Ellen Ann Hartley (1849-1852)

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.

Ellen Ann Hartley was a victim of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, along with her parents and four of her siblings.


She was born on 23 October 1849, the daughter of mill engineer Sidney Hartley and his wife Mary Ann (née Lodge), and was baptised on 3 November 1850 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.

The 1851 Census listed the family residing at Mill Hill, Holmfirth, along with an apprentice woollen carder, 16-year-old Henry Dearnley of Wooldale.


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.

The following description of Ellen Ann was reported in the local press:

Ellen Ann Hartley, 3, Holmfirth Mill ; light-coloured hair, very much turned up in front.

Clogger George Smith of Parkgate, Berry Brow, recovered the body of a young girl "at Dead Ash, in the river Holme" at around 6am on the morning of the flood and it was reported that the "body was fast in a 'brash'[2] and had no clothes on". The body was taken to the Golden Fleece on Woodhead Road where it was suggested it might be one of the daughters of James Mettrick — likely Jane.

At the inquest, Hannah Hartley formally identified the body as being that of her younger sister Ellen Ann. As Hannah was not an adult, the Coroner seemed keen to confirm the idenfication:[3]

She was asked how she knew it, and replied, because it was “calf-licked” like herself, pointing to a pecularity of the hair on the forehead, so denominated in Yorkshire.

Despite this identification, the body was claimed after the inquest by Aner Bailey as being that of his missing daughter Ann and removed by him for burial. However, it is much more likely that Ann's body laid unclaimed and unidentified at the Waggon and Horses Inn:[4]

John Shaw, of Upperbridge, Holmfirth, said he found the bodies of Joe Mettrick, and a girl unknown, that were taken to the Waggon and Horses Inn. He did not know either of them himself. The girl was found about nine o'clock on the Thursday morning, in Victoria Street. She was never owned, and was buried at Saint John's Church, Upperthong.

The other six members of the Hartley family who died in the flood were buried on Sunday 8 February at Christ Church, New Mill.

Ellen Ann's surviving siblings were:

Notes and References

  1. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.
  2. Likely a reference to the lower branches of a tree. "Brashing" is a verb meaning to remove the lower branches of a tree.
  3. "The Terrible Catastrophe at Holmfirth" in Reynolds's Newspaper (15/Feb/1852).
  4. Huddersfield Examiner (14/Feb/1852).