It was built on Matlock Bank by John Smedley in 1853 when it was the largest hydro in the town. Matlock had developed as a spa town after thermal springs were discovered. "John Smedley was not the first to recognise and exploit the effects of water treatment on various illnesses".
but it was Smedley whose conviction and enterprise established Hydrotherapy firmly in Matlock, and for a century made it one of the most celebrated centres of the "water cure". By the outbreak of war in 1939, Smedley's Hydro was world famous, its guests having included Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Thomas Beecham, Ivor Novello, Jimmy Wilde, and Gilbert Jessop, to name but a few.
While on honeymoon in Switzerland John Smedley had become seriously ill and returned to England to recuperate at the hydropathic establishment at Ben Rhydding, in Yorkshire, and later to take the waters at Cheltenham. From now on, hydropathy was the greatest interest in Smedley's life.
Smedley's Hydro closed in the 1950s, and the building was purchased in 1955 by Derbyshire County Council to use as its headquarters. Part of the County Hall complex is seen in Ken Russell's Oscar-winning 1969 film, Women in Love.
- Smedley, Caroline Anne (1861), "Ladies' Manual of Practical Hydropathy, for Female Diseases", Also, Directions to Mothers How to Carry out Hydropathy for their Children, London: W.S. Partridge, retrieved 4 January 2010 Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
- Smedley, John (1864), "Practical Hydropathy.", Including Plans of Baths, and Remarks on Diet, Clothing, and Habits of Life (7th ed.), London: Job Caudwell, retrieved 4 January 2010 Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
- Steer, Henry (1897), "The Smedleys of Matlock Bank:", Being a Review of the Religious and Philanthropic Labours of Mr. and Mrs. John Smedley, London: Elliot Stock, retrieved 4 January 2010 Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
- Lait, June (2006), A Brief History of Matlock (PDF), Matlock Civic Association & Matlock Town Council, pp. 1–2, retrieved 4 January 2010 Note: A publication date is not listed. But the Matlock essay refers to an ironmonger closure in 2006 (p.3). Another essay in the same article refers to a future development in 2007 (p.5). The publication date is thus likely to be late 2006.
- Derby Evening Telegraph; "There Was Red Tape at Smedley's Hydro Then", 3 January 1951
- Country Life 15 August 1963