Blue Plaque honour for the man who made Matlock

editorial image

Textile entrepreneur and champion of hydrotherapy, John Smedley has had a blue plaque unveiled in his honour today.

The plaque to commemorate one of Derbyshire’s most versatile and successful benefactors was unveiled by the leader of the county council and cabinet member for culture, Cllr Andrew Lewer at Smedley’s former hydropathy hotel, now home to Derbyshire County Council, at 1:20pm today (Tuesday).

Nominated by Peter Wild on behalf of the Matlock Civic Association, this is the fourth blue plaque to be put up by Derbyshire County Council this year to celebrate the important people and places of Derbyshire.

Cllr Lewer said that John Smedley was a worthy recipient of the honour and he was glad that the people of Derbyshire had voted for a man who was ahead of his time.

He said: “John Smedley is best known for the high-quality knitwear company that he transformed into the successful business it is today. He was a model employer when model employers were comparatively rare; he paid generously both for time lost through illness and for public holidays and skilled workers saw their wages nearly doubled as piece work methods were introduced at his mill.

“What is perhaps less well-known is that he was a staunch believer in hydrotherapy, the treatment of illness by the application of water using sponges, steam, wet sheets, baths or showers. His hydrotherapy hotel in Matlock was so successful that it put the town on the map, earning him the accolade ‘the man who made Matlock’”.

Assisting Cllr Lewer with the unveiling was Charles Marsden-Smedley, chairman of John Smedley Ltd.

Descendant Charles Marsden-Smedley said: “I was honoured to take part in this tribute to John Smedley, who devoted his life to improving the working conditions and health of those he employed.

“He was a spiritual man, but also a canny businessman whose company still thrives as a private business today. This blue plaque is a fitting tribute to a man ahead of his time.”