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Matlock Bath: The Royal Pavilion - the Palais Royal
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A delightful late nineteenth century drawing, produced by a company at 69 Southwark Bridge Road, London,
probably by J. Newman & Co.
It was published in "Famous Derbyshire Health Resorts. The Matlocks, about 1892".
A smaller version can be seen in Part 2 of the booklet. For more on the Matlocks also see part 1.
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The Pavilion on the Hillside, mid 1880s

Views from the terrace of the Royal Pavilion, 1890

Romantic Rocks

Royal Hotel & Baths

1892 Booklet, part 2

Temple Hotel

"The Pavilion, opened in July, 1884, consists of a central concert hall and assembly rooms, two promenade annexes, a refreshment saloon, and a reading room. It has been so arranged, by the entire front to the height of twelve feet being made of clear plate glass, that those beneath its roof may enjoy uninterrupted views of the surrounding scenery[1]".

Matlock Bath Pavilion and Gardens Company was formed in 1882 for the purpose of improving and developing the natural advantages of the village as a health and pleasure resort. It had a fixed £12,000 capital in £1 shares and with Mr. Peters of Guilderoy as its Chairman[2]. The company had bought part of the estate of the late Walter M. S. Evans of the Temple Hotel, purchased from his kinsman John Evans[3], buying the Romantic Rocks and 13 acres of land. Although the Romantic Rocks were leased to Mr. William Smedley at the time, his lease was due to expire the following year. Additional land came from Mr. John Boden, who was willing to give up a strip of land called the Beet, and Mr. Anthony Boden who sold the company his cottages at Stonnis[4]. Agreement had been reached with Messrs. Ogden and Smedley, too, for the purchase of the Owlet Mine, together with the mineral rights; it contained a spring to provide a constant water for pools, fountains etc.[3].

In July 1882 a ceremony to "Turn the First Sod" was held on the land with The Matlock Volunteer Band, who were there by kind permission of Captain Arkwright, entertaining the guests[5]. The ceremony was performed by Mrs. Peters who was presented with an engraved silver spade which had an ebony handle and was believed to have cost £28. The Derby arms were on one side and the Peters' family crest was on the reverse. The spade's blade was inscribed with the words: "Presented to Mrs. Peters of Guilderoy, by the directors of the Matlock Bath Pavilion and Gardens Company (Limited) on the occasion of turning the first sod, July 14th 1882". After the ceremony lunch was provided in a marquee[3].

Enlargement of part of a postcard, elsewhere on the site as a sepia image, that was posted in 1914.
Behind the Palais Royal are fields below Upper Wood, some of which were later quarried.

The foundation stone was laid in May the following year on a day when the weather was described as "inclement", with snow on the surrounding hills and a "nippy" wind. Nevertheless a large number of people attended the ceremony. Visitors arrived at noon by a special train from Derby; the passengers included the Mayor of Derby and numerous Aldermen. The Mayor, Sir Abraham Woodiwiss, J.P., laid the foundation stone using an engraved silver trowel that he was presented with; it was especially made for the ceremony. A receptacle containing newspapers and coins was placed underneath the stone. At the conclusion of the ceremony it unfortunately began to rain and people rapidly dispersed. There was afternoon and evening entertainment at the Royal Hotel; a champagne luncheon, with an evening dance and firework display meant the bad weather was soon forgotten[2].

The architect was John Nuttall of Matlock Bridge and Mr. Edward Speed, brother of the landscape gardener Mr. Speed of Chatsworth[6], laid out the grounds which had been planned by Mr. F. Smith of Manchester[7]. This ambitious project spread across sixteen acres of the hillside[8]. The two broad drives, one from Clifton Road just below where the web mistress lived as a child and the other from Temple Road, were constructed by Mr. W. B. Askew of Matlock and cost £1060. The contractors chosen to build the Pavilion were Messrs. Chadwick and Co. of Rotherham. The central hall was to be 80ft by 65ft and it was proposed to hold promenade concerts and other entertainments in the building. It was to be 228ft long and have reading rooms and other conveniences. The design incorporated "a handsome dome" and there was to be a broad promenade in front, from which four flights of steps descended to the gardens[2].


The Old Pavilion, Matlock Bath
This photograph, from Ward Lock's Guide, was taken on the hillside above the Pavilion, so
shows the top and rear of the building. The views were of the Heights of Abraham, High Tor and
the Lovers' Walks.

Matlock Bath's new pavilion was opened by Lord Edward Cavendish on 2 July 1884; he arrived on the 2.15 p.m. train from Derby with his wife. They were greeted at the station by Mr. Peters and others, before joining a procession of carriages which took them up to the Pavilion. The Company's Chairman, Mr. Peters, said that tens of thousands of soil and rock had been removed to complete the project, and in 1883 the terraces had been raised. Its concert hall was said to accommodate 1,000 people. Somewhere in the grounds was a tennis court and behind the pavilion building were large rocks to hold back the hillside. Another lunch at the Royal Hotel followed the grand opening and in his speech Lord Edward Cavendish expressed the hope that the undertaking would be as successful as the Buxton Garden Company was. Captain F. C. Arkwright hoped that the opening of the pavilion and its gardens would bring a new era of prosperity to the town[7].

In 1887 G. J. Rowland was the Company secretary[9]. The company was wound up in 1889 and most shareholders lost their investment. The Pavilion then became privately owned[10]. It was bought by a Mr. A. E. Williams of Birkenhead and the following year he sold it on to a Mr. S. R. Emerson of Hull. Frederick Downes was the manager in the 1890s[11].

Local shows, such as those of the Floral and Horticultural Society, became annual events at the Pavilion and dances took place in the building. Madame Patey performed here in 1885 and Otto Bernhardt's Band was engaged for the season. Doyley Carte's "Yeomen of the Guard" was performed for two days in 1899 and the following day the Company staged "The Mikado". In 1891 the "celebrated" Pavilion band were scheduled to give daily concerts. Terence Ramsdale's Pantomime Company's production of the "Babes in the Wood" pantomime was staged in 1893 (Ramsdale was the son in law of William Bryan), though they were fined for performing during Lent in 1896, contrary to the terms of the licence. A single performance of "Trilby" was also given in 1896, followed by "The Magistrate" later in the year. In 1903 La Comedie Anglaise Company performed the two act farce "Naughty Nancy". These are just a small sample of a long list of performers who came and performances that took place here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In 1903 various entry tickets were available, ranging from a single ticket of 6d (sixpence) or 2/- (2 shillings or two "bob") to a season ticket for a family of 15/-[1]. Visitors to Gulliver's Kingdom, the theme park that today occupies the site, have to pay rather more and today's visitors enjoy something very different from the Victorians ideas of entertainment. There is now only one entrance as the Clifton Road entrance has been sealed off.

The view looking down on the Palais Royal and its grounds, the Royal Hotel and Matlock Bath's
Parish Church. The striking limestone escarpment is Cat Tor.

The Pavilion and its gardens had a relatively short commercial life. The passing of the Matlock Bath Improvement Act in 1905[12] was almost the death knell of the Old Pavilion. Shortly beforehand the Royal Hotel Hydro syndicate acquired it[13], and at Easter it was closed, so for the first time in twenty years there was no dancing at the Pavilion[15]. The hotel had not bought a profitable business as there were signs beforehand that the Pavilion was not meeting its bills[16]. According to Mr. Buttgen, the hotel's manager, it had been purchased for the sole purpose of keeping day trippers away from the hotel - and in 1909 the local politician Charles White claimed at a meeting of the Local Board that hundreds and thousands of excursionists had been deprived of somewhere to go. There had been a decrease in the number of large parties of excursionists. Yet it was White who had pushed so hard for a second Pavilion (the Grand Pavilion) and must have seen the writing on the wall for the Royal Pavilion. Andreas Buttgen stated there wasn't the remotest chance of the Royal Hotel re-opening the old Pavilion and it would not compete against the new one[13].

Nevertheless, on 23 December 1909 an event described as "one of the most important Unionist demonstrations of the district" was held in a crowded Royal Hotel Pavilion. "Much care had been expended in the arrangements, the lines of bunting having a very good effect under the lofty glass roof"[14]. There were several Unionist gatherings, some followed by whist drives and dancing, "by kind permission of the directors and manager of the Royal Hotel and Baths Co., Ltd." that were held at the Royal Pavilion before the First War.

The view of Matlock Bath from the Pavilion Gardens, about 1900-05.
There are other views from the terrace of the Royal Pavilion, taken about 1890.

Two hundred soldiers from the Army Services Corps were billeted in the old Pavilion in 1915[17]. Post war the grounds and building were used once more. The owner of the Royal Hotel, Mrs. Sarah Louisa McArthur (formerly Hocker), re-opened it in 1922 and re-named it as the Palais Royal in time for the 1923 season[18]. In 1923 a garden fete to promote the League of Nations was held in the Palais Royal's grounds. The venue had to change from Willersley because of the sudden death of Frederic Arkwright and the event was not as well supported as expected[19]. In 1924 some of Matlock Bath's second Musical Festival was held in the Palais Royal[20]. In the summer of 1926 The Palais Royal was advertised for sale. It could hold 1,000 people, had a concert stage, ballroom and restaurant, was fully furnished and was set in 20 acres. It also had "gorgeous views"[21]. Nevertheless it was still in use in 1929[22], despite the sad ending to the Royal Hotel. It was taken over by the War Ministry and last used by the Army Catering Corps who were based here During World War Two. During that time "most of the glass was replaced by asbestos"!

It is such a shame that nobody wanted it afterwards, after all the effort and high expectations of those who had formed the original company. The stone, glass and iron building gradually fell into disrepair. The American soldiers' drawings were still there after the war and the wooden floor proved to be perfect for local children to roller skate on. It had been "a most beautiful dance floor". By the 1950s some of the remaining plate glass was broken and several floorboards were missing, although the building remained dry inside so the roof was clearly still in good repair. In the grounds, slightly higher up the hill, quarrying was taking place and large lorries carrying stone rumbled and clattered their way down the driveways. You could hear them coming from some distance away!

The trees and shrubs planted by Mr. Speed were by then fully mature and even today help to screen the theme park that is there today from the village - more successfully in the summer than in the winter months.

The building was demolished in the 1960s. One can only wonder how the demolition team dealt with the asbestos, although then it was not the cause for concern that it is today. Cyril White, whose home was next to the Pavilion's boundary, noted that " the timbering was almost as good as when it was erected". A theme park, Gulliver's Kingdom, now occupies the site.

Read a poem about the first sod being laid at the Royal Pavilion on Matlock and Matlock Bath: Inspiration of Poets.


The Royal Pavilion (Palais Royal) can be seen on several postcards and photos.
Below is a selection of what is elsewhere on the web site.

Ward Lock Guide

More images from the Ward Lock Guide, 1903

Lover's Walk and the Ferry House, 1903

The Promenade, 1902

Mr. Buxton's Royal Museum & the Great Petrifying Well

1. "The Pavilion, Matlock Bath. Enlargement from a booklet in the collection of and provided by and © and Jo Fenwick.
2. Detail from "Matlock Bath, Royal Hotel", no publisher. Posted in 1914.
3. Photograph, by Valentine & Sons Ltd., Dundee, from Ward Lock & Co's "Guide to Matlock, Dovedale, Etc.", Illustrated Guide Books of England and Wales (Guide Series 1903-4), p.9
4. "Matlock Bath from Abraham's Heights". Published by JWS [J. Welch & Sons, Portsmouth], No.2262. Posted 30 Aug 1904 at Matlock Bridge and sent to Catford. The sender was staying at Rockside.
5. "Matlock Bath from Pavilion Gardens". JWS [J. Welch & Sons, Portsmouth] No.2264. Posted on 24 July 1905 in Matlock Bath. Private message
Images 2 - 5 in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References - coloured links go to on-site transcripts or information:

[1] Quote from the Ward Lock guide, p.10.

[2] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, May 9, 1883.

[3] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, July 19, 1882. New Pavilion and Gardens at Matlock Bath.

[4] Properties at Stonnis Wood in Matlock Bath can be found in the 1851 census. They are mentioned in Holmes Hand Book, 1866 (look in the Romantic Rocks, or Dungeon Tors section). William Smedley also gave his address at Stonnis in Kelly's 1876 Directory.

[5] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, July 12, 1882.

[6] Mr. Speed later became the licensee of the old Vaults. In 1887 he was the Surveyor, Inspector of Nuisances & Collector for Matlock Bath & Scarthin Nick Local Board (Kelly's 1887 Directory). Edward Speed and his family can be found in Matlock Bath the 1891 census. He is also listed twice in Kelly's 1891 Directory | Kelly's 1895 Directory. His widow Elizabeth is listed in Kelly's 1899 Directory and the 1901 census.

[7] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, July 30, 1884. Opening of the New Pavilion at Matlock Bath.

[8] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.

[9] Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1887. Mr. Rowland was the headmaster of Matlock Bath School.
[10] See Extracts from the London Gazette 2 April 1889. It was then transferred to the Leeds Provincial Land Society, in lieu of the mortgage and overdue interest ("Derby Mercury", 20 March 1889. The two subsequent owners were named in, amongst other newspapers, "Derbyshire Times", 1 March 1890.

[11] Mr. Downes can be found in Kelly's 1891 Directory | Kelly's 1895 Directory | Kelly's 1899 Directory and the 1901 census.

[12] The Royal Assent was given to the Bill and the Matlock Bath Improvement Act became law on 4 August, 1905. Quote from the London Gazette. It was announced that the Pavilion had been bought in the April ("Derbyshire Times", 22 April 1905).

[13] "Belper News",12 February 1909. Matlock Bath Chairman looks back. At the meeting of the Local Board Charles White stated that during six months up to September 1908 70,000 people had paid for admission onto the promenade but there were virtually no attractions apart from the band and, for a short time, a few pierrots. Mr. John William Boden said the closing of the old pavilion was a great blow to the town.

[14] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 1 January 1910.

[15] "Derbyshire Times", 22 April 1905. Mrs. Whittaker took Mr. Downes to court for non-payment of the aerated water she had supplied.

[16] "Derbyshire Times", 6 December 1902

[17] See Matlock & Matlock Bath Newspaper Cuttings, Jul 1914 - Nov 1918. Two reports from 1915.

[18] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 17 June 1922.

[19] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 September 1923.

[20] "Derbyshire Times", 20 September 1924.

[21] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 25 June 1926.

[22] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 6 May 1929. 1000 take Part in Matlock Bath Contests.