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Listed Building record MDR11380 - Former Rockside Hydro site, Wellington Street, Matlock Town

Type and Period (2)

  • (Victorian to Early 20th Century - 1862 AD to 1930 AD)
  • (Victorian to Early 20th Century - 1862 AD to 1930 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Rockside Hydropathic Establishment was opened in 1862 by Charles Rowland. Built on a steep hill slope, the main four-storeyed stone block faced south, with a veranda communicating with a low projecting wing at the front and a short central service wing and a longer three-storeyed stuccoed brick residential wing, the Cavendish Wing, to the rear. Accommodation included specialised baths for hydrotherapy treatment, a ballroom and a dinging room. The hydro was substantially extended in 1903-4, to designs by Parker and Unwin, the additions consisting of two bath house blocks to the north of the main block and a five-storeyed tower block to the east containing a large lounge, a recreation room and ballroom, 37 bedrooms, cloakrooms, lavatories and a lift. The architects designed the furniture and fittings, incorporating heart and leaf shapes which also feature in the iron balustrades and pierced panelling of the main staircase. A two-storeyed conservatory was built against the north-east entrance to the tower by 1919. A two-storeyed addition built in 1923 against the west wall of the tower provided a lunge, later converted to a theatre, at the lower level, and a new top-lit dinging room above. Earlier buildings on Cavendish Road, at the rear of the site, were incorporated into a rendered three-storeyed block in 1928 which provided additional residential accommodation on its upper floors. (1) An enamelled advertisement from the Rockside Hydro was found sawn in half and used as a fence in the garden of a cottage in Hackney. It was transferred to the Museum Service in 1986, who planned to clean it, treat the rust and put it in a display frame. It reads 'ROCKSIDE HYDRO / FULL MODE[RN] SUITE OF / TURKISH, RUSSIAN [ ] ELECTRIC BATHS / AIX & VICHY DO[ ]S. MASSAGE / GRAND LOUNGE [ ] BALL ROOM'. In one corner of the sign is 'OPEN / TO / NON-RESIDENTS', and in the other corner 'ELECTRIC / LIGHT & LIFT / THROUGHOUT'. (2) Rockside Hall (may not be same site) identified as 1903-1920 Arts and Crafts or Art Nouveau building in Derbyshire. (3) Built originally as the Rockside Hydropathic Establishment in 1862, this impressive building was one of more than a dozen hydros which earned the Matlocks the title of the 'Switzerland of England', in the latter half of the 19th century, when 'taking to the waters' was as popular with visitors as with invalids. The early Rockside (four-storey west wing) was greatly expanded in 1903 and 1923. During the World War I it became an army hospital and served as a RAF hospital during World War II. Combining the therapeutic facilities for the 'water cure' with the modern accommodation and social facilities of a hotel, it became more successful than ever. The 1903 and 1904 expansion was carried out to designs by Parker and Unwin. The main entrance, through a magnificently opulent, curvilinear conservatory, added in 1923, is a prime example of late English Art Nouveau. The imposing stone staircase flanked by continuous stone columns and stepped windows retains its original wrought iron balustrade with a typical 'heart' motif. After World War II, Rockside never re-opened and was purchased in 1946 by DCC for conversion into a teacher training college. (4) In 1870, the ordinal Hydropathic Establishment at Matlock Bank (unclear if this is Rockside Hydro) belonged to Mr and Mrs Smedley (who had a hydro in Matlock known as 'Smedley's Hydro'), where they offered advice on 'practical hydropathy' as a cure for most medical ailments through 'supplying vitality' to patients. (5) A contemporary advert (unsure on date, possibly circa 1904) to when Rockside was run by Miss Goodwin presents the hydro as a hydropathic institute and accommodation. 'The domestic arrangements are on the most liberal scale, every effort being made to promote the comfort, convenience and happiness of the patients and visitors. The indoor amusements include music, recitals, games, dancing, whist, charades, chess, billiards, etc. The gardens and grounds, extending in all to nearly five acres, are tastefully laid out and in addition to the various walks and promenades, there is ample provision for tennis, bowling and croquet. The view which can be obtained from these gardens is one of the finest in the country. Cable car from near the station to the New Front Entrance. Electric light throughout. Carriage drives and picnics are organised to the many delightful places of interest in this part of Derbyshire, notably to Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, Hardwick Hall, Wingfield Manor, Dovedale, Chee Dale, High Tor, Black Rocks etc. The Hydropathic System is carried out under the personal direction of the medical staff. The New Wing containing ball room, spacious lounge and additional bedrooms will be opened for the summer season, 1904. Electric light, lift, heating, ventilating and sanitary arrangements on the most modern systems.' (6) The fireplace with massive copper hood in the main lounge was very typical of the style of architects Parker and Unwin. Handmade green tiles surrounded the fire place. This feature along with others in the main lounge were removed by the present owners (unknown date). The stage in the ballroom had a staircase leading to the lounge running behind it, where the lounge also housed the porter's office and lift which went to the top of the building. Double bedrooms were in the two turrets with fitted furniture- this was a very new idea of the time. (7) Parker and Unwin designed Rockside Hydropathic Establishment, Matlock between 1904 and 1905 for Miss Goodwin, including all furniture. (8)

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Unpublished document: RCHME (Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England). 1995. Historic Building Report. Rockside Hall, Wellington Street, Matlock, Derbyshire..
  • <2> Unpublished document: County Treasure Recording Form. Un-numbered photograph and attached letter.
  • <3> Unpublished document: 'Arts and Crafts' and 'Art Nouveau' buildings in Derbyshire.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Anon. 1990. Rockside Hall, 14th February, 1990.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Smedley, J. 1870. Practical hyropathy, including plans of baths, and remarks on diet, clothing, and habits of life, Hydropathic Establishment, Matlock Bank, Derby.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Anon. c.1904. Rockside Hydropathic and Residence for Visitors, Matlock.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Anon. Notes on the rooms of Rockside Hydro.
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Gray, A. 1985. Edwardian Architecture, a biographical dictionary.



Grid reference Centred SK 30205 60946 (58m by 90m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR2481

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Record last edited

Nov 10 2023 6:58AM

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