This large property is next to the A6 at the southern end of Matlock
Bath and overlooks Masson Mill on the opposite side of the road.
It was built by John Edward Lawton, a Cotton Manufacturer from
Manchester, who was in partnership with Frederic Charles Arkwright
at one stage. Although their partnership was dissolved in 1890, Lawton
continued to work at Masson Mill. He couldn't have chosen a better
spot to watch over the mill workers' every move.
John Edward Lawton had clearly built to impress as the house had
56 bedrooms at one stage. Woodbank was designed for him by Mr.
Stott of Manchester; it had been planned with every modern convenience
including a bathroom for nearly every bedroom. It was also said
that no expense was spared in the construction.
The grounds are extensive and include are 2 large caves, as well
as woodland and formal gardens.
The Lawton family arrived in Matlock Bath some
time between 1887 and 1891,
although the web mistress has found a variety of suggested dates
prior to 1887. Before then he was described as both a Cotton Spinner and
a Yarn Agent; he
and his partners had business premises in the city of Manchester
at 3 Macdonald's-lane and 19 Cannon-street.
In 1874 Mr. Lawton was named as secretary to Shaw Hall Spinning
Company, Mottram Road, Shaw hall, Newton moor, Cheshire.
The Lawton family lived at Dukinfield in a house also called Woodbank
and they seem to have continued to own the property after moving
to Matlock Bath.
In 1897 Masson Mill became part of the English Sewing Cotton Company.
By the 1901 census, when he was nearing the end of his tenure at
Masson Mill, Mr. Lawton described himself as "Managing Director
Sewing Cotton Co.".
He is known to have lived at Woodbank until at least 1908 although
his association with Masson Mill had ceased some years previously.
In late 1910 Knight, Frank & Rutley auctioned the house contents
at a sale on the premises.
Mr. Lawton passed away at Buxton in February 1915 and was interred
By 1912 the Co-operative Holidays Association owned the property
and Miss Panton-Ham was the manageress.
It was still called Woodbank in 1916, when Miss Brill was manageress,
but after that it was no longer advertised in the trade directories.
The house was renamed Cromford Court in the 1930s and has retained
that name ever since.
In the khaki election of 1900 Mr. Lawton, who was Chairman of Matlock
Bath & Scarthin Nick UDC for about sixteen years,
stood as the Liberal candidate in Salford. On the eve of polling
day he apparently imported a huge elephant into the constituency,
decked in Liberal colours. The elephant enlivened polling day,
but was unable to sway the result and Mr. Lawton was defeated.
Bunting recounts a story of Mr. Lawton's authoritarianism involving
the lavish wedding of his daughter Mary to Hugh Crawford, a Scottish
manufacturer, at Holy Trinity on 19 Jan 1898. Apart from insisting
the workers wore suits to go to the "toast" at the Palais
Royal, Julie writes that three foremen counted the minutes they
were away from their work.
Yet without Lawton's energy and drive, and the formation of the
English Sewing Cotton Company,
perhaps Masson Mill would not have survived as a major employer
in Matlock Bath until well into the twentieth century.
During the Second World War soldiers were billeted in the house
but the house had suffered years of neglect when, in 1980, the
New Tribe Mission became the owners and used the property as
a Bible College for almost two decades. It is now under different
A modern photo, taken from Masson Mill, showing
the house surrounded by trees
There is more about Woodbank (Cromford Court)