David Hartley (1833-1900)

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.

David Hartley was a survivor of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, which killed his parents and five of his siblings.


He was born in the Township of Emley, the eldest son of mill engineer Sidney Hartley and his wife Mary Ann (née Lodge), and was baptised on 7 April 1833 at Emley.

The 1851 Census listed the family residing at Mill Hill, Holmfirth, along with an apprentice woollen carder, 16-year-old Henry Dearnley of Wooldale. David's occupation was given as "woollen slubber".

In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the Bilberry Reservoir embankment failed, unleashing a torrent of water down the Holme Valley. With the flood waters rising in their property, the Hartley family attempted to escape by breaking through the roof. David Hartley recounted what happened next:[1]

When we were in bed early in the morning we heard a noise as if the slates were falling off the house. I got up and cleared away a number of slates so that I was able to get out on to the thack. I then pulled up my sister Ann beside me ; after that I managed to get John, my brother, up and also the apprentice boy. I tried long and hard to pull brother James up but had to give up the attempt or we would both have been dragged down together. While we were standing on the roof we saw many persons with their heads a little above the water struggling and crying for help. We could see into the chamber where my mother was lying but it was impossible to reach her, the water had risen so high. We saw her look towards us and heard her say farewell and then she was swept away.

At the inquest, David Hartley stated that “their house was quite destroyed” and the only surviving possessions were “half a dozen chairs and a round table.”

His other two surviving siblings were:

He married Martha Hinchliffe, the daughter of James Hinchliffe of New Fold, on 6 February 1853 at All Hallows, Kirkburton. The couple had at least nine children: Sidney, James, Joe, Willie, Mozart, Herbert, David, Martha Ann and Clara Ellen.

By 1871, they had moved to Golcar where he worked as a woollen slubber and carder. He was the licensee of the Cherry Tree Inn at Pike Law, Golcar, from 12 August 1890 to 18 September 1894.

He died aged 67 and was buried at St. John's Church, Golcar, on 23 June 1900.

Notes and References

  1. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.