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Matlock Bath: The Grand Pavilion (Kursaal), 1910-12
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Fish Pond Stables

Fish Pond Stables, Providence Mine & the Mud Heap

Charles White and family

Queen Mary's Visit 1913

Matlock Bath's Glove Factory

Fish Pond and Pavilion

Four postcards from the earliest years of the Grand Pavilion.

Building the Pavilion was an extremely ambitious project for a small Local Council to undertake. At the time it was under the leadership of the then Chairman Mr. Charles White. Permission had been granted when Royal assent had been given to the Bill before Parliament in 1905 and the Matlock Bath Improvement Act was passed[1]. This Act allowed the Urban District Council to compulsorily purchase land and buildings for all the projects it had in mind. One of these plans was for the Council to "erect, furnish and maintain a pump room and to acquire mineral and other waters". There was to be a "public hall and offices, with all necessary buildings and conveniences in connection therewith" and the Bill was "to make provision for the erection, maintenance, furnishing, equipment and removal and the letting of the pump room, baths, and any pavilions, conservatories, waiting, refreshment, concert, assembly or reading rooms, bandstands and other buildings, and to authorize charges to be made for admission thereto, and provide for the application of moneys received thereby[2]". The Bill becoming an Act of Parliament gave the green light for some major changes to the village and the Kursaal was built on land formerly occupied by stables.

There was dispute before it got off the ground[3] and disharmony during the building when one of the two appointed architects, a man named Hodge, was dismissed[4]. In 1909 the Local Government Board held enquiries into the proposed expenditure by the Council as they (the Council) were planning to spend £8,500 on the pump room, pavilion, &c.[5]. In the end it cost about £10,000 to build[6], although other sources point to the furnished building costing £11,000 with the grounds a further £8,000[7]. It had been built by Messrs. Ford and Sons of Derby[7].

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 21 January 1910

The walls of the new Kursaal are rising apace, and there is little doubt of it being completed in the specified time, if not before. It is pleasant to note the diligence with which the workmen pursue their task. They have evidently been selected from the ranks of the unemployed - not the unemployable.

Nevertheless, such a large, elegant building is a credit to the architect(s) and would be the pride of any large city; it is little wonder it became such an iconic symbol for Matlock Bath. The sheer scale of this project outclassed the earlier Pavilion in the woods (the Royal Pavilion, later the Palais Royal), also designed by Nuttall. It was able to provide a much wider range for tourists and residents to do, with the Pump Room, a sprung dance floor (later removed) and the Electric Light Theatre on the first floor.

When it opened in late July 1910 in readiness for the Bank Holiday the building was unfinished. Only two rooms had been completed - the skating rink and the room above for dancing - and the building was still covered in scaffolding. Hardly the best way to attract prospective visitors. Rowlands Silver Prize Band provided the music for the skating rink whilst the orchestra providing the dance music upstairs consisted of a cornet, a violin and a piano[7]. The Council needed the revenue.

At the end of 1910 it was announced that Matlock Bath and Matlock Pavilions Co.. Ltd. had been formed, "with a capital £3,000, to acquire (1) the land and buildings (free from chief rent), the Victoria Hall, Matlock, and (2) a lease on the New Grand Pavilion and Pump Room, Matlock Bath, to erect a skating rink or public recreation hall, theatre, or other similar buildings. Office, 120 Portland Street, Manchester"[8]. By March 1911 the causeway opposite the Kursaal had been widened and re-layed and the gardens had been finished in readiness for the holiday season[9].

The Era, 31 December 1910

The Matlock Bath U. D. Council are prepared to
for the use of PIERROT PAVILION in the
Pleasure Grounds during season 1911.
For further particulars apply
Council Offices, Matlock Bath.

The first caretaker to be appointed was Edward Slater, also known as John Edward Slater or "Ninety", and he and his family lived in the building until 1929[10]. He had previously worked for the Council as both the ferryman and a boatman[11]. The photograph on the right shows him at a family wedding in 1922.

The top image shows the southern side of the Pavilion with the Pump Room closest to the viewer and was probably taken a little later than the other three images. This was in the part of the building just above the female near the lamp post. To her right is a pillar, with a sign advertising the Derwent Gardens attached to it. Unfortunately the rest is of the notice is unreadable.


The second postcard, above, was taken from the bottom of the road leading up to the Royal Hotel and the Temple with the obelisk marking the road junction. The hard landscaping at the rear of the Pavilion, next to the river, was unfinished; there is a pile of stone behind the Pump Room.

1911. The same large boards can be seen outside the building on another postcard
of a similar date - see The Grand Pavilion, 1911-20.

The photograph for third card was taken early the following year. Of interest in this picture are the new trees planted in the area behind the Fish Pond in early April 1911[12] and the pile of stone in the second picture had now been put to good use as a nmber of rockeries had been built. Teas were on offer on the first floor of the Kursaal, above the Pump Room. The three large boards near the main door must have been advertising activities although only the middle one, advertising a Dance, is remotely readable. There is a man standing in the doorway who could be the doorman, or he could have been the caretaker.

Early 1910

The final picture shows the Pavilion whilst it was being built, probably at the beginning of 1910 as it looks to be near completion and is probably the oldest photograph of the structure. The remains of a snowfall can be seen around the building and snow is clinging to the rocks on the hillside behind it. The piles of building materials on the right and behind the empty building (also shown on the second image, above) indicate that some landscaping is about to be done but the carriageways and paths around the Pavilion don't appear to be finished if they are compared with image 3. The lighting on top of the wall where the bus stop was to be, and where seating was later provided, was also not fitted and the fish pond had yet to be constructed. This is a rare card.

Matlock Bath was a spa, and Kursaals were meeting places for visitors to use in German spa towns. Calling the building a Kursaal followed a trend at the time as several other British resorts had Kursaals. It also distinguished it from the Pavilion belonging to the Royal Hotel. The Grand Pavilion was a Kursaal in more ways than one as it became the place where many young locals met the person they married.

Grand Pavilion
(The Kursaal) 1915

Pavilion and Spar Shop

Grand Pavilion,

Grand Pavilion 1920s

The Ballroom, before 1928

Grand Pavilion, 1930s

Pavilion, 1938

Industrial Exhibition 1946

Musical Festival 1961

1. "Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath". The Cromwell Series, pub W S F, Derby, No.581. Posted 17 Aug 1912 in Matlock Bath.
2. Photo of Edward Slater, dated 24 Dec 1922, © Gill Blanden collection.
3. "The Kursaal, Matlock Bath", pub Goodall, No.SH 1886. Posted 11 Oct 1912 in Dublin. Goodall was a stationer in Crown Square - see, for example, Kelly's 1908 Directory
4. "Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath". Valentine Series, No number (not all Valentine's cards were). Unposted.
All the above in the collection of provided by and © Ken Smith collection.
5. "Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath". Published by Jackson & Son. Unposted. © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links lead to more on site information):

[1] "The Times", 3 Jun 1905. Listed under the House of Lords Private Business on House of Lords, Friday 2 June. Matlock Bath Improvement Bill read for the third time and passed. It then had to receive Royal Assent.

[2] 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.

[3] See: Fish Pond Stables, Providence Mine & the Mud Heap

[4] "The Times", 7 Dec, 1910. Case heard by the Court of Appeal by the Master of the Rolls. Hodge and John Nuttall were appointed architects for the erection of a kursaal in Matlock Bath. Hodge had prepared plans, but was dismissed before the building was completed. He then decided to take Matlock and Scarthin Nick UDC, together with John Nuttall, to court over money he was owed and the case first went before Derby Assizes.

[5] "ibid", 27 Jan 1909. The Local Government Board investigated various public bodies, not just Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Urban District Council. Scheduled for 4 Feb 1909.

[6] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1912".

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 1 Aug 1910. Also "Belper News", 12 August 1910.

[8] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 2 Dec 1910. Matlock Bath and Matlock Pavilions Co. Ltd.

[9] "ibid.", 10 March 1911.

[10] Information from the 1911 census, available on FindMyPast. The address given was the "Grand Pavilion Matlock Bath" and the family occupied 7 rooms. Mr. Slater's age was wrongly recorded in this census, as he was said to be 50. He was actually 46 or 47.

[11] More about Edward Slater can be found in the 1881 census | the 1891 census | the 1901 census.
He was working as the Ferryman in 1901 - see Boating on the River Derwent, 1914 and his tragic death is mentioned on Fish Pond Stables, Providence Mine & the Mud Heap.

[12] "Derbyshire Times", 8 April 1911. The grounds were being laid out and a "choice selection of trees has been obtained".