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Matlock Bath: The Key family of Matlock Bath, Cromford & Matlock, 1921
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High Tor and the Colour Works

Matlock Bath Today (4)

Matlock Bath Glove Factory

This family group shows the children of George Henry Key and his wife Sarah Elizabeth, nee Hodgkinson, who were married at Heage on 24 Oct 1893. Their two eldest daughters were born at Heage whereas the other children were born in Matlock Bath. Their ages here ranged from 6 years to 25 years. The family lived first at 3 Midland Terrace on Dale Road[1], which was close to the Via Gellia Colour Company's works under High Tor where Mr. Key first worked as its manager. They then moved to Green Bank on Holme Road[2] before settling at Oak Hill in Cromford in late 1918[3].

Standing left to right:
John Clifford Key (aged 10), Olive Evelyn (23), George Vernon (21), Stanley (18).

Seated left to right:
Betty Key* (8), Elsie Annie (25), Geoffrey (6).
*This was the name she used, although official records show she was Winifred Lucy Key.

Their signatures on the back of the frame:

Mother's Birthday May 8th 1921

Elsie A. Key
Olive E. Key
G. Vernon Key
Stanley Key
J. Clifford Key
Betty Key
Geoffrey Key

Photographer's name on the back of the picture:

Their father was a very successful businessman who also served on a number of bodies. He was elected to Matlock Bath Urban District Council in 1913 and became its vice chairman[4] and then the chairman[5]. He was appointed as a magistrate in 1917 and became Chairman of the Matlock Bench, a role he retained until 1950 when he had to retire because of his age[6].

In 1918 Mr. Key purchased an extensive tract of the Hopton estate, between Matlock Bath and Wirksworth. It meant "a considerable extension in the working of minerals in a locality that ranks as one of the most prolific in the county". His other interests included the Via Gellia Colour Company Works and the Golconda Lead Mine as well as a coal business and the glove factory in Matlock Bath[7]. When he died in 1958 he was described as an extensive landowner and prominent industrialist. At his funeral were representatives of the works which Mr Key was the head - the Via Gellia Colour Company, Cromford Colour Company and the Hopton Mining Company. Many attended his funeral including representatives of a number of firms and organisations that he had dealings with over the years[8].

The eldest son, George Vernon (1900-21) was the assistant manager of the Golconda mine in 1921, having served his country towards the end of the First War[9]. He had joined up on leaving school, initially as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service, but had an accident while flying in France as he was completing his training. He then transferred to the Army[10]. Rather poignantly, this was possibly the last family photograph Vernon appeared in as this seemingly fit young man passed away at the Nightingale Nursing Home in Derby following an operation for appendicitis in August 1921[11]. He was buried at St. Mark's, Cromford.

Ten years later Stanley (1902-94) was also rushed to hospital with appendicitis[12], which must have alarmed his family. He was already married by this time, and was secretary to the Golconda Mine[13]. He returned to Matlock Bath, living at Lyndhurst on Clifton Road, before moving to Matlock in 1950/1[14]. The Cromford (Key) Estates Co., a privately owned company, was formed in 1943 to ensure the continued ownership of Mr. Key. The estates included Cromford Meadows, said at the time to be one of the finest recreational sites in the county. Stanley was his father's co-director[15]. In late 1951 he was appointed one of 36 new Derbyshire magistrates[16].

The Keys eldest daughter, Elsie Annie (1896-1968), attended Lady Manners School as a Day Scholar between 1908 - 1912, having previously been educated at Matlock Bath C of E School[17]. It is quite probable that the other children also went to Matlock Bath School for their primary education. Elsie married Frank Swann in 1926.

Olive Evelyn (1898-1985), their second daughter, was educated at Herbert Strutt Secondary School, starting there in 1913. She left after 2 years, in December 1915[17]. She married William Stanley Aulton of Holloway in 1924; her husband was the managing director of Cromford Motor Company at the time[18]. Both young women were accomplished singers and performed at a number of concerts in the district; Elsie sang soprano parts whereas Olive was a contralto.

John Clifford (1910-1997), known as Clifford, became the managing director of the Cromford Colour Company. In 1937 he married Rosemary Goodwin, daughter of Stuart (later Sir Stuart) C. Goodwin - a wealthy Sheffield industrialist - and they lived at The Rocks in Matlock Dale for some time[19]. Clifford was appointed a director G. Beaton & Son Ltd., a London firm of motor-body fittings manufacturers and general engineers, in 1954[20]. He moved to Rowsley with his family about 1958[21].

Geoffrey (1915-1971) was George and Elizabeth's youngest child and was educated at Repton School[22]. By the time of his marriage in 1940 he was assistant manager of Messrs Cox Brothers and Co Ltd, leadworks of Derby although he was then serving with the R.A.S.C.[23]. He was a Lieutenant in the North African force[24].

Betty (1912-1993) was the only one of the family to move away from the Matlock area after her marriage. In 1938 she married to Dr Henry Lloyd Beckitt of Alvaston, who had been a house surgeon at the Derby Royal Infirmary but had taken over the Alvaston practice in 1936[bet].

Finally, approximately 18 months before Geoffrey's death a new company, Via Gellia Investments Limited of The Dale Matlock, was created. "Secretary John S Aulton. Nominal capital: £1000 in £1 shares. Directors : Stanley Key The Home Cl., Matlock Derbys; John C Key East Lodge Rowsley Matlock Derbys; Geoffrey Key"[26].

Photographer W. Winter of Derby. Image in the collection of, provided by and © Grenville Smith.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews and Grenville Smith.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to information elsewhere on this website):

[1] Three members of the family were living at 3 Midland Terrace in the 1901 census. The two eldest daughters were then staying with relatives. Elsie Annie was with her aunt and uncle, William (a farmer) and Edna Beighton, in Heage. Olive staying with her grandmother Annie Hodgkinson (a farmer), also in Heage. Their father was first shown in a Matlock Bath trade directory in Kelly's Directory 1899.

[2] George Henry Key was listed at Green Bank in Kelly's Directory 1908 | Kelly's Directory 1912 | Kelly's Directory 1916 |

[3] Oak Hill had been the home of Mrs. James Arkwright. The sale of her household effects was advertised in the "Derbyshire Times", 11 May 1918. George Vernon Key's WW1 Army records show the family were probably still at Green Bank when he transferred to the Army (the Inns of Court O.T.C.) on 14 Oct 1918 but on his demobilisation in late June 1919 they were at Oak Hill.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 April 1913. The chairman had been Mr. C. F. White, who was to retire. After some bad tempered exchanges, Mr. Lennox became chairman and Mr. Key the Vice Chairman.

[5] George Henry Key was Chairman of Matlock Bath Urban District Council - Kelly's Directory 1916 (see Matlock Bath section)

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 2 June 1950.

[7] "Railway News", 14 September 1918. Trade Notes. Development in Derbyshire.

[8] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 21 May 1958.

[9] "Derbyshire Courier", 27 August 1921. Mr. Vernon Key. Cromford Mourns Death of Young Ex-Airman. The funeral Mr. Vernon Key, son of Mr. G. H. Key, J.P., and of Mrs. Key, of Oak hill, Cromford, took place in the family vault in Cromford churchyard. Also reported in the "Derbyshire Times", 27 August 1921.

[10] "Derbyshire Times", 2 March 1918 and WO 363 - First World War Service Records 'Burnt Documents' held at TNA.

[11] "ibid.", 23 July 1921. Mr. Key, Junr. ill. Vernon Key was rushed into hospital.

[12] "ibid.", 12 December 1931.

[13] "ibid.", 29 June 1929.

[14] From Kelly's Directory, 1932 and 1941 as well as the 1939 register, when his occupation was shown as Baryts Manufacturer.

[15] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 24 April 1943.

[16] "ibid.", 7 November 1951.

[17] National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914.

[18] "Derbyshire Times", 30 August 1924.

[19] Information from three sources: "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 July 1937. [Managing Director Married. Sheffield bride for Cromford Man]. Also the 1939 Register on FindMyPast; and Kelly's 1941 Directory.

[20] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 May 1954.

[21] "ibid.", 4 October 1958. The Rocks was advertised for sale by Marchant Brooks - with vacant possession.

[22] "ibid.", 31 December 1938. [Engagement announcement].

[23] "ibid.", 8 July 1940.

[24] "ibid.", 25 March 1943. He had been a Paint Works Assistant Manager in 1939.

[25] "ibid.", 15 June 1938.

[26] "Nottingham Guardian", 6 June 1970.