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.
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.
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.
Then there was Mr. Vallance's Central Museum that also
became Royal once it had been visited by Queen Adelaide
Vallance's Museum was taken over by Mr. Thomas Walker.
Herbert Buxton also ran a "Royal Museum" a little
further down the road on the opposite side.
In the above photograph there is a sign to right of Smith's
shop, with a blackboard below, reads, "Large
and Small Parties Catered For At Shortest Notice". This
was for Astill's cafe, which was bought by the Astill's in
was where Mr. Mawe's Museum 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.
The Smith family had spar workshops across the road behind
their Petrifying Well 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.
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.
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.
Two other sons, Walter and Arthur, had not been born.
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. An appeal
for donations towards the cost was made to every householder
at the time.
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.
Two of his sons, William Ernest (Bill) and Walter (later
Mr. Burton-Smith) carried on the business throughout World
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.
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
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.).
Bemroses' Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869, Walker's Marble Museum