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Matlock Bath: The Royal Museum Petrifying Well
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The Royal Museum

Venetian Nights,
the decorated boats

Nineteenth century stereo
(Great Petrifying Well)

Photograph of Museum Parade & The Pitchings, 1910

View from Cat Tor 1892

A few yards further down the road from the Great Petrifying Well was another petrifaction premises. This was the Royal Museum Petrifying Well was and run by the Smith family of Matlock Bath for many years[1]. They also had a Spar and Marble Works and a shop opposite the well, which sold items made from Blue John and other local stone. The admission charge to their Petrifying Well was, for quite a while, 'One Penny'. A 1941 trade directory advertisement read: SMITH WILLIAM, specialist worker in Blue John & spar ; sole proprietor of the famous petrifying wells, Royal Museum, South parade[2]. Below is a 1930s advertisement for Smith's Royal Museum and the Petrifying Well.

The petrifying wells were swept away when the road was widened, something that had been discussed as early as 1931 but didn't actually happen until the 1960s[3].

Advert for Smith
1930's advertisement

1968 advertisement. The Petrifying Wells were now run by Arthur Smith.
This was to be one of the last advertisements.

A number of clues help to date the card and its enlargement below, which is believed to date from the 1930s. Firstly, the building on the corner of North Parade at the foot of the Pitchings (no. 1 North Parade) was rebuilt about 1923 and the shop on its right had the name Reeds on the awning[re]. Secondly, the car on the left has the registration JE 2281. This tells us that it was a Durham Registration number (first registered in 1922) and the style of plate was only issued up until the mid 1930s. Thirdly, Herbert Buxton's Museum, on the extreme right of the left hand image, was selling ice-cream and was a cafe by this time[bu].

A weighing machine was in a niche in the iron railings of the petrifying well's garden next door. The well itself was set back slightly from the road, behind the railings, and its building/s went to the edge of the river bank.

South Parade, 1930s
Smith's well was between the large garage building
and what had been Herbert Buxton's Museum.

You may like to view more onsite information:
Gem of the Peak (1840) - read the section on "What to do in 1840" as there is more information about petrifying wells (scroll down).
There is also more information about the process in the FAQs section.
Bemroses' Guide to Matlock ... , about 1869, p.16
Also see the transcript of Croston's "On Foot Through the Peak". Chapter 14 provides an interesting description of the petrification process (paras 5, 6 and 7)
Matlock Bath's Main Attractions
Read a poem about a Fenland market town's request for unusual items to be petrified in 1902.
Royal Visitors

1. "The Royal Museum Petrifying Well, Matlock Bath". H. Coates, Wisbech, Nene Series, Not posted but brief description written in pencil on back, dated August 6th 1951.
2. Advertisement for Smith's Royal Museum from "The Matlocks, Derbyshire. Official Guide" Issued by the Come to Derbyshire Association, published 1930s.
3. 1968 advertisement from the Illuminations & Venetian Nights programme for that year.
4. [a and b] "The Heights of Abraham and South Parade, Matlock". Published by H. Coates, Wisbech, Nene Series. No.4695. Unused.
All images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Research provided by 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] The first Trades Directory entry found for a member of the Smith family advertising as a spar and marble worker is in Kelly's Directory of 1864 (Smith Samuel, spar and marble worker).

[2] Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1941.

[3] Derby Daily Telegraph, 8 December, 1931: "the scheme, which includes the demolition of the famous petrifying wells, for which new sites are to be arranged".

[re] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 15 October 1920. Legal Notice. The partnership between Peter Reeds and Joseph Arthur Reeds, Bakers, Confectioners and Grocers, South Parade dissolved. JAR was to carry on business. They had been at No.1 North Parade. Peter died in 1923 and his son passed away in 1930.

[bu] Harold Buxton built a Cottage on Orchard Road in 1924 and retired from business. He passed away in June 1939.