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Matlock is the county town of Derbyshire, England.

Matlock is a gateway to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, which lies to its South.

Matlock is situated at the south eastern edge of the Peak District, and forms part of the Sheffield City Region. The town is twinned with the French town Eaubonne. The former spa resort Matlock Bath lies immediately south of the town on the A6. Matlock, as a town, has a population of 10,689. The wider population of the Matlock urban area is approximately 20,000 (including Darley Dale, Tansley, Hackney and Matlock Bath). Often, the Matlock area is considered to include Wirksworth, owing to the close proximity of the two towns. This would bring the area’s population closer to 30,000.

Matlock is nine miles (14 km) south-west of Chesterfield, and in easy reach of the cities of Derby (19 miles), Sheffield (20 miles), and Nottingham (29 Miles); the Greater Manchester conurbation is 30 miles away. Matlock, in west Derbyshire, is within the Derbyshire Dales which includes the towns of Bakewell and Ashbourne, as well as Wirksworth. The headquarters of the Derbyshire County Council are contained within it.

A former spa town, Matlock (from the Old English for Moot Oak) lies on the River Derwent, and has prospered from both the hydrotherapy industry and the mills constructed on the river and its tributary Bentley Brook. It was an unimportant collection of small villages — Matlock Town, Matlock Green, Matlock Bridge, Matlock Bank — until thermal springs were discovered in 1698. The population increased rapidly in the 1800s, largely because of the popular hydros which were being built. At one stage there were around twenty hydros, most on Matlock Bank. The largest was built in 1853 by John Smedley. This closed in 1955, and re-opened in 1956 as the headquarters of the Derbyshire County Council. Matlock is also home to the Derbyshire Dales District Council as well as Matlock Town council.

In 1893, Matlock Cable Tramway, a cable tramway was built up Bank Road from Crown Square at Matlock Bridge to Wellington Street (at the top of Bank Road) with a stop halfway up at Smedley Street where Smedley’s Hydro (built by John Smedley) was situated. Conceived by Job Smith, the tram was inspired by San Francisco’s famous cable cars, and cost £20,000. When it was built it was the steepest tramway in the world at a gradient of 1 in 5½, and it rose 300 feet (91 m). The fare was tuppence up, penny down. It closed in 1927 after losing business to cars and buses.

In 1849, the railway came to Matlock. Matlock railway station was opened on the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, later the Midland, line between London and Manchester, until the section between Matlock and Buxton was closed in 1968 following the Beeching cuts. Network Rail considered re-opening the line, with a study carried out by the county council. Although it proved to be unfeasible in the short term, the track bed will be kept free of development as the study showed that the line could be economically viable from around 2025. The section from Wye Dale (about 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Buxton) to Coombs viaduct, a point about a mile south-east of Bakewell, has now become the Monsal Trail, an 8.5-mile (13.7 km) walk and cycle trail.

Trains still run between Matlock and Derby on the Derwent Valley Line. Peak Rail, a preserved railway, runs steam trains on a section of the closed line between Matlock, Darley Dale and Rowsley. Previously it used its own station, Matlock Riverside, a short distance to the north of the mainline station, however as of 2011 both Peak Rail and trains on the Derwent Valley Line share the same station.

Hall Leys Park is a Victorian public park in the centre of Matlock, Derbyshire which opened in 1898. It lies between the River Derwent to the south and Causeway Lane to the north. The park has many facilities and in 2004–2005 underwent major regeneration as part of the Matlock Parks Project with funding from the Millennium Commission.

At the Crown Square/Matlock Bridge end of the park there is the town’s war memorial and a wishing well. Beside this there is the shelter from the former cable tramway which was moved to the park when the tramway ceased to operate in 1927.

Moving away from Crown Square there is, next, a large grass area and some tennis courts. As part of the refurbishments which took place, the old grass tennis courts were replaced with a skateboard park.

In the centre of the park is the Victorian bandstand which is used regularly in the summer months by local brass bands and for events such as the annual Matlock Victorian Christmas Weekend – held on the first weekend of December. Beside the bandstand is a footbridge over the River Derwent which has markings indicating the height of several floods that hit the town in the 1960s and 1970s. The café, on the opposite side of the bandstand, has similar markings for other floods.

Hall Leys Park is now a central part of the town’s flood protection. The wall which surrounds the northern side of the park has the ability to have the footways sealed with sheets of wood which would dam the progress of any overflow from the river and turn the entire park into a large reservoir. Further down the park there is a putting green and a Crown Green Bowls green.

A boating lake, with several small islands, is home to a large number of birds, including ducks and moorhens as well as being host to the longest running pleasure boats in the country.

A miniature railway runs half the length of the park along the river but, due to the lack of any turning space, the return journey is made in reverse.

Hall Leys Park is occasionally the site for visiting “Continental Markets” and, since the summer of 2006, regular “Farmers’ Markets”. It is also the centre of the Matlock Victorian Christmas Weekend held annually on the first weekend of December.

Bank Road runs from Crown Square up Matlock Bank, a steep hill which gives the road its name, to Wellington Street. Although many consider the whole incline to be Bank Road, just over halfway up beyond Smedley Street the road is called Rutland Street. Bank Road has many local landmark buildings along it – from the bottom of the hill (Crown Square) travelling north:

  • The Crown Hotel – the original site of the hotel which gave its name to Crown Square is now a building society office. This was built prior to 1899. The Crown is now a Wetherspoon’s pub just along Bakewell Road.
  • Crown Buildings, opposite the original Crown Hotel at the bottom of Bank Road, was built in 1889  and currently houses a cafe on its ground floor.
  • Post Office and Sorting Office. These were built prior to 1922.
  • Police Station – built after the second world war.
  • Derbyshire Dales District Council Offices. Formerly Bridge Hall, then a hydro called Bridge House (established by 1861). In 1894 the Matlock Urban District Council bought Bridge House hydro for use as the Town Hall and added a large wing in the Italianate style to house an assembly room etc. It was reopened in 1898 and also housed most local authority undertakings, magistrates courts, etc. Following local government reorganisation in 1974, the Town Hall became the headquarters of West Derbyshire District Council (which later changed its name to Derbyshire Dales District Council). To enable the District Council to centralise its several offices spread over the district, the Town Hall was substantially extended in 1979.
  • Our Lady & St. Joseph’s Catholic Church – built in 1883 with a presbytery added in 1896. The church was described as a ‘mission’, established under St Mary’s of Derby. A church hall was built alongside in the 1990s.
  • Youth Hostel – a YHA youth hostel – Built in 1882 as Smedley Memorial Hospital. There is a later (Hunter) wing with a datestone of 1897 set further back from the road. The Youth Hostel opened in 1983 and closed on 30 September 2007.
  • Matlock Methodist & United Reformed Church – originally Matlock Wesleyan Chapel, and later the Trinity Methodist Church. The church was designed by C.O. Ellison of Liverpool, with additions designed by Horace G. Bradley. The neo-gothic church was originally built in 1882 without the slender steeple, which is now a landmark feature reaching above the roofs of neighbouring buildings, and, from higher levels, an elegant feature against the backdrop of the hills beyond. The Manse was built at the west of the site, fronting New Street.
  • Old Sunday School which is now a B&B.
  • Old Methodist Church – the Primitive Methodist congregation was founded in 1838, although the current church on Bank Road, opposite the entrance to County Hall, was rebuilt in 1856 and the adjacent School Room below was added in 1878. Until recently, the Old Methodist Church housed the Matlock Wurlitzer.
  • County Hall – formerly Smedley’s Hydro is a grade II listed building which dominates Matlock Bank. The earliest (western) section seen today was built in c.1867 by Smedley. Much of today’s building was added after Smedley’s death in 1874. The first phase, in 1881, included the entrance hall and staircase, now in the middle section. In 1886, the eastern section was added by architect George Statham of Nottingham. Later extensions include the tall chimney, impressive for its height on the already prominent site, along with boiler house and bath in 1894. The domed glass Winter Gardens, which housed a ballroom, and the northern block on the other side of Smedley Street were added in 1901. The northern block was linked by the unusual two storey bridge over Smedley Street.The hydro closed in 1955 and re-opened in 1956 as “County Offices”, when Derbyshire County Council moved its headquarters from St Mary’s Gate in Derby. Its name was changed to “County Hall” during the 1990s. Part of the County Hall complex is seen in Women in Love, Ken Russell’s Oscar winning 1969 film. As the Brangwen sisters walk out of their house (in reality No. 80, New Street) near the beginning of the film they are seen walking towards Bank Road.
  • Smedley Street traverses Bank Road. It has its own parade of shops and a post office (now closed). The east end of Smedley Street (known as Smedley Street East) is home to Laser Rail, a designer and manufacturer of rail measurement equipment now incorporated into Balfour Beatty’s rail division.
  • The Gate public house – There were known to have been numerous public houses on Matlock Bank, thought to have been the result of the ban on alcohol consumption within the hydros themselves, especially at Smedley’s. The whereabouts of many is no longer known. The Gate (dated 1869) was one of these, and still stands on the corner of Smedley Street and Bank Road, opposite Smedley’s.
  • Rutland Court – the former Matlock House Hydro stands prominently on the east side of Rutland Street. The hydro was built in 1863 and an engraving of 1870 shows that the main block, at least that which is visible from the roadside today, is largely unaltered.
  • Elmtree House – a former hydro, now 70-74 Rutland Street, was opened in 1862. It is located just to the north of the dominant Matlock House (now Rutland Court).
  • The Old Tram Depot which is now a garage and car repair centre.
  • Rockside Hydro – an imposing building with views across Matlock, is a grade II listed building, on higher ground above Smedley’s and is distinctive for its two octagonal corner turrets with conical roofs topped by lanterns. Rockside was built circa 1860, but extended significantly by the firm of architects Parker and Unwin between 1901 and 1905, The building was also extended later in 1923 and 1928. An upper floor glazed conservatory with a glazed curved roof was added in c. 1923, and a block was added on Cavendish Road in 1928. It probably isn’t so well known that during the Second World War, Rockside Hall was used as an RAF psychiatric hospital, where mentally-scarred service personnel (mostly aircrew) were rehabilitated. It was somewhat unkindly known as “Hatters Castle” by locals. The building became a hall of residence to Matlock College of Further Education in 1950 but following closure, stood empty and derelict for many years but has recently been renovated and converted into apartments. Large sections have been replaced, including the Cavendish Road block and the curved conservatory roof.

Matlock creative and performing arts were enhanced in 2004 when the annual arts festival Matlock Live! began. It takes place in June or July each year featuring local musicians, dancers, artists, etc.  As part of the summer event, Matlock Live invites Buskers / Street performers to form a busking trail around Matlock raising money for the charity Aquabox.

For over 10 years, the council had proposed to allow a Sainsbury’s supermarket to be built in Cawdor Quarry, a disused quarry next to the railway station. In early 2007 building work started, and it was opened on Thursday 4 October 2007. The access road for the supermarket forms part of a new one way system, whereby the A6 bypasses the town centre. A footbridge from the railway station allows pedestrian access to the supermarket from the town centre. A newly built bus station next to the train station is intended to create an integrated transport terminal. However, several bus routes will continue to serve only the old Bus Station on Bakewell Road, making Matlock one of the smallest towns in Britain to boast two bus stations.

There has recently been a negative image of Matlock Town centre due to the limited retail offer for a town of Matlock’s size which was identified in the Matlock Masterplan – a document produced by the district council. There has been a worry that many locals now choose to shop in neighbouring towns due to this perceived problem. The local council had a wider development planned for the future with key development sites on Bakewell Road, Firs Parade and Imperial Road which were identified in 2007 in the masterplan.

In 2010, Crown Square was much improved with the replacement of pavements and street furniture for a new look which is more appropriate to the conservation area, the old tarmac pavements and traffic island being rebuilt in genuine local sandstone, barriers replaced with heritage bollards and all the street lights replaced. Bakewell Road and Firs Parade were not included in this phase of improvement work as they are just off Crown Square, and along with Imperial Road they are still yet to be redeveloped.

Matlock has often featured on film and television:

  • Coming Down the Mountain, The BBC drama was set partly in Matlock although nothing was filmed there.
  • Women in Love, Ken Russell’s Oscar winning 1969 film, uses a house at the top of New Street (No. 80) as the home of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun and Ursula. The house is currently a B&B. St. Giles’ Church in Church Street was the setting for the wedding of Laura Crich.
  • Peak Practice, the ITV series, used locations in Matlock, including Highfields School, Victoria Hall Gardens and Henry Avenue, although the main village location is Crich and nearby Fritchley.
  • Dead Man’s Shoes, the 2004 film by Shane Meadows, was filmed in and around Matlock.
  • In Denial of Murder, 2005 BBC dramatisation of Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale’s campaign to free Stephen Downing.
  • Starlings, a drama new to Sky 1 in 2012, is set in Matlock.

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