Longstone Edge by Jez Ward
Julie Bunting

Christmas Merrymaking

In Matlock, 1946


Matlock’s Christmas festivities of 1946 may not have been on such a lavish scale as before the war but the town had a satisfying influx of visitors nevertheless. The majority of hotels and boarding houses were full – both Smedley’s and Lilybank, the last of the town’s hydros, were packed to capacity.   


Smedley’s Hydro, derequisitioned by the military authorities earlier in the year, boasted 425 resident guests, a figure to compare very favourably with pre-war numbers. Managing Director Major H.Douglas told a newspaper reporter that Christmas dinner would necessarily be on ‘austerity’ lines but still boasting traditional turkey and Christmas pudding for all. An ambitious programme of entertainments for the guests included exhibitions by the well-known lady snooker and billiards champion, Miss Ruth Harrison. The customary Smedley’s Hydro staff ball was to be held on 3 January, at which visitors traditionally waited on members of staff and their guests.


Up at Lilybank Hydro, managing director Mr John Kay confirmed that over 80 guests were in residence; entertainments devised for their pleasure ranged from dances and games to whist drives and billiard tournaments.


As with Smedley’s Hydro, the Grand Pavilion in Matlock Bath was another recent post-war ‘demob’. Through the energies of Matlock Bath Attractions Committee, the ‘Pav’ hosted two very popular events on Boxing Day: a party for local children in the afternoon followed by an evening dance for the adults. Carols, Santa and Follies In line with tradition at the Whitworth Hospital, every effort went into making the Christmas season a time of good cheer for patients ‘kept away from their own fireside by illness’. All wards and the entrance hall were brightly decorated, along with impressive Christmas trees given by Forest Nurseries and Messrs. Enthovens. St.Helen’s Church choir sang carols for patients and their visitors on Christmas Eve.     Turkeys for the Christmas Day dinner were donated by Dr Dobson of Matlock and Mr Alfred Smith of Darley Dale. Visitors were allowed from 2pm and together with nurses and patients listened to the King’s wireless broadcast. The main event of the day, however, was the distribution of gifts to patients courtesy of Santa Claus (actually Dr Stoker of Winster).


Christmastime attractions at Matlock’s Cinema House included the Ziegfeld Follies in ‘glorious Technicolour’, also starring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, William Powell and Lucille Ball. The latter part of the week brought ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ with Lana Turner as the ruthless, seductive femme fatale and John Garfield as her youthful lover. Further thrills and love interest were screened at the Picture Palace on Dale Road via ‘A Woman’s Face’ starring Joan Crawford and Melvyn Douglas.


Matlock traders were confidently looking forward to a busy Christmas, everyone assured that despite licensing extensions on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, local beer supplies would survive the holiday onslaught – a cheery note on which to end this seasonal report from December 1946.


Julie Bunting