The Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath, is an Edwardian building in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, England, built in 1910 and currently run by the local community and operated by their own charitable company. It houses the Peak District Lead Mining Museum.
The warm spa waters of Matlock Bath had already been drawing in visitors for a long time when the railway arrived in 1849 creating a massive surge in tourism. Despite this popularity the council decided that the town needed to broaden its offer and provide more reasons for day trippers to visit and perhaps stay. They commissioned the building of the Grand Pavilion with the intention of hosting a diverse range of entertainment that would appeal to the masses.
Early events held at the Pavilion included theatre and (with surprising popularity) roller skating! The inaugral theatre production in 1911 was The Cingalee followed by Charlie’s Aunt. Later that year the Matlock and District Operatic Society performed The Belle Of Brittany and the group are still performing today under the name of Matlock Musical Theatre.
Other early entertainment included military bands, dances, silent films and community events. The ample ballroom with its polished dance floor, arched roof and gas lighting must have provided all the ingredients for a striking venue. The venue was certainly attracting many new visitors to the town with records showing a peak of 17 excursion trains arriving in one day from conurbations like Derby and Manchester. Matlock Bath still has one of the longest railway platforms in the Derbyshire Dales.
Within a few years of opening First World War soldiers were billeted on site. Canadian soldier Willian J Cowan spent time here recuperating from injury and he led a remarkable life. Military career aside (he was awarded the Military Cross and later left Russia after being sentenced to death for alleged spying) Cowan went on to forge a career in Hollywood as a writer and director, with credits including Oliver Twist. His wife made a fortune writing the caption cards used in silent movies and Spencer Tracey was a close friend.
After the disruption of WWII the Grand Pavilion saw a variety of events including the Miss Derbyshire competition, boxing matches and darts tournaments. The building continued to host music performances and was a primary venue for the town’s popular music festivals that attracted up to 3000 performers and many more attendees.