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Matlock: Willersley Castle, 1928-1939
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Arkwright & His Cotton Mill

Willersley Castle, 1927

Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

Following the Castle's purchase by the Wesley Guild movement from the Arkwright family in 1927, an architect was appointed to make some changes as the property was to be converted into a guest house with accommodation for 100 visitors and would be open all the year round. When the plans were revealed they showed he had taken considerable care to preserve the distinctive features of Willersley[1]. Internally, the Adam fireplaces, mahogany doors and such things as cornices remained. The fireplaces had been advertised in the sale catalogue[2]. An obvious external change was to the exterior with the addition of a new and larger entrance, which is shown on the above post card (compare this with the sale brochure photograph, linked on the right).

The Wesley Guild made their first staff appointments in 1928. The secretary was to be Mr. Frederick Charles Mutton of Derby and Miss Dorothy Taylor, who had previously worked for Boots, became the manageress. They were to marry at the Cromford Wesleyan Church on 4 Dec 1930 and their wedding reception was held at the Castle[3].

Amongst the visitors in the late 1920s was a party of thirty Nottingham young Methodists who discovered that dancing was not allowed at the Castle so they complained to their minister. He was not unsympathetic and wrote to the Wesley Guild secretary suggesting that prohibiting dancing at the property was out of date, and that the embargo ought to be removed. Mr. J. Allen's reply was that the decision rested with the directors of Willersley Castle, and that he personally favoured their decision. This was definitely not the answer the young Methodists had hoped for![4]

Throughout the 1930s the Castle hosted conferences and meetings, including a weekend to celebrate the twelfth biennial of the Derbyshire Branch of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Miss Imogen Holst took some of the classes[5]. In 1934 Willersley was to entertain 30 delegates from 22 countries at the annual conference of the International Youth Hostels Association[6].

The West Front. Date uncertain but possibly 1930s.
The person who sent this card observed that "The grounds are simply
marvellous with hundreds of rabbits running about

There is more
about the castle's sale and purchase by the Wesley Guild and its WW2 use as a Maternity Hospital. It is now The Willersley Castle Hotel.

1. "Willersley Castle, Cromford, Matlock". Chas. Colledge, Smedley Street, Matlock. Posted 4 Oct 1931 in Derby and sent by Jack to his mother, Mrs. J. Du Den, in Jersey.
2. "Willersley Castle, West Front". Photochrom Co Ltd, Tunbridge Wells, Kent No.79287. Posted on 19 Jun 1950 in Matlock.
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 January and 2 February 1928. Willersley's Future.

[2] "A Catalogue of the Contents of the Mansion Willersley Castle, Matlock Bath", Knight Frank & Rutley (1927).

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 4 December 1930.

[4] "ibid.", 21 January 1929.

[5] "Belper News", 5 November 1937. Derbyshire Gathering at Willersley Castle. The group stayed regularly and were last there just before the outbreak of WW2 in May 1939.

[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 8 September 1934.