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Matlock Bath: Derwent Gardens - Miniature Railway, early 1950s
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Switchback, Rise & Fall

Adrenalin Rush

Derwent Gardens
Café (1)

Derwent Gardens
Café (2)

The Riverbank,
about 1880

Hall Leys Park, Matlock

Three photographs of the miniature railway that used to run in the Derwent Pleasure Gardens.

The Derwent Gardens were requisitioned during the Second World War, but were they were re-planned post war[1}. An advertisement published in the spring of 1950 announced that "The Derwent Pleasure Gardens are now open"[2]. If you were a patron, access was free. You could just sit on a deck chair or enjoy the attractions. These included a miniature railway that had been built by Billy Roberts and introduced in 1949[3], the leisure gardens, the cafe, a lovely fountain and picturesque walks, an oval miniature speedway, an aviary and various children's amusements which included swing boats[2]. Mr. Swain, who ran the Derwent Gardens with his brother at that time, had turned a large concrete building left behind by the army into an aquarium. The top photograph is dated 1951 and shows the miniature train going at full steam.

Whit Monday 1950

The second picture shows Valerie, Ann and Robert Clay, with their cousin Cynthia Moore, enjoying an eagerly anticipated outing to the Derwent Gardens on Whit Monday 1950. The miniature train had been much discussed beforehand and a ride on it surpassed all expectations. It was magic. And the knitwear was courtesy of the magic fingers of Mrs. Clay! The sign attached to the railway's small water tank tells us that the cost of a ride for adults was 6d and a child's ticket was 3d.

The final photo, below, is one for all railway enthusiasts to enjoy. It is a beautiful picture of the hand-built miniature engine and tender, a Pacific Class 4-6-2. Quite distinctive is the cover of the safety valves (just in front of the cab) which is square, not the usual round shape. The tender is a six-wheeler[4].

Lady Joyce
"Lady Joyce" - built by Stan Battison, Ilkeston[5]

There was another miniature railway on the Hall Leys Park in Matlock[6] and a photograph in Julie Bunting's book on Matlock and Matlock Bath[7] shows a train of very similar design, but without a nameplate, on the Hall Leys in 1961. The twin sister of Lady Joyce was 2701, built in 1948 by Stan Battison and judging by these photographs both Battison locos seem to have been used at the Derwent Gardens track. As far as we can tell, the Matlock Bath locomotive ("Lady Joyce") is believed to have gone to Thoresby Hall, losing its name-plates along the way, but the miniature railway there closed down in 1974 because of subsidence[5]. We have just learned (2016) that the "Lady Joyce" locomotive is now in service at Newby Hall near Ripon. It has been restored, with financial help from Mr. Battison's daughter; her name, Joyce, is on the nameplate once more[8].

After the train ceased to run a horse, owned by a man called Tom, became a popular attraction. The horse plodded up and down the gardens, providing rides for children[9].

Billy Roberts ran the Derwent Gardens in the 1950s and 1960s and after they closed his son Robert, then a young boy, used to walk around the former attraction. He says that Billy knew Stan Battison very well and helped him build some of the locomotives; as a boy Robert visited his Ilkeston home. Billy also built an engine, "The Flying Scotman", which was possibly run at Trentham Gardens. It is said that Walt Disney once visited England and purchased "The Flying Scotsman" to travel between his studios[10]. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Photographs 1 (dated 1951) and 3 in the collection of and provided by and © Glynn Waite.
Photograph 2 taken by Frank Clay in the collection of and provided © Ann Andrews collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "The Matlocks, The Official Guide Book" (about 1950). There was also a joint advertisement for the Hall Leys Park and the Derwent Pleasure Grounds which said there was a miniature railway at both.

[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 8 April 1950, advertisement. The monkeys were housed in an enclosure built by the Swains at the far end of the gardens, but this was vandalised and the monkeys escaped.

[3] From information obtained at the Midland Railway Centre, Swanwick Junction, by Bryan 'Smudger' Smith.
[4] Information from and research by Andy Andrews.

[5] Although not a great deal seems to be known about him, Stanley Arthur Battison was born in Heanor in 1906, the son of Arthur and Rachel Battison. Arthur was a coal miner. Stanley married in 1923 and died in Ilkeston in 1960, aged 54.

[6] A miniature railway still runs on the Hall Leys but the engine is very different.

[7] Bunting, Julie (2002) "Matlock and Matlock Bath", Tempus Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7524-2455-6.

[8] With very grateful thanks to Pam Howard, who has recently visited Newby Hall.

[9] From the late Ken Smith.

[10] From information supplied by Robert Roberts (Nov 2016).