Revealed: the area’s first ‘water hotel’

Audley St Elphins Park Main House, 2012. Audley Group Archives.

The first ‘water hotel’ around Matlock was not the huge building that is now the County Council headquarters – but one that became St Elphin’s School in Darley Dale. Ann Hall
and Steven Schmidt report.

THE elegant neo-gothic Victorian structure that serves as the centre-point of the St Elphin’s Park Retirement Community in Darley Dale is an iconic remnant of a fascinating 240-year history: it features two grand houses, two hydropathy institutes and several very prominent Derbyshire families. The house was built between 1877 and 1881 by a wealthy tradesman named William James Roberts. The external fabric of the house has changed only slightly since that time. In 1888, the house was sold and expanded to accommodate the Darley Dale Hydropathic Establishment, which opened in 1891 and eventually sported a nine-hole, ‘championship-level’ golf course!
The ‘hydro’ was a going concern until 1903/1904, when the property was sold again and became St Elphin’s School, the school having physically moved from Warrington, Cheshire, to Darley Dale…