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Matlock Bath: The Devonshire Hotel & North Parade, 1870s
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Matlock Bath,
River Derwent

River Derwent & Heights, late 1800s

River Derwent & the Devonshire Hotel

The Derwent at Matlock Bath, 1950
(has advert and more about the last tenants)

Museum Parade, Old Bath Terrace & the Heights, 1840

Vignette: South Parade & Fishpond, before 1840

Only two of Matlock Bath's hotels were built on the banks of the River Derwent. The first, shown in this tiny CDV image, was the Devonshire Arms and the second was the Midland Hotel next to the station bridge. The remainder of the village's hotels were on the far side of the road from the river. The Devonshire Arms, which was at the junction of North and South (Museum) Parade and opposite Hodgkinson's Hotel, later became known as the Devonshire Hotel and eventually was the Devonshire Café.

The hotel was a three storey building with oriel windows (bay windows) on the first floor that looked onto the street. Here one window is hidden by the tree but the other is behind the hotel sign, more easily seen in the enlargement below.

The Devonshire Arms was first listed in a Trade's Directory in 1831 and was initially run by Thomas Smedley[1], one of the sons of William Smedley senior who had opened the Cumberland Cavern. Unfortunately in 1939 the state of Thomas's mind was "unsettled" and he was about to be removed to Spring Vale Asylum when he decided to throw himself into the Derwent from the hotel's rear balcony. James Pearson and Benjamin Bryan both tried to rescue him but to no avail. Mr. Bryan had spotted him from the Museum garden, but subsequently had difficulty getting himself out of the river[2].

A more lighthearted story involving the river occurred in 1845 when a Newfoundland dog called Carlo could be found in the river in front of Museum Parade. He was observed by visitors standing on the balcony of the Devonshire Arms, who watched him turn over stones with his paws in "shoal water" near the bank. He was searching for crawfish, which were apparently plentiful, and later ate several![3]

At the time of the 1841 census Smedley's widow Jane[4] was on her own at the hotel. Two years later she married William Ellis, who had also lost his spouse[5].On his marriage, William Ellis became the hotel proprietor and was followed by his son George who remained there until he, in turn, died on 20 Aug 1866[6]. The hotel's name changed around 1862 and the building became the Devonshire Hotel. George Ellis's widow went on to marry Joseph Radfirth, who was her second husband[7]. The Radfirth family were at the Devonshire Hotel for some years and Joseph advertised in Bemrose's Guide[8].

They were followed by Samuel Robinson (1837-1918), who had for a time worked as a butler to Charles Clarke at Masson House. He married Joseph Radfirth's widow[9]. Samuel Robinson was listed in directories between 1876 and 1899[10]. However, in 1886 he applied for the licence to be transferred from Samuel Martin to himself, although nothing has been found to explain why or when Martin was granted the license[11]. The next licence transfer was in 1900 from Samuel Robinson to Frances Sarah Lake[12]; she had previously been at the Royal Hotel.

hotel and north parade  

Enlarged section of the top image.

Two pony and trap cabs (phætons?), with their drivers, are waiting for passengers outside the hotel door. Perhaps the cab drivers are Samuel Hardy and one of his sons. Mr Hardy lived on Waterloo Road behind North Parade[13].

On the hillside behind we can see Belgrano with its distinctive curved bay window on one of the bends of Waterloo Road and up on the corner of Holme Road and Masson Road is Holme Bank, a large Victorian property that when it was built was said to be "in the Tudor style of architecture"[14].

Whilst we cannot see the building to the left that became Peter Reed's bakery at the bottom of the Pitchings[15], it helps date the row. There are just three of these North Parade buildings that were included on a print of the Great Hotel by Benjamin Rogers, published in 1801[16]. Those three were the Reed's bakery building, the property with the oriel window first from the left above that is now 144 North Parade and very late 18th century two storey Rose Cottage (behind the cabs) at the right hand end. Various prints and engravings from around 1835-1840 also show the cluster of buildings that form this part of North Parade. The row's remaining properties were yet to be built in 1840. They were, however, marked on the Tithe Map of 1848/9.

In 1881 the building with the barred window was John Higton's marble works and lodging house (see his census entry). There is a porter's trolley in the road close to the property's doorway.
There are two poems by John Higton, written in 1890, describing disputes with the members of the Local Board

The story of the hotel continues: River Derwent & the Devonshire Hotel


[North Parade & the Devonshire Hotel]. Carte de Visite. No publisher. [1870s?]
From the collection of and © Ann Andrews.
Information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Thomas Smedley (1784-1839), m. Jane Hodgkinson 1814, bu Matlock). See St. Giles' Marriages, Surnames S | Witnesses to their marriage | his burial | Pre 1858 Wills info, Surnames S (includes notes on the Wills of both Thomas and his father William).

[2] "Derbyshire Courier", 16 November 1839. Determined Act of Self-Destruction.

[3] "ibid.", 21 June 1845. A Canine Fisherman.

[4] Jane Smedley was listed in the 1841 census, although no address was provided by the Enumerator.

[5] Jane Smedley (1784-1871), m. William Ellis in 1843. She died at Matlock Bath on 20 March 1871, aged 87 ("Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 31 March 1871) and was buried at Matlock. William Ellis (joiner, had m. 1st Sarah Bland in 1815) was buried at Matlock in 1859.

[6] George Ellis can be found in Kelly's Directory 1855 | Kelly's Directory 1864 | Advertisement in Hall's "Days in Derbyshire", 1863. See his MI at Holy Trinity.

[7] Ann, the widow of George Ellis, married Joseph Radfirth at St. Giles' Church in 1867 ("Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 6 September 1867). Joseph was the son of George Radfirth of Matlock Bath.

[8] "Bemroses' Guide to Matlock, Bakewell, Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, &c" (1869) by John Hicklin, Third Edition, pub Bemrose and Sons, London. See Joseph Radfirth's advert and his MI at Holy Trinity, Matlock Bath.

[9] Joseph Radfirth's widow, Ann, married Samuel Robinson, second son of William Robinson of Markfield, at St. Giles' on 16 Feb 1871 ("Derbyshire Times", 25 February 1871). He was her third husband

[10] Samuel Robinson was listed in Kelly's Directory 1876 and subsequent directories until 1899. He bought Masson Cottage, his home after he retired, in 1899 ("Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 20 September 1899). He passed away in 1918 ("Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 7 January 1918). Also see Wills, Surnames R for Samuel Robinson and the MI at Holy Trinity, Matlock Bath for Samuel, Anne and their son..

[11] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 9 April 1886. Petty Sessions.

[12] "Derbyshire Times," 21 April 1900 (License transfer). When Miss Lake, later Mrs. Frances Sarah Dale, died in 1934 the Devonshire Hotel was described as one of the of the oldest hostelries in Derbyshire. She was then aged 77 and lived at "Woodhey," Henry Avenue, Matlock ("Derby Daily Telegraph", 12 March 1934).

[13] Samuel Hardy advertised his cab and carriage business in Croston : On Foot Through the Peak, 1868 (5th advert down).

[14] Holme Bank was first listed in Kelly's Directory 1876. It was sold in 1872 ("Derby Mercury", 29 May 1872).

[15] Reed's shop was demolished in the 1920s. See both Museum Parade & The Pitchings, 1910 and Photographs of Matlock Bath Today (3), image 6.

[16] This is not on the website although one of the few prints still in existence belongs to a family member.