History of the Boats


The district council purchased Hall Leys (formerly known as The Haw Lees) in February 1898 from a Henry Knowles, which they turned into a public place. Hall Leys Park was designed by a local architect called John Nuttall and was officially opened to the public on the 23rd June 1911.

Photo of Matlock Boats, pre 1940

Approval was given on the 24th November 1934 by the Ministry Of Health for a boating lake to be introduced. The original quote for this work was £750 but increased due to it being decided to add electric lighting on the small islands within the lake. Overall costs to create the finished lake amounted to £1,909.12s 1d.

The lake was originally named ‘Jubilee Boating Lake’ and was officially opened in May 1935.

A Mr Lubin G Wildgoose (Chairman of Matlock’s council) and his nephew were the first two people to ride a boat on the lake, his nephew having shortly before cut a tape across the lake declaring it officially ‘open’.

Father and son on enjoying Matlock Boats, pre 1950

In August 1935 it was noted in records that the boating lake and paddling pools were crowded pretty much all day.

The motor boats used to be known to the locals as ‘the scooter boats’.

In 1936 the ice was thick enough on the lake to be judged safe for skaters. It was very much taken advantage of as the lighting on the islands made it a good place to come for some ‘night skating’.

Whilst the boat bodies have changed over the years, the engines within remain the same ‘Stuart Turner’ RM3 marine engines

Over the last 4 years all the engines have been fully stripped and reconditioned in an effort to maintain their presence within the boats for many years ahead.

In 2015 the boats themselves were totally stripped, repaired and renewed, giving them a fresh coat of red or blue paint.

Even now in 2019 it is the same report from 1935 that the boating lake is crowded pretty much all day. This is a true gem of Matlock seeing visitors come specifically for a ride on this historic attraction and we hope this will remain for many years to come.


In 1948 a 4-6-2 miniature steam locomotive was built by Stanley Battison of Ilkeston. It was originally numbered ‘2701’ and was painted in apple green livery with the LNER logo on the tender sides.Cyril Swain

It was used to pull ‘sit astride’ carriages on the Hall Leys track constructed by Bernard and Cyril Swain. The original carriages are still used to this day. It was joined a year later by another similar locomotive known as ‘Lady Joyce’.

‘2701’ took it’s first journey on the track when it opened on the 1st May 1948, before it was moved to Derwent Gardens. It remained there until 1966 until it returned again to Hall Leys to accompany Lady Joyce.

In 1974 a new 0-6-0 miniature diesel locomotive named ‘Little David’ arrived at Hall Leys Park, where it remains and is still in use today.

This saw the original ‘2701’ taken out of service and was purchased by the owner of Riber Castle Wildlife Attraction on the hill overlooking Matlock.

It was repainted in London to Midland and Scottish Railway maroon livery with L.M.S. on the tender and adopted a new number of ‘6201’.

Sadly, the Riber Castle attraction closed down in 1986 and the engine was eventually sold in 1990 to Brell Ewart, the then chairman of the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust.

It was later moved to the West Shed Museum at the Midland Railway at Butterley where he remains on display to this day.

Until 2016 the whereabouts of ‘Lady Joyce’ remained unknown but it has since been established that she was restored by Stanley Battison’s daughter, and was in service at Newby Hall, near Ripon.

In 2015 when the business changed hands to us, Little David remained a bright orange colour, with similar orange carriages. As part of our restoration programme, Little David went under a complete refurbishment.

The engine was dismantled and serviced before being rebuilt. The body panels were removed, stripped and sand blasted before being repainted in British Railways early diesel locomotive colours of deep Brunswick green with a grey engine cover and roof.

The carriage bogies were stripped and rebuilt with new axles, wheels and bearings. The end panels were replaced and the carriages painted in LMS maroon and black livery.

Little David was taken from Hall Leys Park on the 2nd November 2015 to begin his restoration programme, followed by his carriages in February 2016.

He returned on the 22nd March 2016 and what a proud moment it was!

He was immaculate, looked stunning and we were delighted with the results. Little David had the makeover he so deserved.

All work to Little David and his carriages was completed by a local company ‘17d Miniatures’ based at via Gellia Mills, Bonsall, Matlock, Derbyshire.