Remembering the Matlock Bath bears

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Amusement arcades, fish and chips, illuminations - and bears?

For hundreds of years, visitors have flocked to Matlock Bath to enjoy the many delights it offers, but one Dales woman remembers some of the more grizzly inhabitants of the resort.

Jean Howsley, of Cromford, can remember going to Lovers’ Walk with her mother to see the bears in the zoo on the banks of the River Derwent when she was a girl in the 1920s and 30s.

The 92–year–old said: “I started going to see them when I was maybe about five years old. You used to walk over the Jubilee Bridge – there would be a toll, but if you said you were local you didn’t have to pay, otherwise it was tuppence.

“Over the bridge there were cages with monkeys and parrots in, then after that there were the bears.”

She said the bears were called Adam and Eve and lived in an enclosure that was made to look like a grotto with bars across it.

“It was a treat to see them, but I remember feeling a little sorry for them.”

Jean was reminded of the bears when watching the new BBC drama Our Zoo, which last week featured a story about the founder of Chester Zoo, George Mottershed, buying the bears from their Matlock Bath owner and taking them to his new zoo.

“I wasn’t there at the time bit I remember hearing that it was a lot of trouble getting the bears into the crates and taking them over the bridge,” she added.

Jean, a retired library clerk was born and bred in Cromford and used to visit Matlock Bath often.

“I used to go swimming at the New Bath Hotel and I used to play tennis as well,” she added.

“Matlock Bath was quite a swish place at one time. I can remember when there were some very nice shops down there.

“There was a drapers and a shop selling beautiful jewellery.”

Do you have any memories of Matlock Bath or the Dales? Send your pictures and stories to news@matlockmercury.co.uk