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Matlock Bath: Boats For Hire, 1950s
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Rowing boats tied up at the landing stage
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Charlotte Farnsworth, Poetess (1889-1971)

- Walter is tending his boats at the landing stage

The rowing boats were tied up at the landing stage behind the Grand Pavilion. The man in charge was Walter Bird, who also operated the ferry across the river[1]. He was first employed by Matlock Urban District Council on 5th April 1938 although his Council work was interrupted by war service. He joined the Royal Signals and was at a posting in Gibraltar in 1941. Afterwards Walter was employed by the Council as a motor boat man once more, also working at the pleasure grounds when necessary. Winter work was found for employees during the closed season, all important in a tourist industry with a very limited season. Walter repaired the rowing boats in the old Pierrot shed which used to be behind the Grand Pavilion. Later on he was a handyman and also served as a caretaker at the Pavilion. Mr. Gregory, who lived at the lodge at the Heights with his brother Arthur, also worked on the boats[2].

Walter Bird on the river

Walter Bird was born in Matlock Bath on 2 Feb 1904, one of the children of Walter and Lizzie Bird (nee Bemrose)[3]; Walter senior was employed by the New Bath Hotel Company to quarry tufa for a time. Walter Bird's grandfather was William Edward Bird, the marble mason, and his great grandfather was Edward Bird, the artist and engraver on black marble[4].

Walter Bird junior married Elizabeth Brown in 1929 and they lived on Orchard Road[1]. During the 1960s he was involved with the Illuminations and Venetian Nights Committee[5].

Original photographs in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Images scanned for this website and information 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] Walter Bird is also mentioned on Matlock Bath: The Ferry and the River Derwent, 1905.

[2] Additional information from conversations with Ken Smith, who checked his records to provide dates and other information, including a postcard sent to Walter by Mrs. O'Dowda in late 1941.

[3] See the family in the 1901 census, before Walter was born.

[4] The artist Edward Bird advertised in several nineteenth century trade directories.

[5] Programme of the Illuminations and Venetian Nights, 1968.