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Matlock Bath: Floral Fête on the Promenade, 1908
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Celebrations on the Promenade, 1908
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Promenade and Gardens, before 1904

shows the same stage

Illuminations & Venetian Fête in the 1950's

Decorated boats

Elkes Girl Pipers played at a Floral Fete in 1937

Posted from Matlock Bath on the 19th of August 1908, this rare image is particularly interesting as the subject is a fête that is taking place at the station end of the Promenade gardens. Everyone was smartly dressed in their best clothes, with the young boys in suits and caps. There seems to be a distinct party atmosphere and some of the crowd (middle left) are dancing whilst several small boys in the centre foreground are carefully watching a couple of men, possibly performing magic tricks.

This is a photograph of the first floral fête to be held in Matlock Bath, which took place on Saturday 4th July 1908. It was described in the local press as a novel carnival and battle of the flowers. A 12 hour programme to entertain the many thousands of visitors included "gaily decorated promenades, decorated boats in competition, land designs in flowers, band concerts and other entertainments". The proceeds were in aid of the Improvements Association and the fête was designed to promote Matlock Bath as a health resort. A large sum of money was raised[1].

The Venetian Fête also utilised both the Promenade gardens and the Lovers' Walks at that time. Ray Ash, whose picture this is, points out that the overhead wires or strings carry only floral displays, not lights. From the descriptions of various Fêtes at the beginning of the twentieth century we know that the Lovers' Walks and the band kiosk were illuminated, as was the bridge on occasion, but this particular part of the Prom was not mentioned as being lit.

The large public shelter in the centre of the picture had been built in early 1908 and it was planned to be finished before Easter. Unfortunately, a local council employee called Mr. W. Frost was injured when he fell from the scaffolding whilst it was being erected[2]. Questions about the cost arose at a meeting in April 1908 for the local elections, but that does not seem to have been a major issue[3].

part of the main photo
Enlargement of the left hand side of the Floral Fête photograph

There is at least one man in pierrot costume amongst the dancers. Apart from white trousers, he is wearing the distinctive hat of a pierrot and has a bobble on his sleeve. Dancing was a regular occurrence at this end of the Prom. In August 1906, for example, Mr William Jaffrey reported to the Urban District Council that the receipts for admission to the Promenade grounds, boating, dancing, pierrots and ferries, up to that day amounted to £785 9s 4d, which the meeting considered highly satisfactory[4]. The pierrot photographed here could have been a member of Mr. A. E. Faulkner's troupe who were engaged for the season in 1908[5]. Mr. James Wood's band was also hired and would have played in the bandstand on the other side of the river[5]. There is both a small stage, where the pierrots performed, and what seems to be a temporary shelter eclipsing the view of the Midland Hotel. The crowd could be waiting for a concert or a pierrot performance. Whilst we can't see into the temporary building it perhaps housed flower arrangements.

part of the main photo
Enlargement of the right hand side of the photograph

Postcard publisher unknown and the pencilled message on the back (to Kingstown, Ireland) is merely of the 'having good weather, how are you?' type.
Postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ray Ash.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 6 July 1908. Floral Fête at Matlock Bath.
[2] "Belper News", 13 March 1908.
[3] "Belper News", 10 April 1908.
[4] "Derbyshire Times", 18 August 1906. Meeting of Matlock Bath UDC.
[5] "Belper News", 22 May 1908. Matlock UDC's monthly meeting.