A tour guide of 1888 said that "The Royal Hotel occupies
the site of the Old Bath Hotel. It is the finest and most imposing
looking building in Matlock. It was originally commenced as a company,
passed into the hands of Major [John F] Wieland. ... Its grounds
are remarkably picturesque, and the private entrances are through
rockeries and conservatories".
when the Royal Hotel was roofless and in rather a sorry state Major
Wieland happened to be passing through the village. A large sum
of money had already been spent on the hotel's construction (mentioned
by Bryan, below), but the Major took pity on the building's desolate
appearance and spent some £30,000
to finish the project.
Matlock Bath celebrated when the hotel, initially called the Great
Hotel, finally opened on 2 September 1878. The shopkeepers decorated
their windows and bunting was put up; it was hoped that the new
hotel would boost their trade. "At noon inhabitants of Matlock
Bath presented Major Wieland with a congratulatory address, wishing
him success. At 4p.m. the terrace was thrown open for dancing to
the delightful strains of Matlock Prize Band. During the evening
the lower parts of the hotel were opened for viewing and many took
the opportunity to look. About 8p.m. the rocks opposite the hotel
and the river were illuminated with chinese lanterns, arranged
by Mr. Ratcliffe".
A decade later Kelly's Directory describes
the hotel as follows: "The Royal hotel occupies an eminence
on the side of the Old Bath, and is a substantial building of stone,
surrounded by beautiful grounds affording highly attractive views
of the immediate neighbourhood ; it has been enlarged and fitted
with baths of every description. The great mineral spring adjoining
it yields 10,000 gallons an hour".
Major Wieland later offered a considerable sum to the Matlock
Bath Improvements Association and was prepared to pay for a band
to attract visitors to the village.
The outcome was the Pavilion and Gardens Company which went on
to lose around £20,000.
Benjamin Bryan did not mince his words when writing his "History": "The
adjoining Royal Hotel was another unsuccessful company undertaking.
The building, projected in 1866, was designed for use as a hydropathic
establishment, but the company's capital becoming exhausted while
it was in course of erection, it stood unfinished for a number
of years. In 1878, it was completed and opened as an hotel, and
as such it now carries on. It has a dining room 70 feet in length,
and 100 bed and associated chambers, besides a suite of hydropathic
baths and a modern tepid water swimming bath. A second Hydropathic
Company was projected in June, 1882, with a capital of £30,000,
in 6,000 shares of £5 each. It was proposed to purchase the
building and contents for £25,000. All the directors, of whom
there were nine, were, with one exception, strangers to the place.
This property is also now in private hands".
Major Wieland must have been greatly disappointed that his investment
in Matlock Bath was not a success. He was buried at Hampstead in
During the First War, between 1917 and 1919, the Hotel was used as
a Convalescent Home by Canadian Officers.
In 1928 the hotel was offered for sale following the death of
the then owner, Mrs. Hocker (later Mrs. Sarah Louise McArthur).
It was bought by Mr. R. J. Bray who then spent a considerable sum
refitting the 100 bedroom hotel and building new baths.
Tragedy struck in 1929 shortly after the hotel reopened; there
was a disastrous fire on 1st April (Easter Monday).
The alarm was raised between 10 and 11p.m. whilst the Bank Holiday
Ball was in progress. Flames had been seen coming from the
front attic where the resident staff had their quarters and the
fire spread rapidly. The local fire brigade was first on the scene,
though there was a delay whilst they located the water, and they
eventually ran their hoses up from the River Derwent. Other fire
brigades in the district were also called, with the Chesterfield
contingent arriving at midnight.
The flames were visible for some distance and the police were also
at the scene, holding back crowds of onlookers.
When the fire broke out the hotel had been full; over 100 people
were in residence as well as the additional guests at the Ball.
Those staying at the hotel were transferred to other hotels in
the area, managing to take their belongings with them, whilst the
staff were found lodgings.
Sadly for the owner, the extent of the damage rapidly became apparent
and it was impossible to save the hotel.
The top floors of the older part of the hotel and their contents
were destroyed, including the property of the 40 or so staff who
lived in the hotel.
Other areas were severely damaged and much of the building had
to be demolished, though the west wing, shown on the image below,
remained for about thirty years. When the land was offered for
sale about eight years afterwards, the site had been cleared and
the west wing reconditioned.
Postcard of the Royal hotel, showing the extension
There are some members of staff standing in the two doorways.
The right hand section survived the fire, but the left hand side
was severely damaged
There is more information elsewhere on this web site :
is another postcard of the Royal Hotel, posted in 1901 in the
"Just" images section of tis site.
description of the Royal Hotel is in "Bemroses' Guide"
(no date, but about 1869) - see pages 18 -19
See the London Gazette References
in 1869 | 1889
Peak Hydro, Buxton: Canadian Hospital. The Canadians had
opened another hospital in Buxton year earlier before they took
over the Royal Hotel.
References (the coloured
links are to onsite transcripts):
 "Black's Tourist Guide to
(1888) pub. Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh. The sum spent on the
Royal Hotel varies. The Guide mentions the figure of £20,000,
but other sources say more was spent.
 "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield
Herald", 22 July 1893. Major Wieland owned a country house
and a farm in Buckinghamshire. His wife had pre-deceased him.
 "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield
Herald", 7 September 1878. Matlock Bath. Opening of the
New Great Hotel.
 See Matlock & Matlock
Bath Names in the London Gazette, April 1889
 Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History
of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose
& Sons, Limited. The adjoining property he refers to is the Old
Pavilion and Gardens.
 Beresford, Charles "The Bath at
War, A Derbyshire Community and the Great War" (2007). Country
Books/Ashridge Press. ISBN 978 1 901214 91 8. Several chapters are
devoted to the time the Canadians spent in Matlock Bath.
 "The Times", 1 Mar 1928.
 "The Times", 2 Apr 1929.
The former owner, Mrs. Hocker (Mrs. McArthur when she died), passed
away 23 February 1927. She died intestate, leaving a large estate
("The Times", 16 Jun 1927).
 "The Times", 3 Apr 1929.
 Mr. Bray, by then living in Bournemouth,
offered the site at a bargain price ("The Times",
11 Jan 1936). On 27 May 1937 the site went to auction ("The
Times", 18 May 1937).
 "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire,
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland", pub. London
(1899) There are online transcripts: 19th