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Matlock: Water Cures, Mr. Smedley's Baths, Boxes & Douches
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century : Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings

John Smedley designed a range of steam boxes, baths and douches, as well as some other gadgets,
for use at both the hydropathic establishment and the free hospital.
Several were sold at Lea Mills for use in the home.
He believed that the surface of the skin should be kept clean and soap and water were important.

The illustrations and quotations below are taken from John Smedley's "Practical Hydropathy" and
Mrs. Smedley's "Ladies Manual" and show some of the equipment that was used for treating patients.

Steam Box

Steam Box   "B is the seat the person sits upon, then close the door, and put down the lid, the head going through the hole A, 12 inches in diameter. 4 feet high, 29 inches wide, 34 inches from back to front, outside measure. ...
The steam is sent under the seat ....
This bath is used for five to ten minutes, or in some cases fifteen minutes, and after it a tepid dripping sheet, or a tepid sponge."

Sitz Baths

Sitting or Sitz Bath


Sitting or Sitz Bath

"A common wash tub or any vessel about 12 inches deep, will do."

There is a picture of this sitz bath being used lower down the page. The patient is covered.

There was no children's sitz, as indicated on this image, in either of the Smedley books.

Ladies' Running Sitz

Ladies' Running Sitz

"Double a dry sheet, and lay it over the front of the bath F, and sit upon it, and when rising, draw it round the legs to dry with.

I have invented this bath, which can be used without any undressing. It should be in every lady's room, and if used as commonly as the wash hand basin would prevent weakness of the spine, and the long list of distressing weakening ailments to which all females are liable".

Douche Baths

"There are various modifications of these applications : the principal is the one which, from a cistern, containing one to two hundred gallons of water, a short tapering pipe contracted to 1¼ inch at the point, or lower aperture, worked by a lever, allows the water to fall with considerable force from a height of eight to twelve feet."

The ascending douche

"Mr. Smedley's newly-invented ascending douche can be used in bedrooms with perfect safety. ...
For females it is of great importance, and may be used with perfect safety, the action being delicate, and can be used often without undressing."

Shallow Bath

Shallow Bath

"This is a very useful bath ...
The bather lies down in it half filled with water, and rubs quickly the legs, arms and body. ...
One or two gallons of cold water may be poured on the spine before coming out,
but it is not quite necessary."

Wood Shallow Bath

Wood Shallow Bath

"Made of deal ... It holds water well, and a good deal of it,
and there is more room for the bather to lie at ease and soap well."

Smaller items

Head Bath

Head Bath

"An excellent application for soothing and cooling the head."
F is where the back of the head was to go, with the person lying on the floor and a pillow under the top of the shoulder.


"For heating cocoa or tea, very useful."

Steam and Spirit Lamp Bath

Steam and Spirit Lamp Bath

"The person undressed, enveloped in blankets, or coverlids, or mackintosh, sits on a wooden-bottom chair, the steamer under. If at any time too hot, raise the blanket to let air in, or to make the spirit burn better. After steaming, sponge over with cold or tepid water."
The Hydropult.

The Hydropult

"The Hydropult, a valuable invention, for Spouting Spine, or Limbs, and any other purposes."


"First spread a mackintosh on the bed, then two blankets, on which the person,
with only the trunk part of the body undressed, is laid ;
one of the fomenting flannels, previously wrung out with hot water,
is placed under the back, and another over the chest and bowels ;
then bring one side of the blanket over, put the arms down, then lay the hot can on
and put the other sides of the blanket over, then the mackintosh. The person lies quietly from
three quarters to one hour, and will often go to sleep. Afterwards wipe the trunk with a towel
wrung out in cold water, and dress, or have a dripping sheet, or cold or tepid wash over."


  Leg Bath

Hand and Arm Baths
The Sitz Bath

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Smedley's Practical Hydropathy

John Smedley
Mrs. Smedley's Ladies Manual

Caroline Smedley

1926, includes bath's list

Smedley's Brochure,
about 1925

Smedley's brochure, 1939

Compare Smedley's baths with those at:

The Royal Hotel and Bathing Establishment

The above 19th century engravings have been taken from two books:
Smedley, John "Smedley's Practical Hydropathy, 15th ed.", James Blackwood & Co., Paternoster Row, London.
Smedley, Mrs. (1878/9) "Ladies' Manual of Practical Hydropathy (Not the Cold Water System), 16th ed.", James Blackwood & Co., Lovell's Court, Paternoster Row, London.
These books are in the collection of, the information is provided by and images scanned by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only.

You may also like to view
Advertisement from "On Foot Through the Peak", (1868)
Advertisement for Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment, 1869
"There Was Red Tape at Smedley's Hydro Then"
About Matlock Bank
See Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment Enumeration Book in the 1891 census
And in the 1901 census