About this image
The ruin of Riber Castle, built by John Smedley (owner of Smedley's Hydro) in 1862, dominates the town of Matlock as it is perched on the edge of the hill above Starkholmes, very high up. Built very quickly, the castle was constructed of massive blocks of local gritstone taken from a quarry near the castle and Smedley was the sole architect. Smedley employed skilled craftsmen. Plasterers, for example, came from Italy to work on the Castle. The walls present a barren facade outside, whilst in contrast the inside was alive with absurd ornament. Following John's death in 1874, Caroline Smedley endured Riber's inconveniences until her own death in 1892. Impractical as a private residence, it was sold as used as a Food Ministry Store, and a School c 1900's-20's. The school was owned by a Reverend John William Chippett, previously of Harrogate. In 1936 it was bought by Matlock Urban District Council for £1,500. When the British Fauna Reserve bought it from the Council in 1963, it had fallen into such disrepair that its price had dropped to £500. They developed it as a nature reserve for rare British Farm animals and European wildlife, open to the public. It was a popular place for families and school educational visits in the 1960's-1990's (John Noakes of 'Blue Peter' fame visited it for the children's BBC programme c 1970), but the zoo and nature reserve closed in September 2000 and animals were sold at auction.