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Matlock Bath: Portland House, Clifton Road
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Royal Cumberland Cavern

Snow in 1947

Portland House, a large Victorian house at the bottom of Clifton Road, was built in 1880[1] by John Wildgoose, a Matlock Bath china dealer[2]. Mr. Wildgoose became one of the new members of Matlock Bath's local board in 1886[5] and took a prominent part in local affairs. He was also the organist at the Glenorchy Independent Chapel[4] but he unfortunately incurred heavy debts and owed Crompton and Evans Bank a substantial sum so was declared bankrupt[6]. He absconded with his family, having managed to send some of his belongings to London a few weeks beforehand; it caused quite a stir[4].

The property was originally called Wint House, a name which must have had something to do with the Wildgoose family as John's son was called Frank Wint Hall Wildgoose[2]. Confusingly, Frank was sometimes referred to as Frederick; he attended John Allen's School in Matlock Bath where he sat the University of Cambridge Local examinations[3] and later studied at a London College for Veterinary Surgeons[4].

Wint House was offered for sale by George Marsden in 1889 to pay off Wildgoose's debts along with its livery stables, a plot of land near the Pavilion and two houses at Cromford. The Royal Livery Stables were described as "unsurpassed in the Midland Counties for completeness". The sale notice also mentioned the fountain in the garden, which was supplied by its own spring (see image above)[7].

Dr. Innes lived at Wint House for some years[8], but did not own the property. Mr. Leggoe took over the stables, though they were later used by Francis Joseph Donegani[9]. By 1895 James Ragg had moved into the house with his [common law] wife and daughter, and the name was changed to Portland House. Ragg had made his money from manufacturing soda water in Derby[10]. A supporter of both football and cricket, in 1886 he paid for Derbyshire County Cricket Club's pavilion to be taken down and moved to the north end of the cricket ground, renovating it and giving it a second front that faced the then football ground[10]. He died in 1896 and his wife Elizabeth subsequently married John Smedley, a well known local businessman and quarry owner[11]. A faded sign at the back of the Mews used to read J. Smedley Proprietor Royal Livery Stables Closed and Open .....Garages (or Carriages? )[12]. It was John Smedley who first linked Portland House with the Cumberland Cavern[11]. Elizabeth remained in the house after John Smedley's death and her daughter Nellie/Jeannie continued to live with her, even after her marriage to William Albert (Billy) Daniels[13].

Sale notice 1931
Advertised for sale in Country Life by Mrs. Daniels in 1931.
A similar notice was placed in The Times on 13 Aug, 1931.

The next time we find Portland House for sale was in 1931 when the house, mews garages and three building plots were advertised "by direction of Mrs Daniels" (see above). The family were to move to Brighton and Nellie Daniels died there, aged 81, in 1961[14]. The next owner was F A Roberts of New Street Works Matlock who probably bought it in 1936 and quickly sold it on to Cyril Edmonds, a retired civil servant. Mr. Edmonds ran both the shop across the road (the Clifton Cabin) and the Cumberland Cavern, the second owner of the Cumberland Cavern to live at Portland House.

sale notice, 1950
Sale notice, 1950.
Marchant Brooks & Co. were auctioneers on Causeway Lane.
The advertisement published in local newspapers said there was "running thermal water connected
to the attractive fountains and stocked goldfish pond in the gardens"[15].

There have been several other owners since Mr. Edmonds, including a spell in the hands of the local Council when it was used by Social Services. It is now back in private ownership and has been restored. Road widening in the 1960s took away some of the corner at the bottom of the garden as well as the road which formerly served the New Bath[16]. The junction is shown in the 1950s sale notice and the road itself in the photo at the top of the page.

Portland House and its stables, shown from high on the Lovers' Walks.
This is enlarged from the top image on Matlock Bath: Derwent Gardens - from Lovers Walks, before 1905.
The large building behind the house is the Bath Terrace Hotel.

Photograph and sale notices of Portland House in the collection of, provided by and © Christine Leila Hill.
Research provided by Doreen Buxton and Ann Andrews and written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] Portland House was built on land between the Bath Terrace Hotel boundary and the church and this land was for sale in 1867. Mr. Wildgoose applied to build the house in 1880.

[2] John Wildgoose was the son of George and Hannah (nee Hall) Wildgoose who had married at Matlock in 1840 (see 1841 census entry). John was baptised in the Wesleyan Circuit, Matlock on 24 Jul 1842 (IGI). John and his family are listed in the 1871 census | in the 1881 census. John had married Sarah Ann Hoare at St. Giles in 1866 and their son was born the following year. He was also listed in Harrod's 1870 Directory (china, glass and earthenware dealer, North Parade) | Kelly's 1876 Directory | Kelly's 1881 Directory (Wildgoose, John & Son) | Kelly's 1887 Directory (Wildgoose John, lodging house & livery stable keeper, Wint House).

[3] "The Derby Mercury", 7 March, 1883. Successful Under 16s.

[4] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 19 Nov, 1888. The article also confirms that he built both Wint House and the Livery Stables.

[5] "The Derby Mercury", 21 April, 1886.

[6] Matlock and Matlock Bath Names in the London Gazette (see 1888). The Gazette of 3 December 1889 announced the Notice of Release of Trustees (Released 28 Nov 1889).

[7] "The Derby Mercury", 6 February, 1889. Marsden's Sale notice. Wint House was "built by the late owner in a model manner". The sale was to be held at the New Bath on 13 Feb, 1889 but did not sell. A report of the sale, published on 20 February, 1889, said that the only properties sold on the day were the Scarthin cottages.

[8] John Caithness Innes is shown there in the 1891 census | Kelly's 1891 Directory. He had moved to Barton Villa on Clifton Road by 1895 :| Kelly's 1895 Directory | Kelly's 1899 Directory.

[9] "The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", 18 May, 1889. Leggoe advertised at being at the Prom Cafe and "Wildgoose Stables". Francis Joseph Donegani advertised in Kelly's 1908 Directory. Also see Donegani family photo.

[10] "The Derby Mercury", 13 May 1896 and 20 Jan 1897. Ragg's interest in football and cricket was mentioned in the 1896 obit and Doreen followed up what he actually provided re the cricket pavilion. See Wills R.

[11] He was a quarry owner who also owned the Cumberland Cavern ("Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 4 July 1900), which passed down through his sister's family. See Wills S and MIs at Holy Trinity.

[12] Fading sign deciphered by Doreen B many years ago.

[13] Elizabeth Smedley and Jeannie Wragg (later Nellie) were shown at at Portland House in the 1901 census. Elizabeth Smedley was also listed there in Kelly's 1908 Directory and her son in law, William Albert Daniels, in Kelly's 1916 Directory. Billy Daniels was also listed as a Private Resident in Kelly's Directories of 1922, 1925 and 1932. In a report on their marriage, published in the "High Peak News" in 1910, Mr. Daniels was described as belonging to "the music hall world of which the bridegroom was so popular a member". He had been a pierrot. He later was in Partnership with Seaton Close (Derwent Printing Works) but their partnership was dissolved in 1923 ("London Gazette").

[14] The Daniels family kept in touch with some locals, who visited them in Brighton (memoirs of the late Frank Clay and the late Lorna Aspey).

[15] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 March 1950.

[16] The road existed long before Clifton Road (and Portland House) were in place, as part of the turnpike through the valley before it was diverted to its present level in about 1819. It can be seen in Matlock Bath : Bath Terrace Hotel, Tariff of Charges, 1891-3.