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Matlock Bath: The Clarence Hydropathic Establishment, Holme Road
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Stereoview of Holme Road, 1870s

Matlock Bath & the Heights of Abraham, 1890s

Clarence Terrace, where Eliza Aspey had earlier had apartments

Living at the Heights of Abraham, 1954-64, by Peter Aspey

In April 1871 Clarence House Hydropathic Hotel, a "newly erected and commodious building" opened as a Private and Family Boarding Establishment run by Joseph Roberts[1]. It catered for private boarders, families and was a Hydropathic Sanatorium for invalids. Three years later Clarence House was again "open to receive visitors, where every comfort may be found"[2]. Mr. T. Allen was then at the helm and, after May 25th, was prepared to give bath treatment to those who required it[2]. His advertisement announced that there was a Croquet Lawn attached to the property (see bottom image). Mr. Allen didn't last long, though, and the next name we find associated with the establishment was Mr. William Cartledge. He applied for a licence to sell beer, either off or on the premises, at the Wirksworth Brewster Sessions held on 31 August 1875. The licence, which was granted to him, could only be used for his lodgers[3].

During the first half of 1880 the Clarence was repeatedly advertised as to let by the owner, Mr. A[dolphus] Wheatcroft of Derby[4]. However, in August of that year his sister Mrs. Rosa MacDonald instructed the Matlock auctioneers John Else to sell her household furniture and effects as she was "moving to a distance"[5].

Dr. Samuel Armstrong was in charge by 1882. His establishment was "suitable for all classes of visitors and patients" and his baths were "replete with every comfort and convenience, at the most moderate charges"[6]. The Clarence then had "ornamental gardens, tennis ground ... the usual reception rooms, bed and dressing rooms, 3 water closets, good cellaring, outbuildings, and ladies' and gentlemen's bathrooms, supplied with hot and cold water"[7]. A sale at the Station Hotel in the autumn of 1884 included Clarence House and properties on Brunswood Road and Holme Road amongst the Lots. Dr. Armstrong was selling up[7].

Then came the Rev. Richard Nicholson, who also owned an establishment at Bridge House in Matlock until he ran into financial difficulties and was forced to sell all his properties[8].

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 8 June 1894
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION. Mr. JOSEPH HODGKINSON, In the Matlock Bath Assembly Room, on WEDNESDAY, the 27th June, 1894, at Six o'clock in the evening ..

LOT 1.
The HYDROPATHIC ESTABLISHMENT, known as the Clarence Hydro, situate in Holme and Brunswood Roads, Matlock Bath, containing a large wood and glass saloon or dining room with conservatory adjoining, 2 reception rooms, 24 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchens &c., with out offices, viz., 2 bathrooms, boiler house, laundry, wash house, coal house, and boot house, kitchen and pleasure gardens, well laid out with fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs, and lawn tennis and croquet grounds, in the occupation of Mr. R. Nicholson.

Richard Nicholson's other properties were: Bridge House in Matlock; Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Clarence Villas; Nos. 4 and 5 Clarence Villas; a building plot in Brunswood Road. The only property that did not sell at the auction was the Clarence[9].

Rev. Nicholson was followed by Frederick William Brooker, formerly of Hodgkinson's Hotel, but tragedy struck when Annie Brooker (nee Hodgkinson) died at the Clarence in 1900, followed by her husband a couple of months later[10]. In 1903 it was announced that Mrs. Dewhurst, who had run the establishment for a short time, was leaving and W. Chamberlain was instructed to sell the contents of the house[11].

Shortly before this, in 1902, a surveyor's report had been presented to Matlock Bath District Council which said there had been negotiations with the trustees of Clarence Hydro about acquiring a piece of land at the back entrance with a view to setting back the wall and widening Hope Terrace Road[12]. Hope Terrace itself was built behind what had been the bath-houses, etc., of the Clarence. These outbuildings are now garages.

Address side of the postcard

This early twentieth century postcard, of The Clarence dates from when Edward Theodore Aspey and his widowed mother Eliza were running the Clarence as a hydropathic establishment. The card has pictures on both sides and there is almost no space for a message, so presumably it was sent more as an advertisement than as a greeting. It shows us that there was a large conservatory on the side of the house. A wide flight of steps leads up to the front door from the Holme Road entrance; there was and still isn't a pavement on that side of the road.

The Aspeys had succeeded Mrs. Dewhurst and Theodore's two sons were born at the Clarence, but by 1911 the family had moved to Borrowash and did not return to Matlock Bath for some years[13]. The Clarence was then owned by Frederick Dalton, and later rented to two Miss Osbornes who changed the name to Osborne House. They left it after breakfast one morning, reappearing about twenty years later and giving the explanation that they departed because they had just had enough[14].

The building fell into dereliction in the 1940s but in 1949 Clarence House was auctioned by Marchant Brooks. It was described as a valuable freehold investment property and had been converted into eight flats[15]. The building seemed neglected, nevertheless, and the gardens were not cared for. A section of the gardens next to the croquet lawn (see picture below) were turned into allotments, though these have now been built on[14]. In 2006 the property was bought and restored.

The back of the card, showing the view from the croquet lawn.
The rooftops of the houses of Rockvale Villas can be seen through the trees.
The screen of trees on the left formed the boundary with the allotments.

Images in the collection of, provided by and © Ken Smith.
Researched and written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Derbyshire Times, 1 April1871 (and other dates during the year). Masson Side.

[2] Derby Mercury, 27 May, 1874.

[3] Derby Mercury, 8 September, 1875. Wirksworth Brewster Sessions. William Cartledge had previously been the proprietor of Lime Tree View, Matlock. See advertisements in Croston's Guide and Matlock: Mr. Cartledge's Lime Tree View Hydro, 1863. He remained at Clarence House until 1876, but in the July the auctioneers Else and Newbold offered the entire contents for sale.

[4] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 29 May 1880 and other dates. Clarence House to let. Adolphus was a son of Edward Wheatcroft.

[5] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 18 August 1880. Also 14 Aug. Rosa MacDonald was one of the daughters of Edward Wheatcroft.

[6] Derby Mercury, 26 July, 1882.

[7] Derby Mercury, 1 October, 1884.

[8] Rev. Nicholson was running the Clarence in 1891 (see Kelly's 1891 Directory) but unfortunately had financial problems (see London Gazette entries for 1894/5).

[9] Derby Daily Telegraph, 29 June 1894. "On Wednesday night J. Hodgkinson offered for sale number of valuable properties situate in the Matlock district. Lot 1 comprised the Clarence Hydro establishment Matlock Bath but was withdrawn at £1500.

[10] Some members of the Brooker family were buried at Holy Trinity. See MI-22 | MI-30. At the time of the 1901 census the Brooker children were living with their aunt as it was only a few days since the death of their father.

[11] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 2 September 1903.

[12] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 14 June 1902.

[13] Eliza Aspey advertised apartments at the Clarence in Kelly's 1908 Directory. The 1911 census information can be found on FindMyPast. Edward Theodore Aspey returned to Matlock Bath and took over running the Heights of Abraham in 1929. He played a major role in the life of the village. See: Living at the Heights of Abraham, 1954-64 | Upper Tower, Heights of Abraham.

[14] Recollections of the late Mr. Frank Clay, from private papers and notes owned by Mrs. Doreen Buxton, some of which were written in 1992 and are still within copyright.

[15] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 February 1949.