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Matlock Bath's Glove Factory
People who lived in the Matlocks : Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
Dated 1930, this shows some of the factory's employees. Betty's mother, Annie, is sitting on the left hand side
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South Parade 1910 - the Roads & Boden's Restaurant

South Parade & Heights of Abraham, 1914-18

Pavilion, 1911-20

Pavilion, with the glove factory, 1920s

Matlock Bath's glove factory opened for business in 1917, initially in the Grand Pavilion, and provided welcome employment for some of the local girls. At the outset it employed a dozen young women[1]. It was set up because Matlock Bath UDC had wanted to let part of the Pavilion and George Henry Key, the Council Chairman at the time, agreed to invest; Henry Hetherington, who like Mr. Key was employed at the Via Gellia Colour Company's works in Matlock Dale, was also involved at the beginning[2]. The enterprise became the Spa Glove Company.

Whilst the date on the back of the top photograph seems to be slightly inaccurate (1930) it shows some of the girls at work making gloves. Amongst their number was Annie Ellen Holbrook who was born in 1905; she was one of seven children and lived in Bonsall and /or Matlock Bath. She worked at the glove factory as a teenager although by the time she married in 1936 she was no longer employed in the industry. Annie is pictured sitting behind her sewing machine on the left side at the front, with piles of gloves in front of her[3]. Two Matlock Bath sisters, Florence and Nellie Boden, also worked there for a time[4]; they were the daughters of George Boden who was killed during the First War[5]. Florence later recalled hearing that the Armistice had been signed through the large round first floor window of the glove factory building[4]. Another employee was Muriel Hatton, the great aunt of the web mistress[6].

The person standing behind the workers was the overlooker. Another great aunt of the webmistress, Isabella Downes (later Mrs. Chamberlain), had been employed by the glove factory in that role in 1921.

Panorama of Matlock Bath, with the old glove factory on the right © Betty Atkinson
From the writing on the back of the postcard,
and the image itself, the picture was taken
in the 1920's. Notice the old bicycles and
motor bikes - something still associated with
Matlock Bath.

The glove factory was still in the Pavilion in early 1919, using what had been a skating rink before the war. It was, according to William Bryan of Matlock Bath, providing "healthy, clean and profitable employment to a large number of girls and women of the town and throughout the district at good wages". He added that Matlock Bath received "a large and generous patronage from the Matlock end of the district"[7].

The second image (left), of South Parade with the Heights of Abraham and the Victoria Tower on the hillside above, was taken from Temple Walk at a point roughly opposite the Pavilion. The large building on the right hand side next to the fish pond has the name "BODEN'S" still painted on the roof. The pond itself is hidden behind the trees.

This became the glove factory building; the premises had become available after WW1 as by then the building was no longer used as a restaurant by the Bodens. Gloves were sold from a shop in the front section of the building, next to the road, whilst the gloves were made at the back[6].

For some years the factory advertised in Kelly's Trades Directories, changing its name several times.

1922 Spa Glove Co. glove manufacturers. T A "Gloves, Matlock;" T N 184 Matlock.
1925 Perry & Rodwell glove manufacturers, Corner house. T A "Perry, Matlock;" T N Matlock 116.
Lower down the list was Rodwell, Benjamin glove manufr. see Perry & Rodwell.
Perry, Frank James, Springfield was listed amongst the Private Residents
1928 Perry (Matlock Bath) Ltd. glove mfrs. Corner ho. T A "Perry, Matlock;" TN Matlock 116.
Frank James Perry was still living at Springfield in that year.

It is not clear when the partnership of Perry and Rodwell, who were both Glove Manufacturers and Fancy Goods Dealers, began but it was dissolved on 31st December 1924[8]. After that the Matlock Bath business seems to have been run solely by Frank James Perry. Frank Perry (1874 - 1951) and his wife Jeane Pullinger Perry had come from Yeovil[9] and lived at Springfield on Clifton Road. Perry was the older partner in the firm. Benjamin Hunter Rodwell (1900 - 1967), the other partner, had grown up in Matlock Bath, having moved to the village with his mother and stepfather James Fearn about 1904[10].

On Wednesday 2 January 1929 fire ravaged the building, leaving a roofless shell, although the engine house at the back was saved[11]. It had begun on the top floor about two hours after the staff had left for the night and was not visible from the road for some time. Mr. Wright, who had heard a crack after he emerged from a shop opposite, ran to the Pavilion for help as a Pleasure Grounds meeting was taking place there. One of those present telephoned for the Matlock Fire Brigade who arrived within fifteen minutes but the roof fell in shortly after they arrived. It was described as "the worst fire the Matlocks had experienced for the last fifteen years"[12].

There was some controversy both during and after the fire. The fire brigade was heckled by the onlookers but the crowd was criticised in return. Both Supt. Aves of the local constabulary and Capt. Platts of the fire brigade reported back to Matlock Council. Capt. Platts told them that a crowd of 100 had been around the engine before the police arrived, which was when interference occurred that prevented them from extinguishing the glove factory fire. The Council were told that unions for hydrants at Matlock Bath pavilion were missing; the fire appliances locker at the back of the factory was without a key; it had proved impossible to pump water from the river so the suction pipe was put into the fish pond had been used without a filter and the pipe became blocked with fish. Supt. Aves stated that fish had to be taken out of the suction pipe and dead fish could be seen in the pond several days later. The Fire Brigade had to take shelter in the Fishpond Hotel afterwards, fortunately before closing time[13]. With all of that going on, it is unsurprising the building was gutted.

It was not to be rebuilt and was the first of two major calamities to affect Matlock Bath's trade in 1929. In April, the Royal Hotel was also destroyed[14]. The glove factory returned briefly to the Pavilion, but Mr. Perry later moved it to Chelmsford[6]. It was also a bad year for fires in the district as part of Hollins in the Via Gellia, the makers of Viyella, was badly damaged in March[15] and Arkwright's Cromford Mill was to suffer £10,000 worth of damage in a fire in June[16].

This 1920s image by Photochrom provides a rare view of the engine house at the rear of the former restaurant
building. There are a number of cars on South Parade.

You may also like to view

Matlock Bath: Men's Cricket Team. Ben Rodwell was one of the players.

Edwardian Matlock Bath, a coloured postcard

If one of your relatives worked at the Glove Factory please get in touch (contact link in the page footer)

1. Photograph of workers.
2. "South Parade, Matlock Bath. Peak District". Postcard published by Donlion Productions Ltd., Doncaster. No.28.9.
3. "Matlock Bath. Heights of Abraham". Published by the Photochrom Co. Ltd., London & Tunbridge Wells, No.49095. Sepia Tone Series. All British Manufacture. Unused. A coloured version was also produced.
Images 1 and 2 (the photograph and first postcard) kindly provided by and © Bette Atkinson. Image 3 © Ann Andrews collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

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

[1] See High Peak News : Saturday, September 22, 1917, (scroll down).

[2] Mr. Key is listed in Kelly's 1916: Official Establishments, Local Institutions etc and both he and Mr. Hetherington appear in Kelly's, 1916, Matlock Bath. In 1918 Key was still involved with the glove factory; it was included amongst his commercial interests when he bought "an extensive tract of the Hopton estate" (Derby Daily Telegraph, Aug 1918).

[3] Information from her daughter, Bette Atkinson, who owns the photograph.

[4] Beresford, Charles (2007) "The Bath at War, A Derbyshire Community and the Great War". Country Books/Ashridge Press. ISBN 978 1 901214 91 8

[5] George William Boden's name appears on both Matlock's War Memorial at Pic Tor and Matlock Bath War Memorial

[6] Recollections of the late Frank Clay. Muriel was a seamstress and lived for some years at Belle Vue Cottage with her parents.

[7] "Derbyshire Courier", 5 Apr 1919. A defence of Matlock Bath. William Bryan was robustly responding to press criticism of Matlock Bath from a visitor.

[8] "The London Gazette", 3 Apr 1925.

[9] Frank James Perry was born in West Camel, Somerset, in 1874 and died in the Yeovil District in 1951. He had formerly worked as an Insurance Agent.

[10] Benjamin Hunter Rodwell was born in Chesterton, Cambridge in 1900, the son of James Hunter Rodwell and his wife Vine. He married Paulina Stringfellow at St. Giles in 1923 and died in the Ilkeston in 1967. BHR's stepfather, mother and sister were all buried at Holy Trinity.

[11] Perry lost about £5,000 of goods and stock, including the machines, a large stock of skins and goods awaiting despatch. Perry's cat, reputed to be the best rat catcher in the district, was the only loss of life! The fire also destroyed the fancy goods business of Mr. Worth. Worth lost about £1,000 of stock. (Derby Daily Telegraph, 3 Jan 1929). Also see The Matlocks UDC Fire Brigade, about 1930..

[12] "Derbyshire Times," 5 January, 1929. Matlock's worst fire. Factory and shop gutted. Damage estimated at £5,000.

[13] There were numerous press reports of the fire and its aftermath. The "Derby Daily Telegraph", 15 Jan 1929 itemised some of the problems encountered and both the DDT and the "Sheffield Independent" of 19 Feb 1929 contained information about the reports to the Council.

[14] See The Royal Hotel.

[15] "Sheffield Independent", 20 March 1929.

[16] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal," 21 June 1929.