Holmfirth Flood Project

Holmfirth Flood of 1852.jpg

The Holmfirth Flood Project has the following aims:

  1. To make historic content relating to flooding in the Holme Valley freely available, such as transcriptions of newspaper articles and other contemporary publications.
  2. To provide a focal point for research into the impact of the floods and into the lives of those who were affected, including the victims and their families.

It is hoped that the project will generate renewed interest, particularly in the run up to the 80th anniversary of the 1944 Flood (2024) and the 175th anniversary of the 1852 Flood (2027).

If you would like to contribute to the project or make available your own research, please get in touch or leave your comments on the dedicated message board.

We are extremely grateful to Enid Minter for allowing On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) to be made available to read online.

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Summary of Flooding in the Holme Valley

Year Description Local Deaths
1738 Heavy prolonged rain caused the valley to flood on 7 May, damaging fields. The flood water "forced its way into the Holmfirth Parish Church while the congregation was assembled, and it is recorded that it excited 'great consternation and alarm, as the water rose to a considerable height in the pews.'" 0
1777 A heavy storm on 21 July[1] caused the river to burst its banks and flood the valley. A stone church built in the 1470s was washed away but rebuilt the following year. The Leeds Intelligencer (29/Jul/1777) reported that "three men were carried away by it, to a considerable distance and unfortunately drown’d, one of whom has left a widow and nine children!" 3
1787 Heavy rains led to "most of the bridge" in Holmfirth being washed away.[2] 0
1799 "In the autumn of 1799 several houses and mills at Holmfirth and Huddersfield were swept away by the floods, but no loss of life is recorded."[3] This is contradicted by a brief article in the Leeds Intelligencer (14/Feb/1852) which stated "At the flood which occurred at Holmfirth in 1799, an innkeeper was drowned and his body was found in the river at Wakefield, where it had been carried by the flood. He had nothing on but his shirt." The Historical Chronicle reported that the "canal at Huddersfield has been considerably injured, and several mills and houses near Holmfirth, and other places in the West Riding have been entirely swept away by the overflowing of different streams". 1
1821 "On September 21st, after a heavy rain, the great reservoir above Blacksike Mill burst its embankment, and rolled down the valley a prodigious volume of water, which forced down the buildings in its course. The flood commenced at seven in the evening, and the water had subsided at ten, but the inhabitants did not dare to retire to rest. The next day presented a truly affecting scene of desolation — mud, stones, timber, broken furniture, work-tools, and prostrate trees were spread over the fields for a considerable extent. Happily no lives were lost, although the wreck of property was very great."[3] The Leeds Intelligencer reported that workers at Black Sike Mill "just escaped with their lives".[4] 0
1822 "May 20th, after a severe thunder storm, a cloud burst on the hills above Holmfirth and Meltham, and, from the junctions of those valleys, sent down the vale a breast of water from seven to nine feet, high, but happily no lives were lost."[3][5] 0
1849 A "terrific thunder storm raged in the Holmfirth valley, near Huddersfield, and was attended with injurious effects to property from the filling of the streams in the neighbourhood". The Holme Styes Reservoir overflowed and the River Ribble flooded, causing damage to property and mills.[6] 0
1852 Following prolonged heavy rain, the defective embankment of the Bilberry Reservoir gave way in the early hours of 5 February and released around 86 million gallons of water down the Holme Valley. Along with the large loss of life, seven bridges, several mills and many residential properties were washed away. [3] 81[7]
1944 On 29 May, a severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding. Despite widespread damage to property, Bilberry Reservoir held back some of the water and helped limit the number of fatalities. German prisoners of war housed in the area helped with the rescue efforts. Geoffrey Riley was awarded the Albert Medal, and later the George Cross, in recognition of his valiant attempt to rescue an elderly woman. The victims were named as: Donald Riley (aged 42 of Spring Leigh, Woodhead Road), Mrs. Dorothea Schofield (aged 34 of Towngate, Holmfirth) and Miss Maud Evelyn Wimpenny (aged 76 of Victoria, Holmfirth). 3
1946 On 20 September, following gales and rainstorms across the country, Edward Brook Addy (32) of Hope Bank, Honley, died after being swept away by the swollen river. Downriver, Mirfield was flooded and the Yorkshire Post reported that at least 10 people had died across the country, including Esholt Sewage Works employee Edgar Marsh who had been attempting to help local residents who had been cut off by the River Aire bursting its banks.[8] 1

Notes and References

  1. Some sources give the date as 23 July 1777.
  2. Leeds Intelligencer (13/Nov/1787).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Awful Catastrophe and Fearful Loss of Life at Holmfirth in Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Feb/1852).
  4. See also "Destructive Inundation" in Morning Post (02/Oct/1821).
  5. See also Leeds Intelligencer (27/May/1822).
  6. "Holmfirth" in Manchester Times (11/Aug/1849).
  7. The figure of 81 was seemingly derived from combining the 78 named victims with the 3 children who were buried as "unknown"s. However, it is likely that 1 or 2 of those children were in the list of the 78, as not all of the bodies of the 78 were found and identified. In the years immediately after the flood, the figure was usually given as "upwards of 80" to reflect the uncertainty.
  8. Yorkshire Post (21/Sep/1946).