Updated 12 Oct 2006

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 119


Visiting card c.1890. The windows face South, one of the best views in Matlock. At the East end of the Drawing room is a stage.

Unposted. Photo taken from the stage at the East end of the Drawing room. The very large paintings at the far end of the room are believed to be of John Smedley (founder of the Hydro) and his wife Caroline. They were commissioned in 1896 (John died in 1875 and Caroline in 1892). Originally in the Dining room, they were moved to the Drawing Room in 1900. The carpet is one piece, and weighed a ton. How did they get it into the room?

The height of the doorway nearby is 8 ft -(ref LSL Matlock)-, so the size of each painting (without frame) is 8 ft 9in x 5 ft 9 in wide. Anyone with information, please contact . The resolution is the best that the postcard and my scanner can produce. Fashion indicates the 1860s, but it is believed they were commissioned in 1896, when both were dead, so were the portraits made from photographs taken 30 years earlier?.

LATEST It now seems that the 9 ft high portraits were cut down to 5 ft, reframed and now hang in Smedley's offices at Lea Mills. Pauline from Lea Mills very kindly sent me modern photos of these reduced portraits. Comparing the portraits reveals how the dastardly deed was done. The webmaster's wife spotted the crime before he did! What a tragedy that John's fashionable drainpipes and Caroline's spectacular crinoline have been lost to modern eyes.

5 ft (shortened) portrait of John Smedley 1803-1879,
now in Lea Mills Boardroom

5 ft (shortened) portrait of Caroline Smedley 1822-1892,
now in Lea Mills Boardroom

Smedley's Hydro, Matlock Bridge c1890

The drawing room at Smedley's Hydro was a spectacular place in 1888. In 1875 a limited Company was set up to run the Hydro, and extensive rebuilding carried out 1881-1886. A vivid description of the new Drawing Room appears in High Peak News 1888, together with some history of the foundation of the Hydro by John Smedley, 1803-1879, an altogether astonishing man, and his wife Caroline 1822-1892.

The author acquired two postcards of the Drawing Room, one of which shows two 9 ft high portraits of John and Caroline Smedley. The Matlock Mercury has helped in locating these to the Lea Mills Boardroom today, but shortened to just 5 ft and perhaps restored (Caroline's crinoline seems somwhat darker today).

From Matlock Mercury 12 Oct 2006.

Have we found lost Smedley Picture?

By James Watson      news@matlockmercury.co.uk
A keen historian's search for two seven foot portraits of the father of Matlock's hydrotherapy movement John Smedley and his wife Coroline, could be at an end. John Palmer, who runs a website dedicated to local studies in and around Wirksworth, learnt about the portraits and was eager to track them down and take some photos for his website. But after a call to the Matlock Mercury newsdesk he feels he may have found the portraits - albeit in a slightly amended state. "I was alerted to their existence after finding an old postcard from 1900 showing them at Smedley Hydro," said Mr Palmer. "But the Local Studies Library, Derbyshire County Council, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the National Gallery, again in London, all had no record pertaining there whereabouts," he added. However after a call to Lea Mills, also owned by Smedley, the Matlock Mercury has tracked them down. "It seems that the 9 ft high portraits in Smedley's Hydro Drawing Room around 1910 are now located in Lea Mills Boardroom, where they are only 5 ft high, having been reduced by removing the parts below thigh level," said Mr Palmer. "However the Lea Mills portraits look in good condition, so they may have been restored at the same time. "The original artist's signature has been lost at the same time, as well as the magnificent fashions which I date at around 1865. "The portraits seem identical, but the possibility remains that the smaller may be a copy of the larger, which revives the question, where is the big portrait? The paintings, which were roughly seven foot by four foot six, used to hang in the Grand Drawing Room at Smedley's Hydro, but they were regularly moved around the building. After the closure of the Hydro business in the 1950s the building was bought by Derbyshire County Council to become County Hall. However their records have no mention of the portraits. The last potential recording of the paintings until now was 30 years ago when John Smedley Ltd at Lea Mills donated them to an exhibition. Mr Palmer would like to know if anyone knows a recent history behind those paintings? If so contact us at the:
Matlock Mercury on 01629 762130 or email news@matlockmercury.co.uk.

9 ft (full-length) portrait of John Smedley 1803-79,
in Hydro Drawing Room c1910, style indicates about 1860s

9 ft (full-length) portrait of Caroline Smedley 1822-92,
in Hydro Drawing Room c1910, fashion indicates about 1860s

Photo taken:c1890
Source:John Palmer, Dorset, England
Click on photo for enlargement (on CD only)
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