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Matlock Bath: The Royal Museum (Smith's), South Parade
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Museum 1
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Royal Museum
Petrifying Well



Venetian Nights,
decorated boats




Queen Mary's Visit 1913



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 that also became Royal once it had been visited by Queen Adelaide in 1840[4]. Vallance's Museum was taken over by Mr. Thomas Walker[5]. Herbert Buxton also ran a "Royal Museum" a little further down the road on the opposite side[6].

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 1925[7]. This 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[8]. 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[9]. 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[10].


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[11]. 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[12]. An appeal for donations towards the cost was made to every householder at the time[13].


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[12]. Two of his sons, William Ernest (Bill) and Walter (later Mr. Burton-Smith) carried on the business throughout World War Two[7]. 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
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.


Adeert
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


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, Willam 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".
[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] "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.
[6] See Mr. Buxton's Royal Museum & the Great Petrifying Well
[7] 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.
[8] See Nineteenth Century Guides, including Adam's "Gem of the Peak" | Nineteenth Century Trade Directories
[9] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 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 | the 1881 census | the 1891 census | the 1901 census. Also see: Wills S
[10] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 May 1887.
[11] 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
[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 5 January 1938. Notice of the death of William Smith, aged 77.
[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 December 1913. Mr. G. H. Key referred to the vase and the appeal at a Council meeting.