Book preserves school memories

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The history of a convent has been brought to life in a new book by a former Matlock school pupil.

Author Victoria Cambridge has brought out ‘Convent’ - a collection of memories and images of the Presentation Convent High School and Nagle Preparatory School.

Victoria, who attended the preparatory school from 1971 to 1978, spent hours in the convent’s archives in order to research the book.

She said: “This book records the history of the Presentation Order and brings together the faded photographs, scattered memories, ceremonies and traditions of the Convent.

“It is a fascinating insight into a past era using previously unseen photographs and records from historical archives.”

The Presentation Order was founded by Nano Nagle, along with three other Sisters, in Cork on Christmas Eve, 1775.

May Procession 1950s

May Procession 1950s

Sister Nagle was dedicated to a life helping others, and prior to setting up the foundation had worked in the city’s poorest quarters for more than 20 years.

In 1769, she wrote: “If I could be of service in saving souls in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power.”

During the 18th Century in Ireland it had been illegal for Catholics to teach in schools, however the persevering sister had opened her first school in 1754.

The Presentation Sisters grew in number and began to spread throughout the world – arriving in England in 1836.

Chesterfield House Hydro was the base for the Presentation Convent High School in Matlock.

The original Chesterfield House was a dairy farm built in 1750.

In approximately 1800, Mr and Mrs Rafe Davis introduced hydropathic treatment at the premises and soon afterwards John Smedley followed the lead, opening Smedley’s Hydro.

Soon hydros opened up all over Matlock and the town quickly developed a reputation for being a spa town.

Chesterfield House Hydro

Chesterfield House Hydro

Following World War One, Chesterfield House Hydro went into liquidation.

After that it was used as a convalescent centre and between 1921 and 1927 it was unoccupied.

In 1926, Mother Xavier Murphy, Mother General of the Presentation Sisters in India, was visiting England.

The parish priest of Matlock asked her to make a foundation in the town, so she bought Chesterfield House in order to do so.

The foundation was made on May 24 1927 and the convent was officially opened on July 21, 1927.

When the school was first opened in September of that year it had 25 pupils.

Lilybank Hydro was the location of the Nagle Preparatory School.

The building was constructed in Thomas Stevens in the 19th Century and named Dalefield.

George Bernard Barton is believed to have bought it in around 1882. He then erected Dalefield Hydropathic Establishment.

In 1922 an adjoining property was bought in order to meet the hydro’s increased demand for accommodation, and the building was renamed it Lilybank Hydro.

It was the last hydro in Matlock to close in 1962.

Following its closure, the Presentation Sisters bought it to use as a Preparatory School.

Both schools were renowned for their strict rules concerning matters such as behaviour and uniform.

Young ladies were expected to wear a hat at all times when outside and were never allowed to be seen eating outside when in uniform.

For more information on the convent, or to order a copy of the book, people can visit