Aner Bailey (1812-1895)

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project which aims to make content available to researchers in advance of the 175th anniversary of the 1852 Flood which will be commemorated in 2027.

Aner Bailey was a survivor of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852.

In articles relating to the flood, his name appears variously as Anor, Enor, Haner, Hanmer, Enos, Enon, Amor, and Hamer.


He was born on 8 April 1812, the son of Abraham Bailey and his wife Martha (née Knutton), and was baptised on 3 June 1812 at Lane Independent Chapel, Upperthong.

His father appears to have died prior to 1841, when Martha was listed as a grocer of Upperbridge in the Census and Aner was working as a tailor.

He married Hannah Crookes, daughter of silversmith Thomas and Mary Crookes, on 24 October 1843 at Sheffield. The couple had two known children who were both baptised on 2 May 1851 at Lane Independent Chapel:

At the time of the 1851 Census, the couple were living with Aner's elderly mother (aged 73) who was still working as a shopkeeper at Upperbridge.

Holmfirth Flood of 1852

In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the couple and their children were washed out of their house by the flood which swept down the valley following the failure of the embankment of Bilberry Reservoir. Only Aner survived.

The Flood Came and Took Them All Away: A Sermon on the Holmfirth Flood (1852) by Rev. Joshua Fawcett:

On the left bank another house, occupied by Mr. Enos Bailey, his wife, and two children, projected towards the stream, and was carried away by the flood. His wife and children were all drowned ; but he laid hold of a beam which was being carried down the stream, and which, by a sudden sweep, brought him again to the left bank of the river, and he was able to scramble out and escape into the turn-pike road by the gate near the house of Mr. S. Wimpenny, grocer.

The Holmfirth Flood (1910):

At Upperbridge, a house occupied by Aner Bailey was swept away, and, in spite of all his efforts to save them, he saw his wife and two children carried away by the flood, and the furniture was served the same fate. Bailey himself grasped hold of a beam which was floating down the stream, and by a sudden sweep he was brought safely to the left bank of the river, and scrambled out into the turnpike road.

In On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996), the authors speculate that a man seen in distress on the night of the flood was Aner:

At about a quarter to two a.m., soon after the water level had dropped, a man was seen stumbling among the debris in this area tearing his hair and shouting that all his family were lost. Although the man was not identified, he is likely to have been Enor [sic] Bailey as he is the only one so bereaved whose movements or whereabouts at that precise time cannot be deduced from the reports. His was perhaps the first overt demonstration of the outpouring of grief that Holmfirth would experience in the days and weeks to come.

The bodies of Hannah and Martha were found by John Moorhouse Woodhead and taken to the Rose and Crown, Thonsbridge, where they were identified by Aner.[1] However, it was reported that he "had some difficulty in identifying his wife, owing to the changed features through drowning, and that he only became assured of her identity by a particular mole upon her person".[2]

According to a report in the Halifax Guardian (14/Feb/1852), Hannah's body "was much bruised".

At the inquest, it became apparent that Aner was under the misapprehension that the body of his eldest daughter, Ann, had already been buried at the Holmfirth Wesleyan Chapel:[3]

Hanmer Bailey deposed to having lost his wife and two children, the younger of which would have been two years in month of March next, and the other about nine. He believed the eldest of his children had been buried in the New Churchyard at Victoria Bridge. The witness was the only person who escaped in the house, having been cast out, he supposed, by the force of the water. The other child was found at Thongs Bridge, along with the body of the wife.

It remains uncertain why he believed that Ann had already been buried, but it seems likely that the Coroner would have informed Aner that none of the bodies had yet been released for burial. Following the inquest, Aner appears to have set off down the Holme Valley to view the bodies in the hope of finding Ann. At the further inn — the Golden Fleece near Berry Brow — he "claimed" a body which had already been formally identified as Ellen Ann Hartley by her surviving sister, Hannah. From newspaper descriptions of Ann Bailey and Ellen Ann Hartley, it seems unlikely that the two girls could easily have been mistaken for each other and at the inquest the Coroner had seemingly taken great lengths to satisfy himself that Hannah's testimony was reliable. Aner's motive in claiming the body was perhaps clouded by grief.

On the balance of probability, the body of Ann Bailey was the one found in Victoria Street at around 9am on 5 February by John Shaw of Upperbridge. The body was taken to the Waggon and Horses Inn where it remained unidentified and unclaimed.[4] Along with the body of an unidentified boy, it was initially taken to St. David's, Holmbridge, for burial. However, the waterlogged state of the graveyard led to the two bodies being transferred to St. John's, Upperthong, for burial on 9 February.

It seems that Aner knew the girl that he had claimed was not actually his daughter Ann and the body was buried at St. John's. The bodies of Hannah and Martha were buried in a separate service at Lane Independent Chapel.

A report of the flood, printed in The Morning Chronicle, stated that Aner’s mother (Martha) was also a victim of the flood: "Bailey himself and his mother managed to get out again, but the latter has since died". However, this appears to be the only report which mentions Aner's mother and she actually died on 10 June 1853, aged 75.[5]

In the early hours of Wednesday 1 September 1852, people in the vicinity of Upperbridge "were aroused from their slumbers by a tremendous crash, accompanied by a loud and terrific noise resembling a hurricane". The noise had been caused by the remains of Aner's house collapsing onto and demolishing a "cart-shed, the property of Mr. George Bower".[6] Inside the cart shed were "four valuable pigs" belonging to Bower, two of which were trapped under the rubble:[7]

Eventually these were extricated through the agency of Mr. Joseph Barraclough, architect and joiner, (who distinguished himself so laudably in rescuing drowning victims from the violence of the flood) and thus, happily, little absolute injury, beyond inevitable fright, was sustained.

Later Life

In March 1880, Upperthong Local Board ordered a notice "to be given to Aner Bailey, the present owner of Joseph Balmforth's house and shop, to put water in within a month".[8]

In January 1882, a meeting of Upperthong Local Board heard that "the grate in front of Miss Booth's shop at Upper Bridge, belonging to Aner Bailey, was unsafe, being too wide and dangerous between the bars" and it was "resolved that the inspector give [Bailey] notice to make it safe".[9]

In April 1891, he sued Holmfirth painter Joseph Bamforth, who had been a tenant in two of his properties at Upper Bridge, for £10. Bamforth had sublet one of the shops to the Misses Booth but had subsequently been asked to vacate both after his son caused damanage to one of the properies.[10][11] Joseph was the father of James Bamforth who founded the publishing firm of Bamforth & Co. Ltd.

In June 1892, he was ordered by Holmfirth Local Board to fix issues with the water supply at his premises at Upper Bridge then occupied by Miss Booth.[12]

Aner Bailey died on 24 July 1895, aged 83. The inquest into his death heard that his nephew had visited Aner the day before and he was in bed, complaining of chest pains. It was stated that Aner had refused to see a doctor for over six months, as he felt he had been overcharged the last time he saw one. He was found "sat on the floor, and was quite cold". The jury returned a verdict of "death from natural causes."[13]

He was buried 26 July at St. John, Upperthong.

The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that Aner was "well known for his eccentric habits" and that the loss of his family in the flood "probably accounts for his secluded habits." The article finished by stating, that the deceased was "supposed to have died fairly well off, though he lived in a parsimonious way". In fact, he left a sizeable estate valued at £1,203 18s. 8d.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. The Huddersfield Chronicle mistakenly reported that the bodies had been identified by "Ann Bailey".
  2. The Flood Came and Took Them All Away: A Sermon on the Holmfirth Flood (1852) by Rev. Joshua Fawcett, page 80.
  3. "The Inquest" in Leeds Intelligencer (14/Feb/1852).
  4. The body is unlikely to have been that of Ellen Ann Hartley, as Victoria Street was upriver from the Hartley's house.
  5. "Deaths" in Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Jun/1853).
  6. "Local News: Falling of a Building" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (04/Sep/1852).
  7. "Another Sequel of the Flood at Holmfirth" in Bolton Chronicle (11/Sep/1852).
  8. "Upperthong Local Board" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Mar/1880).
  9. "Upperthong Local Board" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Jan/1882).
  10. "Holmfirth County Court: The Law as to Landlord and Tenant" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Apr/1891).
  11. "Holmfirth Country Court" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Jun/1891).
  12. "Holmfirth Local Board" in Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Jul/1892).
  13. "Inquest at Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Jul/1895) and "Holmfirth: Inquest" in Huddersfield Examiner (27/Jul/1895).