Like Waves of the Sea (1982) by J.P. Beveridge

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J. P. Beveridge

Holmfirth Flood,


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On the 29th May 1944, a Whit. Monday, the Holme Valley suffered the worst storm in living memory. The downpour was so severe that streams of water eroded parts of the Bilberry embankment. <A very unhappy state of affairs. It is likely that repairs and alterations to the dam, carried out in the nineteenth centure prevented the dam from failing for a second time. This country at that time was, of course, at war and any news that may have been of interest to the enemy was kept to a minimum and delayed before release to the public.

Following the storm, it was claimed that the river had risen to a height of more than eighteen feet in some places, causing devastation on its journey down the valley and through the town of Holmfirth.

The result was that three people were drowned, parapets of bridges were pushed down, mills badly damaged and in the centre of Holmfirth business offices and shops were brought down. Hundreds of houses and buildings were flooded and fields were covered with stone, clay, spoil and debris.

Down stream at Holmfirth could be seen, floating in the river, barrels,hen huts, wooden cases, © planks, furniture, household goods, shop equipment and all the other bits and pieces that are part of a community. I

Out and about during and after the flood, was the firm of Bray and Son, Commercial and Press Photographers, of Ribbleden Studios, Holmfirth. A result of this firm's work is a valuable photographic record of the terrible events that took place. Some of the photographs were reproduced as picture post cards.

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Another unique and contemporary account of the flood is to be found in a small notebook, A collection of eyewitness descriptions and interpretations of events, the compilation being almost certainly the work of James P. Beveridge, who had joined the Huddersfield Corporation Waterworks in 1936 and retired in 1963 as Water-

works Engineer and Manager,

A valuable contribution to the history of the Holme Valley it is published in full.

H.A. 1982

Typeset by I.B., Halifax

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Mr N. Tinker, Bartin, Holmbridge

Sheltered under Blackpool Bridge (later destroyed) 4.30 - 5. Stream just rising then. Unable to see embankment from 5.45 to 6.45.

Holme Village

Heavy rain at 5.30 flooding houses at top end of village. Only a shower earlier in afternoon,

Jack Eastwood, Upper Town End, Holmbridge

Was coming home during the storm and first came in sight of Bilberry about 6 o'clock - unable to see embankment. Hey Clough was a mass of white, several clearly defined streams were rushing down the southern slopes of the valley and it was "like a sea on the moors" (around Bradshaw). At about 6.15 Digley Bridge went down,

Mr A. Roberts, Holmbridge

By about 6.30 damage had been done to trees opposite his house across the river.

Main road over bridge clear of water at about


Bilberry embankment clear at about 7 p.m., water up to top of 50 ft. post (i.e. 3'4" above T.W.L. )

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Mr George Denham, Newfield

Saw water coming down opposite hillside in continuous sheet, though stronger in some places than others, "like the waves of the sea", Could see water going over at south end of Bilberry embankment, but rest of the embankment was clear.

The storm was worst at about 6.30, "there were drops like pennies", 2 feet of water in road outside; part of garden scoured away,

Mr Kaye, White Walls

Saw spray coming over whole length of Bilberry embankment about 5.30. Two definite streams running down at each end, The water seemed to be springing up out of the hillside opposite, Yard one foot deep in water,

Mr Taylor, Postmaster, Dewsbury

Was in the Isle of Skye during the storms, The moors outside looked like one sheet of water.

Clarence Daniels, Deanhouse Mills

Sheltered at Digley Cottages during early part of storm (party of LM): The brook was definitely not overflowing at 5.45, possibly it started to do so about 6 p.m.3; when it did the party made for Hurst House, having to wade through 2 feet of water in places to get clear. Looked back soon after 6.30 when the storm was beginning to slacken and could see water coming over the embankment in patches,

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Harry Hinchliffe, Holmeside

Storm at its worst about 6.30. Had gone out to look for some beasts on the other side of the river, before realising he would not be able to cross and turning back saw the water coming down the byewash and the corner of Digley cottages give way and go down,

Mrs Turner, 2 Bank End

Thought storm was worst from 5.30 to 63 water started coming in but stopped when debris was carried down past the back into Digley Road making a channel for the water.

Mrs Moorhouse, Overdale

Storm started soon after 4.30. The stream rose and covered the cricket field completely in about 5 minutes; at one time part of Digley Road was under water. The main road by the bridge was covered soon after the cricket field and the water came up to the cafe windows 4 ft. above road level at about 5.55.

Arthur Mitchell, Holme Bank Bottom

Looked out some time between 5.30 and 6 and saw the cricket ground was flooded and water was lapping over the bridge carrying the main road.

Mr Maurice Barber

River rose 12 ft at Holmbridge at worst (6.15 - 6.30), started going down about 6.40.

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Hinchliffe Mill (north bank)

(1) The water rose very quickly (? about 6 p.m.) and cleared the bridge - a henhouse was carried over. The water lapped the walls of the lowest houses by the riverside, then came up four steps and soon afterwards began to fall gradually.

(2) The flood came at 6,30 dead on and there was still plenty of water about at 9.30.

(3) Heavy rain in Holme (top end) started 5.30,

came into houses (only starts earlier in afternoon).

Hinchliffe Mill (south bank)

The water came ina bit into the lowest house; the flood was at its worst at 6.30, and above the level of the mill dam - "it looked like one ‘big reservoir", it was all over in 7 or 8 minutes and fell to an ordinary flow, but usually there is very little water in the river.

Water Street, Hinchliffe Mill (top house)

Parapet of bridge went just before 6.30, Mill dam overflowing before 7. Water just came into the garden at worst (came into houses adjoining, occupants out).

Two foot bridges down between Hinchliffe Mill and Bottoms Mill - river rose 12-14 feet,

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Grandfather clock in office at Bottoms Mill stopped at 6.20, i.e. water up to pendulum 3 £t from floor (rose another 2 ft before falling). Per Mr Rogers, Bottoms Mill.

Yorkshire Penny Bank went down 7 - 7.15, other buildings about 6.30.


(1) River at worst 7 - 7.30, up to the grass about 7 p.m. (No 35), but didn't come in house,

(2) Worst round about 6.p.m. (nearest house to mills).

Riverside Mill

Dam not overflowing.

Clock stopped at 6.25 at Victoria Iron Works.

Councillor Tolson, Upper Bridge

Heard thesprinkler alarm at Lower Mill about 6.25, but didn't take much notice at first as he knew they had been making adjustments there; soon afterwards however he saw water rushing through the mill bringing a bale with it. He went out and water was one foot deep on the bridge opposite the King's Head and half way up the ground floor windows in Hollowgate. He went to the Picture House and finding it cleared came back again (buildings on Victoria Bridge still up the water was then up to the top of the windows in Hollowgate,. Helped to cut through three floors in Scar Fold and got five people out of lower


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Mr Dilnot

Standing in Victoria Street when Wallaces came down; Building Society about ten minutes later (water two thirds way up at height).

The Barnsley bus due in at 7.10 had come down before the wall with Lewis Hirst and Mrs. Schofield on it had collapsed.

Mr Shaw (William Sykes & Sons)

Heard roar of flood water about 6.10, after first spate river was constant for about 30 minutes, then rose suddenly about 8 ft at the time the buildings came down - 4'6" deep in Hollowgate about 7 p.m.

At Bilberry soon after 8 p.m.3; there was a slight trickle at the south end of the embank- ment, accentuated by a flow down the hillside at right angles to the reservoir; much more was coming down the byewash and the embankment was being eroded,

Mr Lunn, Victoria Inn

Left home at 5.50 to go to Holmfirth for a paper, doubted whether to take a raincoat;

caught at Upper Bridge ina deluge which went on till 6.30. The drains were made up and about 6,30 the wall on Hollowgate collapsed - went .back home, where the river was held up for a time by the shedding at Riverside Mills, but when that gave all the water came with a rush, "just like a wall". The river was at its height 6.50 - 7.30 and the Perseverance Mill dam was covered. The bridge was not flooded but the water was right up to the arch (bottom windows

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of riverside houses just above not broken). All the damage in the road had been done within 20 minutes of the wall collapsing and three people being carried away.

Scar Fold

The water started coming in the bottom houses about 6 o'clock and rose six feet altogether - a clock was stopped at 6.303 fairly soon after it started to settle.

Mrs Fearns, Upper Bridge

Looked out sometime between 6 and 6.15 and saw bales coming down, saw Penny Bank go down some time after - bridge to Hollowgate under water all the time.

Mr Tolson (brother of Councillor Tolson)

At Upper Bridge when storm broke, went towards Holmfirth, water within 18 inches of bridge to Hollowgate, then rose quickly and /cover/ed walls. Went down to Picture House and found people nearly all out - came back and found water from Hollowgate had covered main road up to Castle's garage - 18 inches deep opposite King's Heads: at worst water came 6 ft up air raid shelters between Lower Mills and Hollow- gate,

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Mr and Mrs Hopkins (Picture Theatre)

Rain came down in sheets about 5.45. The river started rising about 6 and was soon all but up to the arch, with bales of wool coming down, Advised the people to leave the picture house by the back exit to the main road at 6.25, by 6.30 they were all out. At 6,35 the front entrance (carried on supports over the river) collapsed. Looking out of the top window they could see Towngate under water as if there were two separate rivers running at different levels, the second rising to the level of the parapet opposite the picture theatre and sweeping up towards the station as far as Milner's foundry. They were standing in the entrance to Mettrick's shop in Huddersfield Road at about 6.50 when they heard a great swish of water followed immediately by the collapse of a building.

Mr Frank Booth (J. Haigh & Sons Ltd)

At Hillhouse, Cartworth Moor, all through the storm. At 2.45 the atmosphere was hot, stuffy and electrical, and there were huge black clouds over Holme Moss; soon the road down from the Moss could be seen wet, also the roofs in Holme village.

5.05 Thick mist spreading from Holme and a black vertical cloud wall at the entrance to

Digley valley (roofs had previously been showing wet): like a meteorological cold front - a bank of hot atmosphere meeting another of cold and walling vertically up.

The progress of the storm could be seen through Holmbridge and down the valley, but the black bank of cloud remained, blotting out the Digley Valley.

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5.25 Thunder and lightning at Cartworth Moor,


large drops of rain, increasing in intensity: the horizon from Holme Moss to Isle of Skye was bright orange as if the moors were on fire; as the storm Cloud rose higher this belt of colour increased and changed to a nasty blue and then to a dull grey. Eventually visibility increased up the Digley valley; first the cricket field appeared, covered with yellow mud and later Bilberry.

The changed level was obvious, and flows of water could be seen running out at either side of the bank and meeting in the middle at its foot (no water coming over embankment itself). There was more lightning and a strong gale sprang up;3 water was rolling down the valley at a great depth.

Three large black twisted columns could be seen, with the reverse effect of white rays of sunlight through cloud, coming to ground at Digley, Hinchliffe Mill and Hillhouse,

the third being a solid thunderspout 100

feet wide intcnse drops driven at high velocity by the wind. Water was running down the road and fields two feet deep in a matter of seconds,

- 7 Height of storm in Holme Valley.

Roaring and crashing could be heard from mills; many buildings seem to be struck by multiple streaks of lightning converging just above them and coming down with a whistle and sharp crack like a whiplash, followed by huge thunderclaps.

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As the water came down many of the mill buildings seemed to shiver and gave the effect of a man trying to get out from under a tarpaulin sheet.

Heavy rain lasted till 8 p.m. - thunder stopped earlier.

Mr Hardy (J. Haigh & Sons Ltd)

Left Isle of Skye at 2.30 but driven back by large drops of rain sixe of sixpences, again at 2.40; fine at 2.45.

4.15 Heavy rains; sheltered for a time at Blackpool Bridge, but moved on by ( ? )

and made for road.

4.45 Lightning, feeling of being encircled and sulphurous taste in air.

5.00 Dropped down into Digley valley - great crack of thunder and torrential rain; made for Digley cottages and sheltered in washkitchens; lightning still persistent.

6.00 Storm at worst, visibility only 20 yds at one time; when it lifted could see a stream about 6 yards wide coming down hillside and falling into Bilberry.

6.15 Opened door, water eighteen inches deep outside cottages, climbed up through fields to Flush House, lanes a foot deep in water. Heavy rain continued till about 7.

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'Mr Gordon Roberts, Yew Tree Mills

Coming down road to Meltham from West Nab, caught in storm about 4,15, hailstones the size of mothballs for 10 = 15 minutes. Left Ford Inn about 5.30 making for Hinchliffe Mill; soon after there was a very cold wind and another downpour of hailstones (had to lie down under wall),

Had been by the stream above Bilberry on the Sunday; came back on the Tuesday and found the ground scoured away and the configuration of the bed entirely different,

Mr. C.W. Roberts, New House

Looking across valley to Bray Wood, 5.40 Start of heavy rain.

5.50 Great increase in intensity - "like a monsoon",

5.55 River a strong winter flow only, but round about 6 rose very quickly (inside a minute) remaining at its height for 15 - 20 minutes, then falling again in five minutes - altered its course by Bottoms Mill.

House near Bridge Mills Mill dam rose very quickly about 10 feet; then fell gradually. River just covered

bridge leading to cricket field.

Thunder started about 4 p.m. The lady at the

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house saw the wall collapse at Hollowgate, came back home, changed and went to Lane Sunday School for her childrens as they were coming back they stopped in Victoria Street by the Liberal Club and saw Wallaces and Torr's go down; there was a great cloud of dust; water was lapping up Victoria Street. After taking the children home she came back to Victoria Street and heard a crunching noise as the Building Society went down.

House at top of Bridge Lane Flood at its height for about an hour, towards the end of which Mrs Schofield's body was taken out. River rose twelve feet.

Elephant and Castle, Hollowgate

Flood at worst 6.30 - 7 (4' 9" up building); not properly down till about 8.30.

Mr Norman Marsh, Broad Ridge

Saw river rise behind Bottoms Mill and cover adjoining fields ina matter of seconds. Ina few minutes the.stone walls on the south east bank were collapsing like a pile of dominoes. The water dammed up against the wooden buildings of Riverside Mills which collapsed in 3 or 4 minutes. A powerful stream swept through the yard taking about 200 bales away.

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Mr Quarmby, Victoria Square

Standing in Station Road when Penny Bank went down - water nearly up to window over shop (9 ft from ground). Air raid shelter near bus garage covered (chalk mark made on memorial column by landlord of White Hart to mark highest water level 6' 7" up from footpath and about 1! 6" above air raid shelter, water about 5 ft up Battye's shop front), Able to get into shop by back entrance at 7.40, but water still 16 inches deep in Victoria Square and flowing strongly - had to support himself by a rope,

Mr Lewis Hirst, 3 Woodhead Road

Came over Victoria Bridge into Towngate with taxi about 6.30 , no water on bridge: went to Mrs Schofield's home for instructions, then back to taxi, but couldn't start it owing to rain water having got into engine. Pushed taxi into garage yard and Mrs Schofield was just going to unlock a garage door when water came through the yard from Towngate, at about 6.50, and rose rapidly. They were unable to get along a wall to Milner's foundry and then tried to get to the air raid shelter, but an inter- vening wall collapsed forcing them back to their original wall where they stayed 7 - 8 minutes until that in turn collapsed from a bale smashing into it, and they were both carried away. A bus was standing in the garage and if they had got into it they would have been safe, the water never reaching its floor.

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Flood started about 6.30, began to subside about 7.10 (electric clock at Albion Mills stopped 6.45). River rose about 12 feet, seeping through garden wall of houses below Sunday School but not coming over - nearly up to embankment of mill dam on opposite side and one foot deep in main mill yard (Thongsbridge Mills); 5 feet up garage by north west end of bridge; walls taken away, nearly up to parapet of bridge (rise about 13 ft).

Lower Mytholmbridge Mill

Flood came between 6.45 and 7.00, and went down fairly soon, rose about 12 feet (to within one foot of bridge parapet, 8' 4" deep at bottom of yard). Donald Riley's body taken out here at about 9 o'clock. I

Rock Mills, Brockholes

Clock stopped at 7.25: river rose nine feet, lapping private bridge (had spread out over fields previously, finishing up against sheds which were smashed). I

Newmill Road, Brockholes

Water came into houses above Smithy Place Mills and spoiled carpets. Flood worst between 6,30 and 7.00, sharpest rise inside 15 minutes - rose nine feet at Smithy Place Mills, covering private bridge. Ankle deep in road at Smithy Place and below 7 - 7.30, rushing down again to river between houses opposite Hope Bank (but

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only for a few minutes, rest taken by drains), Water rose about eight feet behind Providence I Buildings, just over wall and nearly up to top of opposite bank: some cellars flooded on north east side of road,

Hope Bank

Flood came about 7.15 and lasted about 90 minutes: the footbridge leading to Candle Works was about a foot deep in water and blocked by hen huts,

Kaye and Messenger (Candle Works)

Water three feet deep in front of works at about 7.10.

Crossley Mills, Honley

Goit rose rose about four feet 7.30 - 7.45, river rose ten feet.

Bridge Dye Works, Honley

Water six inches deep in office, coming in well over a wall 6 feet 6 inches above normal level of river,

Queen's Square Mill, Honley

River rose 5 feet 6 inches from 7.50 to 8.10, then fell ten inches to 8,30.

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Lower Steps Mill, Honley

Flood came from Magdale first; dam rose three feet and overflowed; river rose about eight feet...

Armitage Bridge

River rose ten feet to within one foot of arch of bridge, very rapidly; rose nine feet behind nurseries, flooding Sewage Works on opposite side.

Dungeon Mills

River rose 9 feet 6 inches.

Lockwood Bridge

River rose seven feet just above bridge about 7.30. Did not fall until 9.00 - 9.30. Water came into yard beyond Water Street at about 8.45.

Kaye and Stewarts

River started rising rapidly 7.55, at height from from 8.05 to total rise about 10 feet (two feet lower than 1931). :

Lockwood Baths

River rose 8 - 9 feet about 7.30. Thomas Canby, Victoria Mills

River rose 8 - 9 feet3 one foot deep in yard and Albert Street under water from about 7.10 to 8.30 for about 50 yards each side of Victoria Street and part of the way up it.

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