Holmfirth Flood of 1852 - Timeline

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.
This page is currently under construction and isn't complete yet!

The following is a timeline of events relating to the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, including the dates and times bodies were recovered.


  • any times of the day specified are based on contemporary reports and will sometimes be approximations
  • ages shown in parentheses are based on the person's known date of birth, the 1851 Census, burial records or on newspaper reports
  • secondary victims are shown in italics


Wednesday 4 February 1852

  • following heavy rains, Bilberry Reservoir was filling at a rate of rate of 18 inches an hour and it was expected that the water would overflow the sunken part of the embankment leading to a rise in the water levels downriver


  • reservoir water level had risen to 8 feet from the embankment


  • reservoir water level reportedly only 2 feet below the embankment


  • water beings to lap over the lowest part of the embankment

Thursday 5 February 1852


  • water is flowing freely over the embankment
  • the occupants of the house connected to Upper Digley Mill flee the property at around 12:30am as the river level rises


  • a section of the weakened Bilberry embankment is washed away at around 1am, allowing more water to flow over
  • runners are dispatched down the valley to raise the alarm
  • at around 1:10am, the central portion of the embankment collapses and a torrent of water begins to rush down the valley
  • preceded by a rapidly rising river level, the flood reaches Holmfirth before 1:30am
  • Charles Earnshaw (35) found at 1:40am "in a house belonging to Betty Turner, under the office of Mr. Kidd, of Newtown" by John Earnshaw



  • Eliza Matthews (12) found "under James Lee’s window, at Rocher Bottom" by James Bailey
  • Mary Ann Hartley (40) found "in the ash tree at Brockholes, near the bridge"



  • Ellen Wood (22) found "in Mr. Dyson’s gig-house, near the mill dam" by John Mate


  • Joshua Charlesworth (16) "taken from the water at eight o’clock on Thursday morning, opposite Ribbledon Mill" by Joseph Clegg
  • Joshua Earnshaw (72) found "Wooldale side of the river, about 300 yards [below] Thongsbridge" by Joseph Turner


  • Hannah Dodd (30) found at "edge of Upper Mill dam" by Thomas Haigh
  • body of an unknown girl (aged 4 or 5) was found in Victoria Street (Holmfirth) by John Shaw of Upperbridge — subsequently buried unidentified

during the morning

during the early afternoon

  • Elizabeth Hartley (3) found "washed under the floor" of "mill bottom belonging to Wimpenny & Woodhead, at Thongsbridge" by George Brook


  • Eliza Marsden (47) found "in the wreckage at Higgin Bridge" by Thomas Haigh

during the day

  • James Booth (60), wife Nancy (44) and lodger William Healey (46) found in their house at Fold Gate by Jonathan Roberts
  • Lydia Brook (28) and daughter Hannah (10) found in their house at Fold Gate by Jonathan Roberts
  • Jonathan Crosland (39) found "washed into the Victoria Mill" by John Kenyon
  • Betty Earnshaw (25) found in the River Calder at Mirfield by James Clegg
  • Joshua Earnshaw (72) found "near Thongs Bridge, about 30 yards from the river" by Joseph Turner of Hagg
  • John Hinchliffe of Thongs Bridge assisted in the recovery of the bodies of Tamar Shackleton and her son James which were found at "Lincroft"

Friday 6 February 1852


  • formal inquest begins with jury selection at the Railway Tavern after which they view the bodies (starting at Armitage Bridge and working their way back to Hincliffe Mill), taking evidence as to their finding and identification, until mid-afternoon


  • inquest jury meets at Holmfirth Town Hall where coroner George Dyson addresses them upon their duties before adjourning until Wednesday 18 February

during the day

Saturday 7 February 1852

during the day

  • Sarah Hannah Dodd (1) found in "mill dam, below Hinchliffe Mill" by Firth Barber
  • Emily Sandford (3) found in "Holmfirth Mill dam" by Thomas Fallas
  • Lydia Greenwood (46) "found with her head inside the door of James Haigh's house, at Hollowgate" by Benjamin Roebuck
  • Charles Crosland found in the "dam of Bottoms Mill"
  • Nancy Marsden found "in the ruins of the destroyed cottages" on Water Street
  • coroner George Dyson holds inquests over 13 bodies


Sunday 8 February 1852


Monday 9 February 1852

  • during the night there was "heavy fall of rain, by which the stream was much increased" and "the abutments of Victoria Bridge gave way this morning, and sunk about five inches"[1]

in the morning


Tuesday 10 February 1852


  • Samuel Greenwood (47) found in Holmfirth Mill (Mill Hill) "embedded in black mud" "behind a washing machine in the mill" by John Rowbottom
  • body of a "new born babe" found near Hinchliffe Mill


Wednesday 11 February 1852


Friday 13 February 1852


  • "second day" of the inquest commences at the White Hart Inn where evidence into the finding and identification of the bodies is heard[2]

during the day

  • Alfred Ashall (1) found "at Stanley Ferry, two miles below Wakefield"

Saturday 14 February 1852


  • Samuel Mettrick (21) found by workmen "clearing the goit belonging to Mr. Farrar, Uppermill"

during the day

  • Mary Mettrick (37) found at Armitage Mill (possibly in the mill race?)

Sunday 15 February 1852


Monday 16 February 1852


Tuesday 17 February 1852


Friday 20 February 1852


  • Jonathan Sandford (45) found "near the tail goit of Messrs. Robinson's mill, Thongsbridge"


  • Grace Hirst Shackleton (4) found "in an upright position and buried up to her armpits in mud at Lower Mytholm Bridge dam"

Saturday 21 February 1852


Saturday 28 February 1852

Sunday 29 February 1852

Tuesday 2 March


Wednesday 3 March


Saturday 6 March


Wednesday 19 March


Friday 26 March

  • Ann Earnshaw, wife of Holmfirth constable John Earnshaw, dies of typhus fever

Sunday 28 March


Friday 2 April 1852

Wednesday 14 April 1852


Wednesday 21 April 1852

Friday 2 July 1852

Tuesday 6 July 1852


Wednesday 1 September 1852


  • the ruined remains of Aner Bailey's house at Upper Bridge collapse

Notes and References

  1. "The Lamentable Catastrophe and Fearful Loss of Life at Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  2. "Second Day's Inquest" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (14/Feb/1852).
  3. Likely another name for the Ancient Order of Shepherds.