Posted from Matlock Bath on the 19th
of August 1908, this rare image is particularly interesting
as the subject is a fête that is taking place
at the station end of the Promenade gardens. Everyone was smartly
dressed in their best clothes, with the young boys in suits and
caps. There seems to be a distinct party atmosphere and some
of the crowd (middle left) are dancing whilst several small boys
in the centre foreground are carefully watching a couple of men,
possibly performing magic tricks.
This is a photograph of the first floral fête
to be held in Matlock Bath, which took place on Saturday 4th July
1908. It was described in the local press as a novel carnival and
battle of the flowers. A 12 hour programme to entertain the many
thousands of visitors included "gaily decorated promenades,
decorated boats in competition, land designs in flowers, band concerts
and other entertainments". The proceeds were in aid of the
Improvements Association and the fête was designed to promote
Matlock Bath as a health resort. A large sum of money was raised.
The Venetian Fête also utilised both the Promenade gardens
and the Lovers' Walks at that time. Ray Ash, whose picture this
is, points out that the overhead wires or strings carry only floral
displays, not lights. From the descriptions of various Fêtes
at the beginning of the twentieth century we know that the Lovers'
Walks and the band kiosk were illuminated, as was the bridge on
occasion, but this particular part of the Prom was not mentioned
as being lit.
The large public shelter in the centre of the picture had been
built in early 1908 and it was planned to be finished before Easter.
Unfortunately, a local council employee called Mr. W. Frost was
injured when he fell from the scaffolding whilst it was being erected.
Questions about the cost arose at a meeting in April 1908 for the
local elections, but that does not seem to have been a major issue.
Enlargement of the left hand side of the Floral Fête photograph
There is at least one man in pierrot costume amongst the dancers.
Apart from white trousers, he is wearing the distinctive hat
of a pierrot and has a bobble on his sleeve. Dancing was a regular
occurrence at this end of the Prom. In August 1906, for example,
Mr William Jaffrey reported to the Urban District Council that
the receipts for admission to the Promenade grounds, boating, dancing,
pierrots and ferries, up to that day amounted to £785
9s 4d, which the meeting considered highly satisfactory.
The pierrot photographed here could have been a member of Mr. A.
E. Faulkner's troupe who were engaged for the season in 1908. Mr.
James Wood's band was also hired and would have played in the bandstand
on the other side of the river.
There is both a small stage and what seems to be a temporary shelter
eclipsing the view of the Midland Hotel and the crowd could be
waiting for a concert or a performance. Whilst we can't see into
the temporary building it perhaps housed flower arrangements.
Enlargement of the right hand side of the photograph
links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this
 "Derby Daily Telegraph",
6 July 1908. Floral Fête at Matlock Bath.
 "Belper News", 13
 "Belper News", 10
 "Derbyshire Times",
18 August 1906. Meeting of Matlock Bath UDC.
 "Belper News", 22
May 1908. Matlock UDC's monthly meeting.