Bath: The Old Pavilion - the Palais Royal
|Matlock Bath : Twentieth Century Photographs,
Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
"The Pavilion, opened in July, 1884, consists of
a central concert hall and assembly rooms, two promenade annexes,
a refreshment saloon, and a reading room. It has been so arranged,
by the entire front to the height of twelve feet being made
of clear plate glass, that those beneath its roof may enjoy
uninterrupted views of the surrounding scenery".
Matlock Bath Pavilion and Gardens Company was formed in
1882 for the purpose of improving and developing the natural
advantages of the village as a health and pleasure resort.
It had a fixed £12,000 capital in £1 shares and
with Mr. Peters of Guilderoy as its Chairman.
The company had bought part of the estate of the late Walter
M. S. Evans of the Temple Hotel, purchased from his kinsman
buying the Romantic Rocks and 13 acres of land. Although
the Romantic Rocks were leased to Mr. William Smedley at
the time, his lease was due to expire the following year.
Additional land came from Mr. John Boden, who was willing
to give up a strip of land called the Beet, and Mr. Anthony
Boden who sold the company his cottages at Stonnis.
Agreement had been reached with Messrs. Ogden and Smedley,
too, for the purchase of the Owlet Mine, together with the
mineral rights; it contained a spring to provide a constant
water for pools, fountains etc..
In July 1882 a ceremony to "Turn the First Sod" was
held on the land with The Matlock Volunteer Band, who were
there by kind permission of Captain Arkwright, entertaining
The ceremony was performed by Mrs. Peters who was presented
with an engraved silver spade which had an ebony handle and
was believed to have cost £28. The
Derby arms were on one side and the Peters' family crest
was on the reverse. The spade's blade was inscribed with
the words: "Presented
to Mrs. Peters of Guilderoy, by the directors of the Matlock
Bath Pavilion and Gardens Company (Limited) on the occasion
of turning the first sod, July 14th 1882". After
the ceremony lunch was provided in a marquee.
The foundation stone was laid in May the following year
on a day when the weather was described as "inclement",
with snow on the surrounding hills and a "nippy" wind.
Nevertheless a large number of people attended the ceremony.
Visitors arrived at noon by a special train from Derby;
the passengers included the Mayor of Derby and numerous Aldermen.
The Mayor, Sir Abraham Woodiwiss, J.P., laid the
foundation stone using an engraved
silver trowel that he was presented with; it was especially
made for the ceremony. A receptacle
containing newspapers and coins was placed underneath the
stone. At the conclusion of the ceremony it unfortunately
began to rain and people rapidly dispersed. There was afternoon
and evening entertainment at the Royal Hotel; a champagne
luncheon, with an evening dance and firework display meant
the bad weather was soon forgotten.
The architect was John Nuttall of Matlock Bridge and Mr.
Edward Speed, brother of the landscape gardener Mr. Speed
laid out the grounds which had been planned by Mr. F. Smith
This ambitious project spread across sixteen acres of the
The two broad drives, one from Clifton Road just below where
the web mistress lived as a child and the other from Temple
Road, were constructed by Mr. W. B. Askew of Matlock and
cost £1060. The contractors chosen to build the Pavilion
were Messrs. Chadwick and Co. of Rotherham. The central hall
was to be 80ft by 65ft and it was proposed to hold promenade
concerts and other entertainments in the building. It was
to be 228ft long and have reading rooms and other conveniences.
The design incorporated "a handsome dome" and
there was to be a broad promenade in front, from which four
flights of steps descended to the gardens.
This photograph, from Ward Lock's Guide, was taken on the
hillside above the Pavilion, so
shows the top and rear of the building. The views were
of the Heights of Abraham, High Tor and
the Lovers' Walks.
Matlock Bath's new pavilion was opened by Lord Edward Cavendish
on 2 July 1884; he arrived on the 2.15 p.m. train from Derby
with his wife. They were greeted at the station by Mr. Peters
and others, before joining a procession of carriages which
took them up to the Pavilion. The Company's Chairman, Mr.
Peters, said that tens of thousands of soil and rock had
been removed to complete the project, and in 1883 the terraces
had been raised. Its concert hall was said to
accommodate 1,000 people. Somewhere in the grounds was a
tennis court and behind the pavilion building were large
rocks to hold back the hillside. Another lunch at the Royal
Hotel followed the grand opening and in his speech Lord Edward
Cavendish expressed the hope that the undertaking would be
as successful as the Buxton Garden Company was. Captain F.
C. Arkwright hoped that the opening of the pavilion and its
gardens would bring a new era of prosperity to the town.
In 1887 G. J. Rowland was the Company secretary.
The company was wound up in 1889 and most shareholders lost
their investment. The Pavilion then became privately owned.
It was bought by a Mr. A. E. Williams of Birkenhead and the
following year he sold it on to a Mr. S. R. Emerson of Hull.
Frederick Downes was the manager in the 1890s.
Local shows, such as those of the Floral and Horticultural
Society, became annual events at the Pavilion and
dances took place in the building. Madame Patey performed
here in 1885
and Otto Bernhardt's Band was engaged for the season.
of the Guard" was
performed for two days in 1899 and the following day the
Company staged "The
1891 the "celebrated" Pavilion
band were scheduled to give daily concerts.
Terence Ramsdale's Pantomime Company's production of the "Babes
in the Wood"
pantomime was staged in 1893
(Ramsdale was the son in law of William Bryan), though they
were fined for performing during Lent in 1896, contrary to
the terms of the licence. A single performance of "Trilby" was
also given in 1896, followed
later in the year.
In 1903 La Comedie Anglaise Company performed the two act farce
These are just a small sample of a long list
of performers who came and performances that took place here
in the late nineteenth century.
In 1903 various entry tickets were available, ranging from
a single ticket of 6d (sixpence) or 2/- (2 shillings or two "bob")
to a season ticket for a family of 15/-. Visitors to Gulliver's
Kingdom, the theme park that today occupies the site, have
to pay rather more and today's visitors enjoy something very
different from the Victorians ideas of entertainment. There
is now only one entrance as the Clifton Road entrance has
been sealed off.
The view looking down on the Palais Royal and its grounds,
the Royal Hotel and Matlock Bath's
Parish Church. The striking limestone escarpment is Cat
The Pavilion and its gardens had a relatively short commercial
life. The passing of the Matlock Bath Improvement Act in
1905 was almost
the death knell of the Old Pavilion. Shortly beforehand
the Royal Hotel Hydro syndicate acquired it,
and at Easter it was closed, so for the first time in twenty
years there was no dancing at the Pavilion.
The hotel had not bought
a profitable business as there were signs beforehand that
the Pavilion was not meeting its bills.
According to Mr. Buttgen, the hotel's manager, it had been
purchased for the sole purpose of keeping day trippers away
from the hotel - and in 1909 the local politician Charles
White claimed at a meeting of the Local Board that hundreds
and thousands of excursionists had been deprived of somewhere
to go. There had been a decrease in the number of large parties
of excursionists. Yet it was White who had pushed so hard
for a second Pavilion (the Grand Pavilion) and must have
seen the writing on the wall for the Palais Royal. Andreas
Buttgen stated there wasn't the remotest chance of the Royal
Hotel re-opening the Old Pavilion and it would not compete
against the new one.
Two hundred soldiers from the Army Services Corps were billeted
in the Old Pavilion in 1915.
Post war the grounds and building were used occasionally.
For example, in 1923 a garden fete to promote the
League of Nations was held in the Palais Royal's grounds.
The venue had to change from Willersley because of the sudden
death of Frederic Arkwright and the event was not as well
supported as expected.
In 1924 some of Matlock Bath's second Musical Festival was
held in the Palais Royal.
The stone, glass and iron building gradually fell into
disrepair. The American soldiers' drawings were still there
after the war and the wooden floor proved to be perfect for
local children to roller skate on. By the 1950s some of the
plate glass was broken and several floorboards were missing,
although the building remained dry inside so the roof was
clearly still in good repair. In the grounds, slightly higher
up the hill, quarrying was taking place and large lorries
carrying stone rumbled and clattered their way down the driveways.
You could hear them coming from some distance away!
The trees and shrubs planted by Mr. Speed were by then fully
mature and even today help to screen the theme park that
is there today from the village - more successfully in the
summer than in the winter months.
The Old Pavilion (Palais Royal) can be seen on several postcards
Below is a selection of what is elsewhere on the web site.
1. "The Pavilion, Matlock Bath. Enlargement from a booklet
in the collection of and provided by and © and Jo
2. Detail from an untitled photograph [Old Pavilion and Gardens,
Royal Hotel and Switchback]. One of a series of Valentines snapshots
- photographs of Matlock Bath - originally in a card folder.
The number 40600 is scratched on the image, but is backwards.
Valentine's cards with this number were published in 1903.
3. Photograph, by Valentine & Sons Ltd., Dundee, from Ward
Lock & Co's "Guide
to Matlock, Dovedale, Etc.", Illustrated Guide Books
of England and Wales (Guide Series 1903-4), p.9
4. "Matlock Bath from Abraham's Heights". Published
by JWS [J. Welch & Sons, Portsmouth], No.2262. Posted 30
Aug 1904 at Matlock Bridge and sent to Catford. The sender was
staying at Rockside.
5. "Matlock Bath from Pavilion Gardens". JWS [J. Welch & Sons,
Portsmouth] No.2264. Posted on 24 July 1905 in Matlock Bath.
Images 2 -5 in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
coloured links go to on-site transcripts or information:
 Quote from the Ward Lock guide,
 "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday,
May 9, 1883.
 "The Derby Mercury",
Wednesday, July 19, 1882. New Pavilion and Gardens at Matlock
 Properties at Stonnis Wood in
Matlock Bath can be found in the
1851 census. They are mentioned in Holmes
Hand Book, 1866 (look in the Romantic Rocks, or Dungeon
Tors section. William Smedley also gave his address at Stonnis
 "The Derby Mercury",
Wednesday, July 12, 1882.
 Mr. Speed
later became the licensee of the old Vaults. In 1887 he was
the Surveyor, Inspector of Nuisances & Collector for
Matlock Bath & Scarthin Nick Local Board (Kelly's 1887
Directory). Edward Speed and his family can be found in Matlock
1891 census. He is also listed twice
in Kelly's 1891 Directory | Kelly's
1895 Directory. His widow Elizabeth is
listed in Kelly's
1899 Directory and the
 "The Derby Mercury",
Wednesday, July 30, 1884. Opening of the New Pavilion at
 Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History
of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London
by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.
 Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire,
1887. Mr. Rowland was the headmaster of Matlock Bath School.
 See Extracts
from the London Gazette 2 April 1889. It was then transferred
to the Leeds Provincial Land Society, in lieu of the mortgage
and overdue interest ("Derby Mercury", 20
March 1889. The two subsequent owners were named in, amongst
other newspapers, "Derbyshire
Times", 1 March 1890.
 Mr. Downes can be found in Kelly's
1891 Directory | Kelly's
1895 Directory | Kelly's
1899 Directory and the
 The Royal Assent was given to
the Bill and the Matlock Bath Improvement Act became law
on 4 August, 1905. Quote from the London Gazette. It was
announced that the Pavilion had been bought in the April
Times", 22 April 1905).
 "Belper News",12
February 1909. Matlock Bath Chairman looks back. At the meeting
of the Local Board Charles White stated that during six months
up to September 1908 70,000 people had paid for admission
onto the promenade but there were virtually no attractions
apart from the band and, for a short time, a few pierrots.
Mr. John William Boden said the closing of the old pavilion
was a great blow to the town.
Times", 22 April 1905. Mrs. Whittaker took Mr. Downes
to court for non-payment of the aerated water she had supplied.
 "Derbyshire Times", 6 December 1902
Matlock & Matlock Bath Newspaper Cuttings, Jul 1914 - Nov
1918. Two reports in 1915.
 "Derby Daily Telegraph",
17 September 1923.
 "Derbyshire Times",
20 September 1924.