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


  • 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
  • three men — Benjamin Bray, John Whiteley and his uncle Joseph — leave the reservoir to try and raise the alarm along the valley
  • 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 around 1:20am[1]
  • 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




  • Martha Crosland (14) found at Bridge Mill Bottom by William Roberts
  • naked body of a girl aged about 3 found "fast in a brash" at Dead Ash, near Berry Brow, by George Smith — the body was identified as Ellen Ann Hartley (aged 2y 3m) at the inquest on Saturday 7 but was subsequently "claimed" by Aner Bailey as being his daughter Ann (aged 4y 3m)


  • 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 of Hagg


  • 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 but likely Ann Bailey (aged 4y 3m)

during the morning

  • John Hinchliffe of Thongs Bridge assisted in the recovery of the bodies of Tamar Shackleton and her son James which were found at "Lincroft"
  • James Charlesworth (13) and Alfred Woodcock (17) found "betwixt the floors of the first and second storeys of the" Holmfirth Mill by John Rowbottom
  • Ann Earnshaw Beaumont (13) found "fast in a tree near to Mr. Floyd's house, Sands" by Thomas Buckley
  • Joseph Mettrick found in a kitchen cellar in Victoria Street (Holmfirth) by John Shaw of Upperbridge
  • Mary Hellawell (28) and children George (9), Sarah (7), Elizabeth (5), John (2) and Ann (11m) found inside their house by William Moorhouse
  • Sydney Hartley (41) found "laid on his back about two yards from the sixth window of the Bridge Mill, or between that and the dam" by Thomas Haigh

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
  • Rose Ann Charlesworth found "found dead and naked in [Mr. Batley's] field near Armitage Fold" with "nothing on but a hankerchief on the head"

Friday 6 February 1852


  • body of Jane Mettrick found at Honley by William Whiteley Holmes "buried in wreck in a field near Mr. James Robinson's dye-house"


  • following a meeting at the Railway Tavern where the members of the inquest jury were selected, they spent several hours viewing the bodies, starting at Armitage Bridge and working their way back to Hincliffe Mill


  • inquest jury meets at Holmfirth Town Hall where coroner George Dyson addresses them upon their duties before adjourning the formal inquest until Wednesday 18 February (Dyson and the jury would continue to view bodies and taken evidence as to their identities in the meantime)

during the day

Saturday 7 February 1852

  • as the coroner (George Dyson) had not viewed the bodies on the previous day, he accompanied the inquest jury on a second viewing of the bodies during the day between Armitage Bridge (Oddfellows Arms) and Smithy Place (Rock Inn) — evidence as to the finding and identification was taken, therefore allowing bodies to be released for burial[2]
  • bodies begin to be released for burial, although evidence as to the finding and identification of bodies between Holmbridge and Thongsbridge is left until Friday

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"[3]

in the morning

  • Foster Crosland (8) found in the mill dam of Whitacre Mill, below Dalton Bank


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


  • adjourned "second day" of the inquest held at the White Hart Inn where evidence into the finding and identification of bodies taken to inns as far as Thongsbridge is held[4][5][6]

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. According to watchmaker William Day Martin.
  2. The Halifax Guardian (14/Feb/1852) has coverage of this on page 7.
  3. "The Lamentable Catastrophe and Fearful Loss of Life at Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  4. "List of Bodies Found, by Whom Found, and by Whom Identified" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  5. "Second Day's Inquest" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (14/Feb/1852).
  6. "Adjourned Inquest: Friday" in Halifax Guardian (14/Feb/1852).
  7. Likely another name for the Ancient Order of Shepherds.