Images Index> Matlock Bath, 20th and 21st Century Images> This page
Matlock Bath: The Royal Museum (Smith's), South Parade
Matlock Bath : Twentieth Century Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
Museum 1
20th & 21st C Images
Next Image
Previous Image
More Matlock Bath Pictures
18th & 19thC
"Just" Images
Matlock Bath
General Info
About Matlock Bath
Matlock & Matlock Bath Guides
Find a Name

Royal Museum
Petrifying Well

Venetian Nights,
decorated boats

Queen Mary's Visit 1913

Adam's Royal Museum
(formerly Mawe's)

Mr. Buxton's Royal Museum (page 1 of 2)

Hartle's Bazaar

Smith's Royal Museum was a family business that passed down through several generations, beginning with Samuel Smith (1835-1900) whose father William worked as a gardener at the Heights of Abraham[1].

There were several Royal Museum's in Matlock Bath in the nineteenth century, starting with Mawe's Original Royal Museum which was on the first floor the building next door, the property with the huge bay window. Perhaps not everyone knew where Mawe's Museum was, as two advertisements in 1833 and 1834 announced that it "is known by the large projecting window from the Second Story [sic], and the only Entrance is by a flight of Stairs[2]. There was an entrance hall on the ground floor and in 1834 "a splendid Marble Bust of the "Apollo Belvidere" was on display there. Mr. Mawe's Museum became Adam & Co[3].

Then there was Mr. Vallance's Central Museum, shown in these photos, that also became Royal once it had been visited by Queen Adelaide in 1840[4]. Vallance had worked for both Mr. Mawe and his father in law, Mr. Brown, before setting up on his own.

"THE CENTRE MUSEUM (Mr. Vallance's). - This we give the precedence to after the Old Museum, although only of 6 years standing, because, as already stated, Mr. Vallance had been in the business many years, and consequently his establishment is next in importance and capacity, and from his long residence since he was originally sent by Mr. Brown (no less than 27 years ago) he must be perfectly acquainted with all the details of the business, and must possess a good stock worthy the attention of the visitor, his unremitting energy and attention cannot be questioned" (William Adam, 1838)[5].

In Vallance's time both this Museum and that of Mr. Mawe next door were decorated with "large and beautiful porticoes", taken down just before Arthur Jewitt's book was re-published in 1835. It also had a large obelisk painted over each of its doorways and was described as "directly facing the two large obelisks at the entrance to the Museum's gardens"[6]. "Mr. Vallance's Workshops are opposite his Museum, and it is a subject of regret generally that there was a necessity when Mr. V. left the Old Museum (i.e. Mawe's) for building these here, as by doing so it obstructed a magnificent view of the river, and cut up what was then a lovely garden, both the Museum and Vallance's being in one - and certainly it has not been improved by setting up the two wooden obelisks on such a portico"[5]. Perhaps Vallance was making a point, especially as he was selling obelisks, then fashionable items to own, in his museum.

Vallance's Museum was taken over by Mr. Thomas Walker[7]. Below is another account by William Adam, published in a later edition of his book.

THE CENTRE MUSEUM.-Mr. Walker, who has been so long in the possession of "The Lover's Walks and Boats," has succeeded the late Mr Vallance in this establishment, and it is the first in importance and capacity. Mr. Walker purchased the best part of the stock on entering, especially in the beautiful Blue John, now become so rare ; and with considerable new additions in all the departments of the Derbyshire manufacture (inlaid tables, needles, vases, &c.), he has acquired a beautiful and extensive stock, which must impress the visitors who look through his establishment, with the great beauty and perfection to which the native manufacture has attained. Mr. Walker has long been connected with the spar and marble business, which he has carried on for years over the ferry by the boats.
(William Adam, 1857)[8]

The Centre Museum, by this time designated as a "Royal Museum", was eventually run by the Smith family. Herbert Buxton, another familiar name in the world of Matlock Bath's museum owners, ran a third "Royal Museum" a little further down the road on the opposite side[9].

From: White's 1862 Directory, Matlock Bath
"Of the Museums at the Bath, the principal is Walker's (late Vallance), in which the goods are open to visitors free of charge; amongst the most beautiful must be named the black marble from the quarries of Ashford and Bakewell, which is formed into the most elegant tables, vases, inkstands, &c., beautifully inlaid and engraved. The Fluor Spars, of which the "Blue John" is the most recherche, is also manufactured into an endless variety of ornaments, from the superb vase to the elegant brooch or locket. To the admirers of these articles we would particularly recommend a visit to Mr. Walker's Museum, where the largest and most choice assortment is to be found".

The top photograph shows a sign to right of Smith's shop, with a blackboard below, that reads, "Large and Small Parties Catered For At Shortest Notice". The sign was for Astill's cafe, which was bought by the Astill's in 1925[10]. This was where Mr. Mawe's Museum, the first in Matlock Bath, had been a hundred years before.

Smith's Royal Museum specialised in Blue John, the rare stone which was worked into vases and other ornaments for over a century and a half by the turners at Matlock Bath[11]. The Smith family had spar workshops across the road behind their Petrifying Well, already mentioned above, and a boat landing stage on the banks of the Derwent. The obituary notice for Samuel Smith in 1900 recorded that he had been in business at Matlock Bank, but about a dozen or fifteen years before his death he became associated with one of the museums and spar shops in Matlock Bath, carrying on the work of turning marble[12]. In 1887 he had sued his late landlord, Mr. Samuel Wade, of Derby, formerly of Matlock, for £50 damages sustained when Wade trespassed and removed a verandah from over the shop. It was bought by Miss Ellen Smedley of the Midland Hotel and it is not clear whether it was ever put back, even temporarily[13].

Museum 2

Samuel Smith was followed in the business by his son William, who had married Emily Jane Burton. In the 1911 census their teenage son William Ernest Smith was assisting his father in the spar business alongside Emily Jane's brother, Walter Burton. William Smith's brother, Samuel Walker Smith, was keeping the shop[14]. Two other sons, Walter and Arthur, had not been born.

Museum 3

Mr. Smith worked many famous pieces, including a Blue John vase which was presented to Queen Mary when she passed through Matlock Bath in 1913 on her way from Chatsworth to Derby[15]. An appeal for donations towards the cost was made to every householder at the time[16].

Emily Jane and Flossie
Emily Jane Smith and her daughter Florence, known as Flossie.

William Smith died in January 1938 and it was said that many thousands of visitors to Matlock Bath had seen examples of his work. When he was younger he had also been a well known local footballer, playing for Matlock Town when the club was in the Midland League. He left a widow (Emily Jane), three sons and two daughters[15]. Two of his sons, William Ernest (Bill) and Walter (later Mr. Burton-Smith) carried on the business throughout World War Two[10]. Bill Smith died soon after the war, leaving Walter Burton-Smith to run the shop and another brother, Arthur, took over the petrifying well and the boats.

Flossie Smith.
This interior shot shows a wide range of goods for sale to tempt the tourist.
Everything from racquets, to cricket bats and umbrellas as well as the usual
array of small ornaments that were sold alongside the more expensive pieces.

The compulsory purchase and enforced closure of the petrifying well and workshops for road widening in the 1960s and the sale of the shop meant the end of the Smith family's involvement in the business community of Matlock Bath. It brought an end to a family business of skilled craftsmanship that had been established in the Matlocks in 1856.

Royal Museum advertisement, about 1950

There is a nineteenth century stereoview of South Parade which shows Smith's Royal Museum (it is in the "Just images" section of the site.).
Thomas Walker's Advertisement in Hall's Day's in Derbyshire, 1863.
Bemroses' Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869, Walker's Marble Museum

In 2016 Christies of London advertised a wonderful inlaid centre table made of Ashford Black Marble, which had a label stating it had been made by Thomas Walker of Matlock Bath in 1864.

Photographs provided by and © Jeremy and Glenis Smith, from their private family albums.
Royal Museum advertisement from "The Matlocks, Derbyshire", published about 1950 and printed by Geo. Hodgkinson, Printer, Matlock
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] Samuel was with his parents in the 1841 census | the 1851 census. Also see his baptism in 1835 at Cromford: Strays, S. His parents, William and Sarah, nee Walker, had married at Wirksworth on 29 May 1828. Samuel married Ellen Robinson, daughter of Richard Robinson of Bonsall, on 11 December 1858 at Madron, Cornwall where he was employed as a Serpentine Worker for a time.

[2] "The Derby Mercury", 25 September 1833 and 17 September 1834. The directions to Mawe's Museum were in a footnote to advertisement's for Mawe's Original Royal Museum. These days we would describe Mawe's Museum as being on the first floor. The big bay window is still a prominent feature on South (Museum) Parade.

[3] See William Adam's "The Gem of the Peak" (1840).

[4] "The Derby Mercury", 5 August, 1840. She visited Adam & Co. and then went to Vallance's next door, where she made some purchases.

[5] Adam, W. (July 1838) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row ; ... Mawe, Royal Museum, Matlock ; .... This was the first edition of his guide.

[6] Jewitt, Arthur (1835) "The Matlock Companion; and visitor's guide to the beauties of Matlock ..., including also a brief sketch of Buxton". Second edition. Duffield, Derby. To see the porticoes, plus the obelisks on top of the one outside Vallance's Museum, see Jewitt's sketch from the 1832 edition of his book on Dudley Mall: Samuel Rayner (1806 - 1879) (scroll down)*.
*Site currently unavailable.

[7] "The Derby Mercury", 27 June 1855. One of several notices announcing that Thomas Walker had taken over from the late John Vallance. He was at the Royal Museum at the time of the 1861 census. The "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald" of 3 December 1870 advertised an auction of his stock. Also see an advertisement in Bemrose's Guide, 1869 and another published in Hall's "Days in Derbyshire",1863. He can also be found running the Museum in both Kelly's 1855 Directory | Kelly's 1864 Directory

[8] Adam, W. (1857, 6th edition) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ... John and Charles Mozley, Derby and 6, Paternoster Row, London; Bemrose ....

[9] See Mr. Buxton's Royal Museum & the Great Petrifying Well

[10] 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.

[11] See Nineteenth Century Guides, including Adam's "Gem of the Peak" | Nineteenth Century Trade Directories

[12] "Derbyshire Times", 17 February 1900. Samuel Smith and his wife Ellen can be found in Matlock Bath in the 1861 census | living on Matlock Bank in the 1871 census | back in Matlock Bath in the 1881 census | the 1891 census | his family were in Matlock Bath in the 1901 census. Also see: Wills S

[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 May 1887.

[14] The 1911 census is available on FindMyPast (see Links in footer). William and Emily Jane can also be found in the 1901 census. See the family MIs at Holy Trinity - go to MIs Surnames S

[15] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 5 January 1938. Notice of the death of William Smith, aged 77.

[16] "ibid.", 22 December 1913. Mr. G. H. Key referred to the vase and the appeal at a Council meeting.