital's annual meeting in July Mrs. Cecil Sharpe, the chairman, stated that there had been fewer patients in the early part of the year. They also suffered from the death of Dr. G. C. R. Harbinson, who had been the hospital's consulting physician for 39 years, and the resignation because of ill health of Dr. Robert MacLelland who had been its visiting physician for 30 years. The Matlock miller Mr. Ernest H Bailey, who had served on the committee, had also died; he bequeathed £100 to the hospital and a bed was endowed in one of the wards as a permanent record of his work. Both Captain Harry Douglas, managing director of Smedley's, and his son Henry were on the management committee as was Mr. G. W. Fordham who was the Douglas family's next door neighbour on Cavendish Road[6].

When Smedley's Hydro was requisitioned on the first day of the war in 1939 its elderly residents had to be evicted. Several moved into the hospital.

The hospital became a Convalescent Home. Around 1948 the Ministry of Health rejected a proposal for Smedley's Hydro to join the National Health scheme but they did take over the Smedley Memorial Hospital[7]. The hospital finally closed its doors and and was taken over by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). The building has now been converted into flats.


The list below, showing the names of the secretary, treasurer and matron, has been compiled from trade directories (coloured links to on line transcripts).

  Year   Secretary & Treasurer   Matron
1887 - Miss Lydia Nix
1891 - Miss Anne Jackson
1895 - Miss Anne Jackson
1899 - Miss Anne Jackson
1908 Chas. H. Harris Miss Anne Jackson
1912 Chas. H. Harris Miss Anne Jackson
1916 Miss H. Hodgkinson Miss Anne Jackson
1925 G. H. Davis Miss Annie Watson
1928 G. H. Davis Miss Annie Watson
1932 G. H. Davis Mrs. Ellen Louisa Needham[8]
1941 G. H. Davis Mrs. Ellen Louisa Needham

See the hospital's entries in 1891 census | 1901 census


1. "Smedley Memorial Hospital, Matlock". No publisher. Not used. Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ray Ash.
2. "Smedley Memorial Hospital". No publisher. Not used. Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
References (coloured links go to on site transcripts):

[1] Kelly's 1912, p.334.
[2] "Derbyshire Times", 5 March 1892. Death of Mrs. Smedley of Riber Castle.
[3] See Matlock & Matlock Bath Public Notices & Announcements, 1855 and 1879. Also Chesterfield House Hydro, Matlock which became Ralph Davis' hydro.
[4] "Derbyshire Times", 23 July 1892. The Smedley Memorial Hydropathic Hospital. Annual meeting.
[5] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited. Hunter was the original owner of Hillside, later West Lea. See, for example, his entry in Kelly's Directory of 1891.
[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 25 July 1939. Patients show a decrease. Smedley Hospital at Matlock. Mrs. Sharpe had been widowed in 1928.
[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 March 1950.
[8] "Derbyshire Times", 26 October 1945. Mrs. Needham passed away on 10 Oct 1945.