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Matlock Bath: FHA Visitors to Cromford Court, 1933 onwards
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Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

The Harry Gill group photograph, above, was taken outside the renamed Cromford Court (formerly Woodbank) in the mid 1930s. It shows a group of "free week guests" with the founder of the Friendship Holiday Association, Henry Charles White, in the front row to the left of the sign. He was the grandfather of Elizabeth Brooking, who has kindly provided most of these pictures. Every year deserving individuals were given a free holiday at various FHA centres, paid for out of the company profits[1].

Cromford Court was open throughout the year, not just in the holiday seasons, and was also used as a conference centre. In 1936 the first annual conference of the National Ramblers' Association was held at Cromford Court, with 50 delegates from all parts of the country attending. In his presidential address Mr. T. Arthur Leonard said that "it was the express purpose of the association to protect the interests of footpath lovers" and he criticised the landlords who were doing their best to close paths and keep the public from the moorlands[2]. The next year followers of the American economist, Henry George, attended a week-end conference and summer school at Cromford Court.

The photographer of this group of F.H.A. visitors is not known

Group at Cromford Court, about 1930-35.
Amongst the guests was Margaret Young (later Collins) who was born in 1912
and her brother and sister. Margaret's brother emigrated to Canada in 1957.

Courses and conferences continued to be held at Cromford Court in the post war era. For example, in 1949 Derbyshire Education Committee's County Music Committee arranged for eighty amateur musicians to have the chance to play in a full orchestra at a week-end course[3]. The group photograph below, also by local photographer Harry Gill, was taken at the Leicester Association of Schoolteachers conference which was held over the weekend of 9th and 10th June 1946[1].

Photograph by Harry Gill

The third and fourth Gill photographs below date from the 1950s and show some of the Christmas festivites. The third picture is of the entrance hall, decorated for Christmas. Although it is difficult to make out the lovely Art Nouveau decorated window in the front door can be seen to the right of the Christmas tree. You could look down into the hall from the octagon, a balcony that went up to the second floor. The octagon was, according to Elizabeth Brooking, "stunning"[1].

The final group photograph is of a Christmas fancy dress evening and was taken is the same room where soldiers were billeted during the Second World War. There are two photographic postcards of the outside of this large, decorative window on Woodbank (Cromford Court), 1912, exterior.

There is more about Cromford Court (formerly Woodbank)

Photographs, all by Harry Gill, in the collection of, provided by and © Elizabeth Brooking.
All but one of the non Harry Gill photo is in the collection of, provided by and © Kenneth Smith.
The image 3 down is in the collection of, provided by and © Tim Collins.
Researched and written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to information elsewhere on this website):

[1] From information kindly provided by Elizabeth Brooking.

[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 16 March 1936. Ramblers meet at Cromford Court.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 September 1937. Weekend Study. Matlock Bath Conference of School of Thought.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 16 September 1949.