A Poem on Those That Were Drowned (1852) by Charles Robinson

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project and its content is believed to be in the Public Domain.

Reproduced from Holmfirth Flood: Two Poems (1853) by Charles Robinson.

Great God! what desolation do I see,
What havoc, wretchedness, and misery;
I ask the cause? it is the Flood! they say,
Which burst its bounds, and forced its midnight way.
Man raised a bank, the Bilberry stream to bind,
But down it rushed, like chaff before the wind,—
With speed, towards the sea, the water ran,
Taking before it house, and beast, and man.
The fearful flood got strength from step to step,
Sweeping the works of man at every leap;
Death and destruction mark’d its reckless course,
And rocks and trees were driven by its force.
The Bilberry mill was first to feel the blow,
And quickly it did lay this structure low:
Leaving a wreck to shew where once it stood,
Before it suffer’d in that fearful flood.
With gathering strength, it then rolled down the hill,
And soon arrived at Upper Digley mill,—
At once took down the barn, the horse, and cow,
And damaged th’ house and mill, which lay below.
To Lower Digley mill it swiftly flies,
Roaring as loud as thunder through the skies;
Observe! — the mill was built from hill to hill,
And did across that narrow passage fill.
But soon the flood, with an appalling clash,
Brought down the whole with one tremendous crash;
Then, armed with instruments of woe, away
It takes the wheels and boilers as its prey.
Away upon the mighty flood they fly,
Making a doleful sound and deathly cry,
Which all who heard, or saw, that dreadful night,
Will ne’er forget the awful, mournful sight,—
Again, with speed and power unknown to man,
Along the dale to Bank End mill it ran:
Part of this mill was carried by its force,
And part left trembling near the water course,—
Then down to Holm Bridge church with haste it flies,
It soon threw down the gates and filled the aisles;
And here it spread, as though the sea had found,
A subterraneous passage under ground.
‘Twas here the Holm Bridge torrent join’d to make
The rolling waters swell into a lake;
But soon it goes, with terror on its brow,
To take the lives of those who live below.
And now, the next place in the fatal lot,
Is Hinchliffe mill, that well remember’d spot;
For here the midnight cry was made too late,
And the first loss of life was in Fold Gate.
Th’ alarm was given, — but, oh! the flood was there,
This cruel foe allowed no time for prayer.
Poor Booth and Wife, no doubt, got up to try,
By means unknown to us, from death to fly;
But lo, the flood rush’d in, and fill’d the room,
And oh! my friends, think of their awful doom;
The heart and lungs would leap for precious air,
But it was water, mixed with black despair.
Hark! hark! the smother’d shriek and dreadful moan,
The mighty struggle and the dying groan;
But soon the bitterness of death was past,
And their once throbbing hearts were still at last.
Where are the spirits of this drowned pair?
The God of mercy hath them in His care;
Leave to the Judge of all, who will do right,
All those who suffered on that dreadful night.
But come, my friends, with trembling let us chase
This fearful torrent in its dreadful race;
For with a mighty and resistless power,
All that obstructs its course it doth devour.
And now the horrors of my mournful tale,
If rightly told, will turn the stoutest pale:
For the six families in Water Street
Thought not that death and they that night would meet.
But soon was heard a rushing, mighty sound,
Which broke the sleep of all who lived around;—
It was the flood! which came with such a force,
As swept the street into the water course.
Some of the neighbours saw, with deepest grief,
The street go down, but could not give relief:
They heard the thrilling cry, for some to save,
But none could snatch them from the wat’ry grave.
Behold! the flood rush’d down with fearful speed,
And none could help them in the hour of need;
Th’ observers saw that death had struck this blow,
And none could rescue from his iron jaw.
But now the cry to save is heard no more,
For human aid no longer they implore :
Nature upheld the struggle to the last,
And now the horrid throes of death are past.
See, holy Angels hovering o’er the flood,
To guide these precious spirits unto God;
For He can save unto the uttermost,
All those who in their loving Saviour trust.
When morn arose, and chased away the night,
No tongue could tell, nor pencil paint the sight;
The street was gone in desolation’s train,
And its inhabitants ne’er to be seen again.
Their poor remains were carried with the flood,
And left in wreck, or buried in the mud:
Poor Joseph Marsden has not yet been found,
But still lies out of the burial ground.
A thirst for gain at first built up the bank,
Which was not founded safe, and soon it sank;
A thirst for gain, neglected its repair,
Which introduced, at length, this sad affair.
But come, my friends, we’ll hasten down the vale,
And try to shorten our distressing tale:
The next is Bottom’s mill, — see, there it stands,
But skill and cash will soon recall its hands.
So down in desolation’s track we’ll go,
And take a glance at what is done below:
For beds, and coats, and garments too, were seen,
Hung on the trees, or left upon the green.
Next is Victoria mill: she stood the best,
And in the raging flood she suffer’d least;
She stands the queen of all the mills around,
And suffer’d least, because on higher ground.
And here, a noble action I’ll record,
Which would have honour’d either duke or lord:—
As I have seen, three cottages there stood,
Near to this mill, before this awful flood.
When th’ inhabitants awaked from sleep,
They saw the flood roll on with fearful sweep,—
They cried for help, with terror in the sound,
Which brought the neighbours near unto the ground.
When Mr. Crosland saw their dangerous state,
He cried, “be quick, or we shall be too late;”
He saw a mason’s ladder fixed, hard by,
Tied fast with ropes, but soon he made them fly.
He called two active youths, “Go down,” he cried,
“And place the ladder by the cottage side;”
Away they ran, through water and through mud,
And placed the ladder where the inmates stood.
And one by one escaped the furious flood,
And soon, rejoicing, on safe ground they stood;
No sooner had they reached the little hill,
Than down the walls and all the building fell.
Hail! Crosland, hail! thy name shall live, brave man,
In carrying out with haste thy worthy plan;
Thou didst obtain more honour in that hour,
Than heroes who have conquered worlds by power.
For hadst thou lingered, and the moments fled,
The twenty, which thou saved, had now been dead.
But come, my friends, give God above the praise,
Who can deliver in ten thousand ways.
But we must leave this highly favour’d place,
If we intend this sad event to trace;
The next is Sandford’s house, oh! mournful sight,
Its wreck reminds us of that dreadful night.
Behold! this widower had retired to rest,
With health, and strength, and social comfort blest;
His children too, felt safe beneath his roof,
For of his love they had sufficient proof.
And thus reclining on their beds they lie,
Until sweet sleep had closed up every eye;
Soon the midnight hour had passed away,
Unconscious of the morn or coming day.
But oh! the flood was gaining weight and power,
From moorland stream and from the falling shower,
For down it came with a tremendous sweep,
And none were near to wake them from their sleep.
When they awoke, they heard its dreadful roar,
But now, alas! it was close at their door;
Another rush, and down the building fell,
But of their deathly struggle who can tell.
I think I hear the children loudly cry,
“Dear father, save, or we shall surely die;”
Alas! they felt, no power on earth could save,
And downward sank into a watery grave.
O come, ye daughters of the vale, draw near,
And for your sisters drop the parting tear;
Prepare to meet them on yon happy shore,
Where floods and sudden deaths are known no more.
And now we’ll take a glance at Sandford’s mill,
The loss is great, and all the wheels are still —
The loss, its former master will not know,
For he has done with all things here below.
My friends, the loss of property is nought,
If weighed with life, it is not worth a thought.
We now will hasten down to Farrar’s mill,
The wreck is great, and all the works are still.
Ye who have suffer’d much, fresh courage take,
For christian sympathy is now awake,
Your case has raised the sympathizing sigh,
And soon the public will your wants supply.
Next is Scar Fold — with sorrow I relate,
Their loss of life and property was great;
Eight precious lives were taken by the flood,
And all the place in perfect ruin stood.
Poor Hellawell, dear man, I feel for thee,
Six in round numbers were thy family;
Thy great bereavement on that fatal morn,
Would make thee wish thou never hadst been born.
But thou, brave Woodcock, heardst the dread alarm,
Thou ran and caught two children in thy arms,—
Thou felt the floor give way on which thou stood,
But on thou rush’d, and so escap’d the flood.
Ah! where’s thy wife, thou urged her on to fly,
O hark, my friends, her resolute reply—
“If I my other children cannot save,
I’ll sink with them into a watery grave.”
And now she clasps two children to her breast,
Her love for them must undergo the test;
She felt the water rising round her waist,
And to a slender ladder now she hastes.
As she climb’d up, she feels the steps give way,
For on the floor she could no longer stay,
So up she rises to the topmost step,
She feels the water rising to her neck.
She keeps the babes held up above her head,
Although the hopes of life were almost fled;
Who can describe the anguish of her heart,
For she expected death would throw his dart.
But now she hears a noise above her head,
It breaks the gloom, which o’er her soul hath spread:
It was the neighbours, who were come to see,
If they could help her from the flood to flee.
Onwards they go, with energy and speed,
And soon were rejoic’d to see them all freed;
When their mother saw their escape was secure,
She felt her heart fill with joy sweet and pure.
And now she enquires, while trembling she stood,
“Are my other children sav’d from the flood?”
The answer she heard o’erwhelmed all her joy,
She heard from her friends the heart-rending reply;
That Alfred and Sarah were both swept away;—
She wrung her wet hands, and attempted to pray;
‘Tis prayer that must give to thee sweet relief,
It will heal thy aching heart of its grief.
Pray, and the Lord will be with thee in trouble,
Thou felt of his strength in thy dreadful struggle,
When, with a courage heroes never knew,
Two children from the jaws of death thou drew.
But at Scarfold I can no longer stay,
Into Holmfirth I now must wend my way;
I see the arch, at Upper Bridge, withstood,
The violent rushing of the dreadful flood.
The dreadful ruin that runs through the town,
Is seen in wreck and buildings tumbled down;
But what are buildings to the loss of life?
Ask those who heard their agonizing strife.
Ask Amor Bailey of that awful morn,
When wife and children from his breast were torn:
He heard the deadly struggles of his wife,—
Ask him if gold be more than human life.
Methinks, oh! Amor, thou wilt always feel
A pain within thy breast that nought will heal,
Thy wife and children, and their awful lot,
Where e’er thou art, will never be forgot.
But I must leave thee in thy mournful state,
And take a walk down to the Hollowgate:
Now here’s a place where once a Toll Bar stood,
Before the morning of the dreadful flood.
For Toll Bar loss the public will not care,
No sympathy for it they have to spare;
For the poor keeper and his wife they feel,
Their hearts and eyes with sympathy to fill.
For they were drowned in the awful flood,
And their dead bodies buried in the mud.
The next who suffer’d in the Hollowgate,
And on that morning met their deadly fate,
Was Master Ashall and his family,
They were all launch’d into eternity:
They cried for help, no man could do them good,
And down they sank into the awful flood.
The next who suffer’d were Fearnschild and wife,
She was a mother, in the prime of life;
Her husband feels the ties of love are cut,
For her bright eyes are now for ever shut.
The next is Master Lee, an aged man,
His life had dwindled to the shortest span,
He had not strength to reach the chamber door,
He drank the bitter cup, and life was o’er.
And others too, whom now I cannot name,
They had to drink the deadly cup the same.
But from the Hollowgate I’ll now depart,
I feel its sight has deeply touch’d my heart.
I at Mill Hill will take a solemn glance,
The flood was sudden as an avalanche;
When they awoke it was to leap for breath,
Alas! alas! it was to fight with death.
Poor Shackleton, thy family and thee,
Were hurled with haste into eternity,
When thy children awoke, they could not cry,
Nor to their father or their mother fly.
Alas! no time for human help was given,
For house and all were by the torrent driven,
For all were drowned with one fearful sweep,
And lifeless sunk into the foaming deep.
The next who felt destruction’s horrid throes,
Whose house was shivered in its dreadful jaws,
Was Sydney Hartley, a man of real worth,
Who tried to bring his wife and children forth.
But ah! his efforts proved in vain,
And down he sunk, with honour on his name;
Four of his family he helped to save,
Before he sunk into a watery grave.
But who the children’s loss can calculate,
For they were plung’d into an orphan state,
Their parents and their home are swept away,
The loss they’ll feel unto their dying day.
They saw the flood around their mother roll,
They saw the fearful anguish of her soul;
When in her agony, she cried, farewell!
But what it is to die you cannot tell.
Now to ye orphans, a word I’ll give,
Strive in the fear and love of God to live,
And he will guide you through this wilderness,
And with eternal life your spirits bless.
Now I must leave this hill, and mournful town,
To look below at what is overthrown;
The flood has stopp’d the busy wheels of trade,
And for the consequence we feel afraid.
I feel my grief is stronger than my fears,
To see so many children, young in years,
Snatch’d from their cradles by the raging flood —
Brought to the pump, to wash away the mud.
Yes, more than twenty from this earth were torn,
By death, upon that ever fatal morn;
Their parents too, shared the same awful fate,
And all were sent into a future state.
But now this dreary dale I must descend,
And try my long and awful tale to end:
On Thongs Bridge dale I cast my mournful eye,
And think the sight would make a stoic cry.
Here eight dead bodies from the mud were drawn,
Their bodies mangled, and their night clothes torn,
And broken furniture of every kind,
Both in the wreck and ruins you may find.
And next at Mytholm Bridge I’ll take a glance,
For homewards now I must and will advance:
Part of the arch, I see, was swept away,
And road and fence in heaps of ruin lay.
But I am glad that human life was spared,
And skill and courage met their due reward;
For Shaw’s good wife now up the chimney crept,
And soon upon the slippery roof she stepped.
Spurred on by nature’s strongest ties, with fear,
Away the slates and laths she soon does tear;
Her husband now hands her the children out,
And all with safety to the ground were brought.
Their neighbour, Newsome, played an active part,
For down he jump’d into a swimming cart;
Lo! with a sailor’s skill away he steers,
And, with amazing joy, the flood he clears.
Now I will take a glance at Smithy place,
And then the flood I will no further trace:
Their’s wreck and ruin in its fearful swell,
But the amount of grief I cannot tell.
For it turned over, in its passage through,
The dyehouse, butcher’s shop, and smithy too:
But now a greater loss I must relate,
It is Elizabeth Heeley’s dreadful fate.
The poor mother made her escape the first,
With her dear youngest child clasp’d to her breast;
The father soon sprang forth out of the flood,
And placed the children where the mother stood.
Away he ran, to bring out the last pair,
But, oh! my friends, his horror and despair:
The flood had swept Elizabeth from the floor,
And forced its passage through the pantry door.
Her father tried, with all his strength and might,
To snatch her from the flood’s most rapid flight;
He would have gone, but for an active man,
Who drew him out, as through the house it ran.
Her poor remains were carried far below,
Near to a place that’s named Berry Brow;
But see her spirit rising from the flood,
And angels there to guide her home to God.
And now, my friend, a word before we part,
You’ve heard sufficient to affect your heart;
Fly to Christ Jesus, who alone can save,
And you’re prepared for an untimely grave.