Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Feb/1852) - Awful Catastrophe and Fearful Loss of Life at Holmfirth

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project and its content is believed to be in the Public Domain.

The edition carried a large number of articles relating to the flood, which occurred in the early hours of 5 February 1852, and they are reproduced below with the exception of the following:

In general, spellings of places and names have been left as originally printed, even if inaccurate.

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.



On Thursday last, the inhabitants of the populous valley, running up from Honley through Holmfirth and Holm-bridge to the foot of the Holmmoss Moors, were thrown into a state of the utmost excitement by the inundation of the valley from the bursting of a large reservoir at Holme and known as the Bilberry Reservoir. This reservoir was built in 1840, under a special act of parliament, for the purpose of supplying water power to the extensive woollen manufactories erected in this district. It is situated about three miles distant from Holmfirth, at the foot of the moors extending from the Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire hills, where they terminate in a bluff or hill called the Good Bent, and lies between two hills, called Hoobrook-hill and Lum-bank, Hoobrook forming the north bank of the reservoir and Lum the south bank. It was supplied by the confluence of two streams, at the foot of Good Bent, and which drained the wide tract of moorland in that district for several miles, by branching off in opposite directions, and running along Marsden Clough and Issues Clough on the north and south of Good Bent. The embankment crossed the valley about two hundred yards lower down, at a point where it widens, and was apparently made of earth and stone. The water surface, when full, thus obtained was equal to about 20 acres, and the depth about 105 feet. The surplus water was conveyed away by a tunnel running under the reservoir, the communication with which being by a funnel or chimney in the centre of the reservoir, and the summit of which was a little lower than the surface of the embankment. This funnel was worked with a shuttle or trap. The valley to which we have already referred, and extending from the reservoir through Holmbridge, Holmfirth, to Lockwood is very narrow and confined, especially the upper portion of it, and possesses no outlet of any moment for the free escape of an extraordinary freshet. Its position, however, in relation to this important manufacturing district, combined with its vast facilities of water power, gave to it many advantages, and the enterprising spirit, so characteristic of manufacturing industry, has covered its banks with extensive villages, and dotted it here and there, along its course, with woollen mills and other indications of the staple manufacture of the West Riding of this county. As is usual in the erection of such structures, these mills are built immediately on the banks of the river, which runs through the valley, and this circumstance, as will be subsequently observed, has resulted in a destruction of life and property fearful to contemplate. Leaving the reservoir, the Digley Brook runs to Holmbridge, (a small manufacturing village midway from Holmfirth,) where it unites with the Holme at Holmbridge, by which name it is afterwards known. It divides Holmfirth into almost equal parts, and at this point it is crossed by several bridges, after which it proceeds forward through the manufacturing villages of Thongsbridge, Honley, and Armitage-bridge, where the valley abruptly opens out, and sweeps to the south-east towards Lockwood. The Holme, increased by other streams, continues to flow along its bed through Lockwood to Folly-hall, where it empties itself into the Colne.

Immediately below the reservoir, at a distance of not more than one hundred yards, and in the centre of the valley, was a woollen mill and other buildings, in the occupation of Mr. Joseph Broadhead, and a little lower was situated a small mill and some farm buildings, tenanted by Mr. Furniss. Further down the valley, at about 200 yards distant, was Digley Mill, in the occupation of the executors of the late Mr. George Hirst, a large and valuable block of buildings, the mill being four stories high and sixty yards square. These premises spanned the stream here, and had for many years been noted for the superiority of their manufactures. At about an equal distance was situated Banks-end Mill, which abutted on the stream, and was in the occupation of Mr. John Roebuck: and at a distance of a quarter of a mile lies the small village of Holmbridge, with its beautiful new church standing immediately contiguous to the river. At this point the valley extends considerably in breadth and has a much larger sweep, diverging to the left, but because again, however, more confined lower down. A short distance below Holmbridge are a number of cottage houses, called Hinchliffe Mill, and further down is situated the extensive factory occupied by Messrs. G. E. and T. Butterworth, and at about equal distances, Bottom’s Mill, occupied by Messrs. Barber ; Victoria Mill, in the occupation of Messrs. Roberts and others, and Dyson’s Mill and dwelling-house, occupied by Mr. Jonathan Sandford. Immediately below the last mill is the populous town of Holmfirth, situated on the banks of the Holme, and distant about three miles from the reservoir. The Holme at its entrance into the town is crossed by a stone bridge called Upper Bridge, after which it runs for perhaps, 100 yards, having the Huddersfield and Woodhead turnpike road on the left, and Scarfold on the right, when it is again crossed by a stone bridge, called Victoria Bridge. Extending to the left, and in a line with a road leading over the bridge, is a row of beautiful shops and dwelling-houses, which have recently been erected, with a frontage to the stream, and named Victoria-street. After passing under the bridge, the river runs at the back of a block of houses and between the Wesleyan-chapel and burial-ground, situated on the left bank, and the Church burial-ground on the opposite side. A little lower down a third bridge crosses over it, at the lower extremity of the town, below the Crown Hotel, and leading to the railway station from the Huddersfield and Woodhead road. The course of the river then leads past Bridge Mill, the property of Messrs Broadbent through the lands in the occupation of Mr. C. S. Floyd, at Sands-house, where it is again crossed by a small bridge, after which it meets with but little obstruction, beyond the impediments offered by its somewhat tortuous path, until it reaches Thongsbridge, when it passes near to the mills of Mr. Robinson, and proceeds forward through Smithy-place, the village of Honley, and close past the extensive factories skirting the road, thence to Armitage Bridge. At Honley a large double arched bridge crosses it at the junction of the Huddersfield and Penistone and Huddersfield and Woodhead turnpike roads, and at Armitage Bridge the extensive factories of Messrs. John Brooke and Sons, are erected on its banks as is also Dungeon Mill, at the bottom of Big Valley.

From the information we have been enabled to obtain by personal enquiries on the spot, we understand that the embankment of the Bilberry Reservoir has, for some few weeks past, been in a condition to excite anxiety in the minds of the commissioners, and the residents of the Digley Valley, and the recent heavy and protracted rains, by very seriously increasing the supply of water, rather tended to heighten that anxiety than otherwise. On Sunday morning, on drawing the shuttle to allow of the escape of the surplus water it was discovered by the man in attendance that the flow was not by any means so great as it ought to be ; and on a communication of this circumstance being made, watchers were employed, so that any indication of further danger might be immediately reported. Nothing further of moment occurred until Wednesday, when the water rose 13 feet from eight o’clock, a.m. to five p.m., and from that time up to eight o’clock it rose several feet more. The surface of the embankment was somewhat worn down, and in two parts there were flaws which lowered it below the general level. The weather, as will be remembered, was exceedingly boisterous on Wednesday night, and the storm increasing the water began to wash over the flaws, about eleven o’clock, upon which one of the men, named Charlesworth, ran down to Broadheads mill, and rousing Mr. Broadhead, assisted in removing such articles as could be conveyed away. In the meantime the embankment gradually gave way, and the news of the coming disaster was communicated by the other watchers as speedily as possible through the valley, but the intelligence was too late. Between twelve and one on Thursday morning the embankment burst with a tremendous crash, and the enormous mass of water thus liberated rushed forward with a terrific and awful fury, carrying with it a fearful desolation and ruin of property, and scattering death on every hand with a dreadful exemplification of its power, and leaving at every step of its course a melancholy and imperishable monument of its destroying influence, in the destruction of property and in the sacrifice of human life.

The scene which presented itself at daybreak, along the entire course of the valley, was one of a deeply overpowering nature, and one which the most graphic historian would fail in conveying an accurate conception of to the mind of his reader. Wherever the eye rested was desolation. The land from Honley upwards was strewn with uprooted trees, wood, stone, and here and there were scattered huge boilers and other ponderous bodies, some of which had been rolled for upwards of a mile. The stone fencings were swept down, and stones spread over the adjoining land, until it resembled more the surface of a quarry than cultivated fields. On nearing Holmfirth the fearfulness of the catastrophe was evidenced by destroyed or dilapidated houses, shops gutted of their contents, bridge parapets and walls swept away, roads flooded and stopped with debris, and wreck of every description scattered profusely along the streets and over the fields immediately adjoining the river. Beyond Holmfirth scenes if possible still more fearful presented themselves, and up the beautiful valley from Holme-bridge to the reservoir, amidst the ruin of its manufacturing industries and the wild desolation which rested upon everything, the flood appeared to have passed as a destroying angel. Looking down upon that valley from the summit of Lum-bank the mind was awed by the ruins which it gazed upon. As far as the eye could reach, until the valley suddenly swept to the north at Holmbridge, the wreck of the past night’s deluge spread out before it. As the eye lingered here and there, it fell upon the last vestiges of scattered houses and industry with a melancholy feeling ; and as the towering chimney of Digley Mill rose from its ruins, standing, as it were, as a silent and fearful monitor of the past, the mind was overwhelmed with the extent and awfulness of the occurrence, which but a few hours previous had thus brought death and blighted hopes of future happiness to hundreds of industrious families.

Notwithstanding the unpleasantness of the weather, immense crowds visited the localities during the day, and every train brought up crowded carriages, and the roads, though several inches deep in sludge and water, were thronged by carriages and pedestrians. After the partial removal of the wreck from the bridges, and the discovery that they had sustained material damage, notices were issued warning the public against assembling upon them in large numbers as they were unsafe. This caution produced the desired result, and through the exertions of Superintendents Heaton and Thomas, and Inspector Brier, and of those under their direction, any undue pressure was prevented.

The water, after being freed from the reservoir, came immediately in contact with Bilberry Mill, in the occupation of Messrs. Broadhead, carrying away half the building, which abutted on the stream, together with the fulling mill and machinery. The premises were used for the manufacture of woollen goods, and the damage will not be less than £1,000. A little further down were a block of buildings occupied by Mr. Furniss, as a manufactory and as a farm, a great portion of which is washed away, together with a barn, in which were three cows, a calf, and a valuable horse. Mrs. Furniss, and Mrs. Leah Furniss and families, and two men named Thomas Miles and William Crompton, who were in possession of the property at the time, had a very narrow escape, and were compelled to make a precipitate retreat across the fields on to some rising ground. The machinery is damaged, the furniture destroyed, as also a quantity of hay, and a number of pieces of cloth. The damage is roughly estimated at £1,000. At Digley, the entire premises known as Digley Mill, consisting of a large factory, eight yards square, and four stories high, and nine dwelling-houses, the property of the executors of the late Mr. George Hirst, is entirely swept away, together with all the valuable machinery in connection with the buildings, and the only vestige beyond the ruins, which remains, is the large chimney. The whole of the houses were tenanted, and two dwellings contiguous to the mill and facing up the valley, were occupied by Mrs. Hirst and family, and Mr. Henry Beardsell and family, both of whom escaped with only the clothes they were able to dress themselves in at the time. The other families also escaped. The immense block of buildings, of which these premises consisted, it might have been supposed would have afforded a barrier to the further progress of the stream, but we are informed by an eye-witness that the whole were carried away at one swoop, and some idea may thus be obtained of the velocity of the current at this point. Three of the boilers, weighing several tons, have been carried upwards of a mile down the valley. The number of men employed here was about 90, and the loss of property may be estimated at not less than £9000. We next come to Banks-end Mill, in the occupation of Mr. John Roebuck, the next mill below Digley, which has also suffered considerable damage, and one corner abutting on the river, together with the stove, dyehouse, boiler-house, and reservoir are swept away. The injury sustained to the machinery is very great. Sixty men were employed, and the probable damage is £3000. At Holmbridge evidence of the fearful devastation is presented in the destruction of the road leading from Hinchliffe Mill to Holmbridge Mill, of the walk surrounding the church, and the wreck scattered over the adjoining land. The interior of the church has also sustained serious damage, the pews being uprooted and broken, whilst a portion of the yard and three corpses have been washed away. At this point, as we have already stated, the river sweeps to the left, and it is a little below here where the awful nature of the catastrophe is more manifest in the fearful sacrifice of human life. The water appears to have proceeded with unabated fury down the valley, carrying away a small reservoir and other minor obstructions, until it reached the village of Hinchliffe Mill, lying on the left bank of the river, and on the Huddersfield and Woodhead turnpike-road. Overlooking the river at Hinchliffe Mill are a number of dilapidated cottage buildings, occupied by the poorer portions of the population. In its course, the torrent has swept away a great portion of these and Water-street is entirely carried off. A few yards above Water-street was a small cottage, occupied by a labouring man, named James Booth, his wife, and a lodger, named William Heeley, in which every occupant was drowned ; and in the six cottages forming Water-street, there are reported thirty-eight deaths, of which the following is a detail:— First house, occupied by two sisters, named Eliza and Nancy Marsden, dressmakers, and two children, all drowned ; second house, tenanted by James Todd, engine-tenter, with his wife and two children, all drowned ; third house, in the occupation of Jonathan Crosland, weaver, a widower, and six children, all drowned ; fourth house, tenanted by John Charlesworth, weaver, wife and a family of ten, seven drowned, the husband and four children saved ; fifth house, occupied by James Metterick, sizing boiler, and family, ten drowned, only two lodgers succeeding in making their escape ; sixth house, in the occupation of Joseph Earnshaw, manufacturer, his son and two grand-children, all drowned. This makes a total of 38 lives in this row, out of which only eight persons were saved. The bodies have since been recovered, and are lying at the various public-houses in that neighbourhood. This closes the fearful catalogue of loss of life until we reach Holmfirth. Returning to our detail of the destruction of property, we come to Hinchliffe Mill, in the occupation of Messrs. Butterworth and Co., woollen manufacturers. The two lower stories have been inundated, and the machinery is very much injured. The boiler-house is carried away, together with other out-houses, and the damage will not be less than £2000. The number of hands employed here was 100. On the opposite side, a few yards from this mill, a barn, occupied by Mrs. Bower, and containing three cows, was carried away, and the cattle drowned. The damage at Bottom's Mill, occupied by Messrs. Barber and Co., woollen manufacturers, is very extensive, the lower rooms having been inundated, and the machinery considerably broken. At Messrs. Pogson and Co.’s mill, machinists, the injury is not very serious. At the mill below, in the occupation of Mr. John Harpin, woollen manufacturer, and known as Victoria Mill, the damage is extensive. The windows of the lower rooms of the mill are all broken in, and the machinery is much broken and injured. Some of the outbuildings are also swept down, and within a few yards of the mill, three cottage dwellings are earned away. The cottages at the time of the accident were occupied by John Howard, Eli Sanderson, Joseph Pogson, and their families, numbering in all twenty individuals. The danger being unanticipated, the parties had taken no precautions, and the first intimation of their imminent position was the giving way of the dwelling occupied by Pogson. Under these critical circumstances, a communication was made with the next dwelling, and the family escaped the pending destruction, but no sooner had they accomplished this, than Sanderson’s house also gave way, and the whole of the twenty individuals, comprising the three families, were crowded together in a small chamber, in a position of the most imminent nature. The water shortly afterwards subsided, and the families were removed to the mill, immediately after which the roof of the last building fell in. There were eighty hands employed here, and the probable damage may be laid at £1500. At Dyson Mill, occupied by Mr. Jonathan Sandford, the loss of property is very serious, including the destruction of the dwelling-house adjoining, of the road leading from the high-road, and of other minor buildings, in addition to the injuries sustained to the machinery. Great, however, as this damage is, it forms but an unimportant item in the loss suffered at this factory. The dwelling-house adjoining was occupied by Mr. Sandford, his two daughters, and a housemaid, the whole of whom are missing. The bodies of one of daughters and of the housemaid have been recovered, but at the time we write no intelligence had been received as to the bodies of Mr. Sandford and the second daughter. There were forty men employed at this mill. At the next mill, a short distance below, called Upper Mill, and in the occupation of Messrs John and George Farror, woollen manufacturers and dyers, the damage is very heavy indeed, the entire of a valuable blue dyehouse, thirty yards long, together with two boiler houses, and other premises, are destroyed, and one of the boilers, weighing five tons, carried as far as Berry Brow, a distance of upwards of three miles. The number of men throw out of employment will be serious, and the damage, including injury to machinery, and to woollen materials, will fall little short of £4,000.

The next mill is the Lower Mill, occupied as a woollen manufactory by Mr. James Hobson Farrer, and the damage sustained is of a serious nature. The spinning shop is partially destroyed, and the engine-house is completely swept away ; and one of the boilers has been found at Berry Brow. The machinery in the lower rooms, some of which are let to Mr. Benjamin Mellor, and Mr. Benjamin Cartwright, has sustained great injury, and a great portion will be valueless. The damage is estimated at £2000, and the number of men employed was 150.

After passing the Lower Mill, the Holm proceeds forward to Holmfirth, and under the Upper Bridge, where the parapets are swept away, and the buttresses of the bridge materially damaged. In Scarfold the destruction of life and property is great. Two houses, tenanted by Mr. Jonathan Charlesworth are partly washed down, and the furniture destroyed. The family succeeded in making their escape, but were unable to save anything. Mr. Richard Woodcock, in the same locality, has lost two children, a girl and a boy, one of whom has not yet been recovered. In the house of Mr. Jonathan Healey the rooms are flooded, the furniture all broken, but no lives lost ; and the same remark may also be made in reference to the tenements occupied by Mr. William Winfield, Martha Sanderson, Messrs. Job Brook, Abram Moorhouse, and James Moore. The house occupied by Mr. Joseph Hellawell is partially destroyed, and five of the children lost, Mr. Hellawell and his wife succeeded with some difficulty in making their escape. The house tenanted by Mr. Peter Rayner is entirely gutted of furniture. This block of buildings belonged to Mr. S. Wimpenny, or Burnlee, and the loss is estimated at £600. On the left side of Upper Bridge the destruction of property is also on an extensive scale, and two dwellings immediately contiguous to the river, occupied by Anor Bailey, wife, and two children, and by John Hepworth, have sustained serious injury, and one occupied by Bailey being destroyed, and the whole family thrown into the water. Mr. Bailey was precipitated, with the building, into the stream, and was carried about one hundred yards, when he saved himself from his perilous position. The wife and two daughters, however, were drowned. The houses were good substantial stone buildings, two stories high, with cellars. The half occupied by Mr. Hepworth is still standing. On the right side of the bridge, the stable and slaughter house in the occupation of Mr. Henry Bower, butcher, are completely destroyed, and his residence near the Elephant and Castle is gutted of the furniture. The Elephant and Castle has also sustained damage more or less, and the destruction in the shop of Misses Woodhead is estimated at £50. The water rose to the height of 4 feet 6 inches in the shop. The house of Mr. Henry Swires, clogger, is gutted, and the furniture destroyed. The shop of Mr. M’Clennan, bookseller, which has recently been erected, was bust into, and every article is contained swept away, committing damage to a considerable amount. A portion of the building in the occupation of Mrs. Briggs is destroyed. The tollgate on the left hand side, kept by Mr. S. Greenwood, is swept away, and himself, wife, and nephew drowned. A little lower down the row of houses, consisting of a currier’s shop, two dwellings, and two other shops are destroyed, together with the majority of the inmates. The currier’s shop was occupied by Mr. John Ashall, wife and one child, the whole of whom are lost. From the second house, occupied by Mr. John Kaye, with home lived a niece and her husband, Matthew Fearnes, Mrs Fearnes, and two children are lost. The dyehouse, warehouse and barn, in the occupation of J. Moorhouse, Esq., J. P., is swept down, as is also a Warehouse occupied by Mr. S. Wimpenny, grocer : the damage to the latter being estimated at £250. The houses situated on the right hand side of Hollowgate, were all flooded, and the furniture and shop goods washed out, the loss of Mr. Henry Burton being about £200. Mr. S. Greenwood, whose death is referred to above, at the time of the inundation was seen at the door with a light, after which he is supposed to have returned for his children, and immediately the house fell. A similar report is also prevalent as regards Mr. John Ashall. At the bottom of Victoria-street, a butcher’s shop, used by Mr. J. Boothroyd, is completely destroyed. In Victoria-street the devastation is fearful, every shop being gutted of its contents, and the windows and floor burst in, but fortunately the whole of the inmates escaped. The loss of property at the shop of Mr. Woodcock, draper, is estimated at £500 ; of Mr. Robert Gutteridge, confectioner, about £300 ; of Mr. John Hargreaves, shoe warehouse, at from £700 to £800 ; of Mr. Thomas Dyson, druggist, £80 ; and of Mr. Lawson, tinner, £40. The parapet walls of Victoria Bridge are washed away, and the buttresses and arches are so much injured as to render the usual traffic over it dangerous. It is not yet known what damage it has sustained, but there is every reason to believe that the injuries are such as will require very extensive repairs or a re-construction. On the right hand side, the building occupied by Mr. Wood, draper, has suffered severely, and the valuable stock of drapery goods is washed away, the damage being estimated at from £1400 to £1500. The Rose and Crown, kept by Mr. Thomas Boothroyd, has suffered extensive depredations, and the damage caused is mentioned as about £150. The road crossing the Higgin Bridge is blocked up with debris, and rendered almost impassable, whilst the houses adjoining have sustained great injury, and the loss at Mr. Watson, the druggist, is stated to be £300. Mr. Blakeley, the draper, is also a great sufferer, and his loss is estimated at £1000, owing to the destruction of his valuable stock. The shops occupied by Mr. Charles Marples, Mr. D. Martin, clock and watch maker, and Mr. James Whitley, shoemaker, are entirely gutted of their contents, and the occupants had a very narrow escape from a watery grave, having to force a passage through the roof of their respective dwellings, whence they escaped and remained until the fury of the storm had somewhat subsided. The loss of property is extensive, but we were unable to obtain any idea as to the amount. The shop of Mr. Woodhead, shoemaker, has suffered slight damage. The back of the premises occupied by Mr. Gartside, ironmonger, are washed down, and the damage sustained is estimated at about £150. The Jolly Hatter public-house has suffered slightly, but the damage is not of moment. In the shop of Mr. F. Vero, hatter and linen draper, the stock is washed away, and the front portion of the shop destroyed. A small shoe-shop in the occupation of Mr. Elliott Brown is razed to the ground, the damage sustained £100. Mr. F. Gutteridge, confectioner, also suffers damage to about £50 ; Mr. John Dyson, turner, £40 ; and Mr. Gledhill, grocer, £50. The family of Mr. Dyson, of the White Hart, narrowly escaped. The house was completely inundated, in the lower rooms, and every vestige of furniture and stock therein either broken up or carried away by the torrent. Mr. Dyson’s loss, we believe, will be upwards of £200. The front of the house occupied by Mr. James Shackleton and family, opposite the White Hart, is destroyed, but the family is saved. At the Holmfirth Mill, in the occupation of N. Thewlis and Co., the destruction is very great. The dam stones are washed down and the dam destroyed, together with two dyehouses, tenter stove, and the warehouse belonging to Mr. R. Bower. The loss sustained by Mr. Bower is supposed to be about £1000. The number of hands employed was about 80 or 90. Immediately adjoining four cottages are swept down, and twelve lives lost. In the first house, occupied by Mr. Firth Thewlis, the family are all saved, as also the family in the second house, tenanted by Mr. John Tate ; but in the third house, occupied by Mr. Sidney Hartley, his wife, and family of nine persons, the whole of the inmates are lost, excepting four sons, who escaped on a portion of the roof left standing. The fourth house, occupied by Mr. Richard Shackleton, has suffered serious damage, and Mr. Shackleton, his wife, and three children are all drowned. A blue dyehouse, belonging to Messrs. Roberts and Son, together with a wool stove, in the occupation of the Holmfirth Mill Company, is destroyed, and one comer of the dwelling-house of Mr. Roberts is carried away, and the house gutted of the furniture.

On the left bank of the river the destruction is great. One end of the Christian Brethren’s Room, Norridge, is destroyed, and in connection with the Wesleyan chapel the walls of the burial ground are thrown down, a portion of the yard washed away, and several bodies disinterred, the windows of the chapel burst in, the comer of the vestry earned away, and the interior more or less damaged. The frontage of the stable adjoining the mill, and in the occupation of Mr. Howe, of the George and Dragon, is swept out, together with a home, and the damage is estimated at £200. Again crossing the river, we find the devastations less frequent. The tower wall of the church burial-ground is thrown down, and other damage committed, but not of a material character. The iron foundry of Mr. C. Marples is slightly damaged. Returning to the right bank, we observe that the old mill, of late used by Mr. Wood as a wool warehouse, is destroyed, but the loss we have not been able to ascertain. The river then leaves the town, and is crossed by the bridge, just below the railway station. The battlements are swept away, together with the wall fencings on each side of the road, and the bridge is in other respects very much injured. The house of Mr. R. Wood, situate just below the bridge, was flooded to nearly the top of the first storey, and has sustained extensive damages, the loss being estimated at £250. Mr. Wood and his wife escaped by a window in the second storey. The cottages adjoining the bridge, and containing three families, were also flooded, but the injury is not important. The sizing-boiler, cart-shed, dyehouse for sizing boiling, belonging to Mr. George Exley, is entirely destroyed, and also the greater portion of the house. The family, three in number, with difficulty escaped through the back window. The loss is estimated at £200.

After leaving Holmfirth, the Holme runs parallel with, and at a short distance from, the Huddersfield and Holmfirth road. The fields immediately beyond the bridge were strewn with wood, hay, and other Articles, and in several parts might be observed the carcases of pigs and other animals. At Bridge Mill, in the occupation of Messrs. Broadbent, the dam which lay on the left bank of the river was broken down, and at the mill we noticed a large number of broken windows and other dilapidations, including the destruction of a willow room, about five yards by six. Several pieces were also damaged here, but the loss is not likely to- be of a very serious nature. The number of men employed was fifty. The stream is again crossed by a stone bridge, on the tower side of Sand’s House, the residence of Mr. C. S. Floyd, solicitor. This had presented a barrier to the large articles borne along the bed of the stream, and on the crown of the arch was a large cart bearing the name of “John Furniss, Austonley,” a large beam and other wreck, which were held by the battlements of the bridge. In the field were found, soon after daybreak, on Thursday morning, seven bodies and a large quantity of goods, together with parcels of tide deeds The damage here is comparatively light, nor do we meet with anything requiring special notice beyond the presence at every point of scenes of desolation, which form but the counterpart of those already described, until we reach Thongsbridge. The mill belonging to Messrs. Robinson, at Thongsbridge, is situated on the left band, and abuts on the river. The scribbling mill stands a short distance off the stream, and between the two was the frilling mill, one storey high. About two-thirds of the latter building is carried away, and the stocks are removed from their places and much broken. In the bottom of the scribbling mill there is a slight damage to a pair of billies in the take of Messrs. Mellor. The boiler is washed from its fixings, and has been rolled for several hundred yards, and the wool-stove is completely destroyed, together with one of the stables, from which a valuable cow was also lost. The goits are much damaged. A number of cottages adjoining the premises are more or less damaged, but no lives were lost. At Mytholm Bridge Mill, in the occupation of Messrs. J. and G. Robinson, woollen manufacturers, the damage is somewhat extensive ; the dyehouse has suffered severely. A double-arched bridge leading to the mill was swept completely away. In the fulling mill the stocks have been damaged, together with the washing machine, and about one hundred pieces belonging to Messrs, G. Bashforth and George Booth. The machinery is considerably broken, and three cottages contiguous have sustained damage. The probable loss here is estimated at £1000.

At Smithy-place (a hamlet about two miles north-east of Holmfirth) the water rose to a fearful height, and but for alarms which were made, the loss of life must have been great. Whole families had to leave their beds and betake themselves out of the way of the flood, with, no other covering on than what they slept in ; and the shrieks and cries of children to their parents, and parents for their children, were heart-rending in the extreme. In this emergency the doors of all the houses on either side of the valley which were out of the reach of the flood were thrown open, and such protection given as circumstances would admit. Before two o’clock a.m., the water entered Smithy-place Mill, and rose from eight to nine feet high, destroying large quantities of indigo and other dye wares, carrying wool and pieces of cloth away, — in some instances wresting vats from their places, and rendering others useless. The damage done to the mill, to the bridge, and to several cottages in this place is great. From Smithy-place to Honley-bridge, a distance of less than half a mile, eight dead bodies were picked up before ten o’clock on Wednesday morning, and conveyed to the inns nearest where they were found, viz. — The Rock, Smithy-place, the Traveller’s Rest, Neelies, and the Jacob’s Well, New-road Side. The flood entered every house at Neelies — filled every cellar, and rose above the floors. At two o’clock the bell of the large factory belonging to Messrs. D. Shaw, Son, and Co., was rung for help, after which the watchman placed himself in an elevated position, and at the top of his voice called out to the inhabitants of twelve new houses at Neelies (a distance of about two hundred yards), who, in response, answered that they could not get away, as the road and fields all the way were completely covered with water. Damage has been done at this factory, but we believe not to any great extent. On reaching Honley tollgate the flood tore down the gate and smashed it to atoms.

Opposite the toll-gate are the premises belonging to Mr. B. Mellor, manufacturer, where much damage was done, both in the house and in the mill. The walls and palisades in front of the house were completely borne down, also much of the high wall in front of the hall, belonging to T. Brooke, Esq.

From Honley to Armitage-bridge the wreck was fearful, the front and back walls of St. Paul’s Church, at the latter place, being completely destroyed. Two children were found dead above the Golden Fleece Inn, one of them on the water side, and the other had been washed into a tree near by. They were both conveyed to the Golden Fleece Inn, Park-gate. A married woman was found dead and naked in a field near Armitage Fold, and was carried to the Oddfellows’ Arms, Big Valley.

There was much injury done by the flood to the mill belonging to Messrs. J. and T. C. Wrigley, Dungeon, situate a little south of Lockwood viaducts. The flags of the floors in the tower rooms of the mill were removed out of their places ; thirty bags of wool were flooded from the premises, along with a large quantity of copins, waste, and other goods ; upwards of one hundred pieces of cloth were damaged, and part of the strong iron tentering broken down, and a valuable machine completely destroyed.

Considerable damage was also done at the Lockwood brewery, belonging to Messrs. Bentley and Shaw. The flood got hold of the premises so far as to extinguish the fires belonging to the gas ovens — entered the gardens and the vinery, and removing and destroying a number of valuable articles. The flood rendered the bridge behind the baths at Lockwood dangerous to pass over — made an opening through the wall, and damaged the plants and shrubberies in the garden. The recess on the south side of the public pump has been much injured, and many yards of the wailing on the side of the river carried away.

The public gardens and nursery belonging to John Thewlis, near to the baths, has become next to a complete waste. The gardens consisted of all kinds of garden stuffs, and took up about two acres of land, the produce of these gardens being the result of many years cultivation. The damage done is over £100. The new Victoria-bridge, near King’s Mill, has been rendered impassable to carts or cattle ; one of the centre abutments has been carried away, and the stones of the other removed out of their places. The King’s Mill bridge, erected by Mr. North, the occupier of King’s Mill, at a cost of more than £200, has been entirely carried away, and not a vestige of it left behind.

The corpse of a woman, tossed by the flood to the river side, has been taken out at Mirfield, naked, and having on a wedding-ring. As soon as found, a covering was thrown over the body, and it was removed to the Ship Inn.

In attempting as we have done in some instances, to convey an idea of the damage sustained, it must be understood that the estimates are given as a very rough approximation, we believe, however, that the destruction of property will not be of less value than half-a million sterling.



On Thursday, a fearful inundation happened at Holm-firth, a small town situate about six miles to the south of Huddersfield, which from its awful devastating effects, and the fearful loss of life whereby occasioned, has had scarcely a parallel in England. The deep valley lines of the mountainous districts of Yorkshire have frequently been subject to floods and torrents, from the sudden liberation of large volumes of water, and some of them have been attended with most serious effects to life and property, but none of which we can find any record have been at all to compare in these particulars with the one we are about to detail. The loss of some 70 lives, and the destruction of some £250,000 worth of property, surely justify us in designating this lamentable occurrence as the most destructive of its class. The particulars of this painful calamity are as follow. Holmfirth is situate, as we have before said, some six miles to the south of Huddersfield. The valley in which it is situate runs up to the range of hills which have been aptly termed the English Appennines. The valley is deep and narrow, and it is in the most narrow part of it that the main of the town is placed, the buildings lining each side of the small river Holme, and then rising on the abrupt and steep hill sides at Holmfirth, the one valley receives the streamlets from two other vallies, wild and abrupt in the extreme, and running up to the hills known as the Isle of Skye and Holme Moss. One of these streamlets is known as the Digley stream, and the other as the Ribbleden stream. In the whole of these valleys, like to others in the Huddersfield district, there have been erected mills for the manufacture of woollen cloths, the water power of the several streams being made available almost wherever possible. The district is densely populated, a great portion of the woollen cloths of Yorkshire being manufactured in these several valleys. As the water for the mills situate upon the upper portion of the river Holme and its tributaries was apt to fail in the summer time, and thus put a stop to manufacturing operations, it became desirable to stove up, as it were, the spare floods of the winter for the supply, as circumstances called for, in the dry months of summer. Accordingly, in the year 1837 an act of parliament was passed incorporating a number of gentlemen therein named, and others their successors, under the style and title of the “Commissioners of the Holme Reservoirs.” The qualification for a Commissioner was the ownership or the occupation of some fall of water which, with the premises occupied therewith, was of the annual value of £100. The object of this incorporation was the construction, in the upper portion of the higher valleys, of large reservoirs to retain the spare waters of wet seasons for use in dry seasons: For this purpose the Commissioners were authorised to borrow the sum of £40,000, and to construct no less than eight large reservoirs upon and across the several streamlets which feed the river Holme. They were also empowered to raise an unlimited sum for the payment of any damages which may arise and become payable by reason of the breaking down of any of the embankments on any of the works authorised to be made ; and for the purpose of paying the interest and liquidating the principal moneys so borrowed, power was given to rate and assess the several mills situate on such streamlets, and on the river Holme and the Colne, from a mill called Bilberry Mill, some three and a half miles above Holmfirth, to the Colne, some three miles below Huddersfield. The mills thus liable to be rated for the purposes of these reservoirs are in number fifty. Unfortunately for all parties concerned the management of this commission has been anything but satisfactory. Though the Commissioners have borrowed to the full extent of their act, for the construction of the eight reservoirs named and described therein, and though they have borrowed a very large sum in addition to the £40,000 which they were only authorised to borrow, they have constructed but three reservoirs. The result of the management has been that the lenders of money have for years received no interest ; and the managing Commissioners have been unable to raise the hinds to effect the necessary repairs and alterations to make the reservoir complete. To remedy this state of things, a few years ago, a bill was introduced into parliament, but as the promoters of that bill insisted on obtaining the power to rate the mill-owners on the lower portions of the stream, at the same rate as those who were upon the upper portions, where the water from the reservoir was almost all they could have — and not according to the degree of benefit received — the bill was opposed by the mill owners, and it was lost. The three reservoirs thus constructed are named respectively Bilberry Reservoir, Holme Stoes Reservoir, and the Bonshaw Reservoir. The first is situate immediately above the Bilberry Mill upon the Digley stream, the second upon the Ribbenden stream, both of which streams join and form the Holme, at Holmfirth. The third is upon the New Mill rivulet, which also runs into the Holme about a mile and a-half below Holmfirth. It is with the first that we have mainly to deal. The Bilberry reservoir, the largest of the three, was formed in a very deep ravine, a very high embankment being thrown across the open end. The sides of the ravine were precipitous and rocky, while the height of the bye-wash was sixty feet above the natural bed of fire stream below. The reservoir covered some eleven acres ;— some conception of the vast volume of water thus pent up may thus be conceived. As already stated it has been for years notorious that the immense embankment of this reservoir was unsafe — so much so that the managers have given strict injunctions that it should not be allowed to fill, but that, in heavy rains or floods from the hills, the sluices should be opened and the water allowed to run off. During the last three weeks there have been heavy falls of rain throughout this district after a period of unusual drought. Unfortunately when the sluices were required to be opened for the passage of the storm waters through them, they were found to be out of order. The waters thus gained in the reservoir a height beyond that known for a considerable period. From the known character of the embankment, apprehensions were felt lest this should give way ; and warnings were given to parties living on the sides of the stream of the danger apprehended. Unfortunately, as the sequel has proved, these warnings were disregarded ; nay, by some they were openly derided and treated as the cry of “wolf.” Wednesday was a day of incessant rain. The fall was enormous. All the streamlets and rivulets were swelled into little floods. The Bilberry reservoir filled. On Tuesday it had been within a foot of the top of the embankment, but on Wednesday it was full, and run over. Of course, the water rushing down the steep embankment, washed the soil away, until at last, and in the dead hour of night, the embankment gave way. The immense volume of water burst its bounds and rushed impetuously on its course of havoc and destruction. The roar of the torrent was tremendous, and its force. overwhelming mills, dwellings, bridges, trees, these with their contents were swept away with irresistible power. It is impossible to describe or convey an adequate idea of the devastation occasioned. Mills are gone, and not a stone or timber or portion of machinery left to mark the place where they stood. Rooms of dwellings with their sleeping inmates were rolled into the foaming and roaring torrent, and a stranger to the locality could not be made to believe that some twenty-four hours ago a mass of building stood on the spot pointed out. The fences of the low lands bordering the streams are destroyed, the soil is washed away, the grave yards have been entered, the graves burst open, and the coffined dead washed down with the overwhelming flood! Hundreds of dwellings have been inundated ; some of them filled even to the top story, and the inmates obliged to get on the roof, and wait in fear and trembling till the waters subsided. The destruction of property baffles conception. It is no exaggeration to say that Holmfirth is thoroughly gutted. The main of the shops of the village were situate at the lowest point of the place, near to the bridge, and the stocks of almost the whole of them are destroyed — drapers, grocers, shoemakers, provision dealers, innkeepers tailors, and furniture dealers, are involved in one common wreck. The torrent burst into the shops, tore out the windows, in places tore down portions of the walls, washed away the shelves and their furnishings — and where the least damage was done, left the place filled with mud. Large steam-engine boilers were borne down by the torrent for miles, and then left stranded on the middle of some fields or grounded in the reeky bed of the river as the waters decreased. To particularise as far as we are able, we may state that the first building below the reservoir was a woollen mill occupied by Mr. Jonas Broadhead. It was called Bilberry Mill, worked by water power. The lower portion of this mill is completely gutted, and at the gable end ten yards of the wall were taken down the stream. The next building in the valley down which the torrent passed is called Digley Upper Mill, occupied by Mr. John Furness. It is about 400 yards below the Bilberry Mill, and at present is in the possession of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court. Here the house occupied by the family was first caught, and the gable end and roof carried down, the stable, cattle, and farm buildings were also swept away, and with them twelve tons of hay, three excellent milch cows, one calf a black mare, a goat, and several heads of poultry. Fortunately the inmates were alarmed by the overflowing of the water on the top of the house in time to save themselves. Mrs. Furness and her two children got away without being caught by the waters, but the bankruptcy court messengers, who had to be roused out of bed, had not time to dress, yet in their trousers took to their heels, and before they could reach the high ground a few hundred yards off they were up to their middle in water. In the mill itself considerable damage is done to the machinery. All the lower storey is completely gutted, mod the front of the mill was strewn with long lengths of woollen pieces, and with broken machinery. In this mill a man who had been bedridden for several weeks, and also his family of three children, remain unhurt. The ordinary stream of Upper Digley Mill seems to be only some four yards wide, but the water from the reservoir covered several acres of land fully thirty feet deep. Following the rest of the stream about a quarter of a mile, the valley becomes narrowed by two sudden and lofty hills — the one cultivated and the other planted with trees. A mill was built across the stream. This mill was about 70 yards long. It was called Digley Mill, and the property in and about it was valued at upwards of £12,000. The mill was almost square, was five stories high, and filled with valuable machinery, and there was also a large quantity of cloth in a forward state of manufacture. The whole of this mill, with the exception of the long chimney and the engine, was carried away. In the same pile of buildings were a stable and cattle, namely, four cows and a horse worth 40 guineas. There were also seven cottages, all of which were swept completely away. The inmates of the houses all fortunately escaped with their lives. The cows and horses were taken down the stream. The mill belonged to Mr. Geo. Hirst, lately deceased. His widow lived in one of the dwellings near the mill, and it was with great difficulty they could be forced away from the spot. She was almost frantic — and wanted to go with the torrent as it was destroying the property. In her residence there was £1000 in gold. This was all washed away ; and also £100 which was in the dwelling of one of the carters at the mill. The next mill is called the Bank End Mill, and is in the occupation of the owner, Mr. John Roebuck. As the valley here becomes much wider, the damage, although considerable, was comparatively slight. The gable end of the mill and two windows in length and from top to the bottom were taken down. The dyehouse and stove which occupies about 60 yards in length further down the valley were swept away, and nothing but the foundations were left behind. The machinery is also spoiled — rendered all but useless. Here the valley becomes much wider, and the water seems to have covered a considerable area of land. A short distance from the last-named factory stood the village called Holmbridge. The ordinary stream is crossed by an arch of about 10 yards span : the bare arch is all that remains, the roads for 20 feet on the southwest side are all washed away as is plainly to be seen. A few yards over the bridge there is a toll bar, but the road is so completely broken up that for some weeks there can be no traffic over it. About thirty yards from this bridge stands St. David’s church, or as it is better known by the name of Holmebridge church. This church is surrounded by a grave-yard, the wall of which and the shrubs planted around it have been carried away by the flood. The graves seem to have been torn up in places by whirlpools, and several of the inanimate inmates washed down the valley. Inside the church the devastation has been very great. The floor is torn up in all directions, and the pews have risen with the water and floated. Inside the church were found coffins and the remains of two parties who had been buried several years : they had been washed up and floated during the flood! The water inside the church seems to have risen to the height of five feet. The valley here is very broad, which accounts for the comparative shallowness of the stream. The next obstacle to the rush of the torrent was the village called Hinchliffe Mill, when the ordinary stream again becomes confined within a narrow course. At this village occurred the first loss of life, there some forty (the precise number we were unable to ascertain) unfortunate beings were hurried to their long account. Six cottages, some of them completely crowded, were washed down the stream ; and out of about forty inmates only some four were able to escape with their lives In one cottage the water rose so suddenly that a woman and her child, which were trying to escape, were forced back into the house and drowned before the husband was able to render them assistance. The cottages here taken down were called Water-street. At this place also were drowned in the house a man named Booth, his wife and a lodger named William Heely. The bodies of these three, also a mother and her child, who were also drowned in their houses, and two children who had been picked out of the stream, were taken to the New Inn, where they were placed side by side.

Hinchliffe Upper Mill, the property of Messrs. Joseph Eastwood and Thomas Butterworth, has also been considerably damaged on the ground floor and in the second storey, but no part of the building appears to have been washed down. The whole extent of the mill was barricaded with broken machinery and furniture, and large pieces of timber and trees, up to the sill of the third row of windows.

The next building in the valley is the Bottoms Mill, but more commonly called Harpin’s Factory. The valley here again becomes wide, consequently this mill has suffered little. In the reservoir or dam of this mill several of the bodies washed from Hinchliffe Mill were found. Here also a young man from the same quarter escaped with his life, after a hard struggle. He was washed down with the cottages, and found himself in the dam of Bottoms Mill, and succeeded in reaching the side, and getting up to a house on the hill side, whence he was placed in bed and medical aid obtained. His name is James Metternich. His father, mother, and seven children were taken down the stream, all being lost but himself. The next building is the Victoria Mill, which seems to have suffered little beyond the damage to its machinery. Within the curtilage there were three substantially-built houses which have been forced away. No lives, however, were here lost. About 100 yards lower down stands Dyson’s Mill, under the management of one of the proprietors, named Jonathan Sandford. Mr. Sand-ford occupied as a dwelling three cottages, built in the factory yard. The cottages are completely swept away, and with these were taken Mr. Sandford, his two children, and his servant — the only inmates. The bridge also, which was built to cross the stream, was forced down to the general wreck, and the only communication with the mill on Thursday was over a large piece of timber that had floated from above, probably one of the large beams belonging to Digley Mill. The torrent then seems to meet with no obstacle until it reached Farrar’s Upper Mill, where it bore before it a large dye-house, an immense pile of buildings at the water’s edge, and the boilers and dye-pans. These were the property of Mr. John Farrar. Next came Farrar’s Lower Mill, the property of Mr. Hobson Farrar. This mill had been built across the stream, and the torrent of water cut it clearly in two, leaving both ends standing. In the fold of this mill several lives were lost. At the George Inn, close by this last-named mill, lay nine dead bodies, which had been got out of the water, and from the houses in the fold last mentioned. Having passed this place, the devastating element reached Holmfirth, where its effects have rendered everything in its course a mass of ruin and havoc. Here a whole street of houses on both sides of the stream, including the toll bar, were swept before it. The houses and shops, the latter of which abound in the immediate vicinity of the stream, were flooded or covered with sludge or mud. Houses built several yards above the water course were reached by the flood, and their rooms filled with water to the depth of several feet. Drapers, grocers, hatters, hosiers, and all the tradesmen in the lower part of the town had their stocks washed away or rendered worthless. The loss of life was here very great. It is not possible to say how many, for the buildings and their inmates were swept away, and ‘none left to say “how many.” At least 34 are missing from this row of dwellings. At the Crown Hotel seven bodies were deposited — recovered from the water. One was Miss Sandford, daughter of the mill owner, whose house and family were washed away at Dyson’s Mill. There was also the body of Mr. Crawshaw, currier, as well as that of his wife, Most of the bodies found were naked, but Crawshaw was partly dressed. The bodies were also shockingly disfigured, mutilated, and bruised. The two bridges at Holmfirth had the battlements swept away, and the arches, though still standing, were considered insecure. On one side of the stream at Holmfirth stands the church, with its graveyard ; directly opposite is the Methodist Chapel, with its grave-yard. The grave-yard of the first, which is on a steep incline to the river, was flooded to the depth of several yards. The yard of the Methodist Chapel lay lower, but still on an incline, and several corpses in this latter ground were washed down the stream, some of whom were afterwards found in the fields below Holmfirth, and others at a village some six miles away, called Berry Brow. The Methodist Chapel was flooded several feet deep and the damage done to the floor and pews is considerable. Near to this place stood a mill lately the property of Mr. Charlesworth. In consequence of a dispute concerning the height of a dam, the owner suffered an imprisonment of twenty-nine years’ duration, and after his liberation the case was tried and his view of the dispute which led to that long imprisonment found to be correct. Now however all cause for dispute is ended, for the dam is swept away, and the mill has sustained damage to the amount of £6,000! All the property on each side of the stream for a considerable distance below Holmfirth suffered immense injury. At Smithy-place, near to Honley, the life of a child was sacrificed by the flood. Its father was endeavouring to save his family, four in number, and was battling with the stream with a child under each arm. A floating substance struck one from his grasp and it was hurried away with the torrent.

Below Holmfirth the valley widens, and the buildings and factories are more scattered and distant, and the velocity and power of the torrent would thereby be considerably diminished, but its direful and devastating effects could be distinctly traced over acres and acres of land on each side of the stream as for as Lockwood, — ten miles below the Bilberry reservoir. Fields here and there are still under water, and those that had been cleared retained masses of heavy timber, broken machinery, heavy blocks of stone, fragments of furniture, pieces of woollen cloths, warps, swollen cattle, and other objects forced down with the torrent.

Along the banks of the stream, during Thursday, bodies were frequently thrown up, and at Huddersfield several owners of property on the edge of the stream abstained what in ordinary times would be considered serious injuries, but these sink into insignificance when looked at with the eye which had an hour before witnessed the awful destruction at Holmfirth and Hinchliff Mill, and seen the desolation spread on every hand for miles in extent.

At three o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday hundreds of miserable beings who had been labouring since three o’clock in the morning, were still at work clearing their shops and dwellings of the filth washed into them, and in making the roads and principal thoroughfares of the town passable from the wreck that had been left. The magistrates, resident gentry, and mill-owners, who were not prostrated by the sad event, acted with praiseworthy activity in directing and encouraging the workmen in their arduous employment. For a stranger to obtain refreshment was out of the question ; the greater part of the eatables had either gone down with the water or had become saturated, and were unfit for use. Each train brought immense numbers of passengers, and the high road from Huddersfield was thronged with cabs, gigs, and horsemen. From the appearance of the streets of Holmfirth it would seem that most of the principal merchants and tradesmen of Huddersfield visited the scene of devastation during the afternoon ; and wherever you went for miles down the road the awful catastrophe of Holmfirth was all that was talked about. To estimate the amount of property destroyed is almost impossible, but at a moderate computation it is judged at £250,000. The passage of the immense avalanche of water from its confines within the works of the Bilberry reservoir to Holmfirth, occupied only about an hour : and the total loss of life, as for as could be obtained, is between sixty and seventy, the bodies of about fifty of whom have been recovered. It was stated at Huddersfield that three bodies had been taken out of the river at Mirfield — fifteen miles below Holmfirth — and that others had been taken out of the river at Horbury, twenty miles below. Taking all things into account, this event is one of the most awful and calamitous of its kind of any that has taken place in the West Riding of Yorkshire within the memory of the oldest man living. The inmates of many flooded dwellings had a most narrow escape. They had to flee to their upper rooms, and in some instances escape by the roof, and then see the dwelling rolling down the flood. The residence of J. Charlesworth, Esq., J.P., was thus flooded, and the family were in imminent danger, being confined to the topmost portion of the house till the waters lowered, with the momentary expectation that the dwelling would be washed away. The family of John Brooke, Esq., of Armitage-bridge, had also to flee from their mansion, although seven miles distant from the Bilberry Reservoir. Considerable damage was done to the ground and property of Messrs. Brook, and also to the Church at Armitage-bridge. At Dungeon Mill, a little above Lockwood, much damage was also sustained.

Holmfirth has often been subject to floods — floods which have caused much destruction of property ; but never one to compare with the present calamity. 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. In 1821, we find the following recorded :— “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.” Again, in 1822, we find, “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, hut happily no lives were lost.”

The mournful preparations for the holding of inquests, and tor the burial of the dead, tell a different story as to the result of this dire calamity of 1852.

Holmfirth, Friday.


The appearance of the town this morning contrasted strongly with that which was presented on the preceding day, and though the havoc and desolation of the flood were still evident in every quarter of the town and district, it was by no means presented in a form so frightful and terrific. The indefatigable labours of Mr. Superintendent Heaton, of the county constabulary, and of Mr. Superintendent Thomas and Inspector Brier, of the Huddersfield borough police, and Constable Earnshaw, assisted by the special constables and scavengers, had accomplished much beyond what might have been anticipated, and their exertions, from an early hour yesterday, to the present time, are deserving of all praise.

Yesterday morning the following notice was issued, and it will be seen from the early hour at which it bears date, that the local authorities were most prompt in their proceedings :—

Thursday, 5th February, 1852,
4 o’clock, a.m.
The Holmfirth magistrates request the respectable Inhabitants of Holmfirth and vicinity to meet them immediately, at the house of Mr. Charlesworth, Eldon House, for the purpose of taking necessary steps for the protection of property and such other measures as may be needful, in consequence of the awful calamity which has this morning happened, in Holmfirth, by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir.
Josh. Charlesworth.
Josa. Moorhouse.

In accordance with this notice, a large number of the respectable inhabitants assembled at Eldon House, and were sworn in as special constables, after which, such measures were taken as would be likely to prevent confusion, and forward the removal of the rubbish from the streets. These labours were continued up to dark last night, being resumed with vigour at an early hour this morning, and were prosecuted energetically throughout the day. In the course of to-day two other bodies were recovered, making a total as tar as can yet be ascertained, of 60 bodies discovered in this district. In addition to these, two other bodies were taken out of the river at Mirfield yesterday morning, one of whom was a fine female, about 25 years of age, and wearing a wedding ring. Allowing for these, the following return will be found as accurate as can be at present obtained under the circumstances.


At the Crown Hotel, Holmfirth, — Sidney Hartley, Charles Earnshaw, John Ashall, Margaret Ashall, Miss Sandford, a child not owned, a young female not owned.

At the Oddfellows’ Arms, Big Valley, South Crosland. — Rose Charlesworth.

At Golden Fleece, Parkgate. — Abel Earnshaw, Jane Mettrick.

At Jacob’s Well, Honley. — Martha Hartley, Charles Thorpe, Betty Heeley, a boy six years old, not owned.

At the Travellers’ Inn, Neelies, Honley. — Mary Ann Hartley, James Hartley, a boy four years old, not owned, a girl three years old, ditto.

At the Rock Inn, Smithy Place.William Mettrick, a girl six months old, not owned.

At the Rose and Crown, Thongs Bridge. — Hannah Bailey, a child supposed to be Richard Shackleton’s, an infant child not owned.

At the Royal Oak, Thongs Bridge. — Joshua Earnshaw, Tamer Shackleton, a boy two years old, not owned, a girl two and a half years old, ditto, a girl six years old, ditto.

At the Elephant and Castle, Holmfirth. — James Lee, Joshua Marsden, William Exley, Ann Greenwood.

At the White Hart, Holmfirth. — Hannah Crossland, (Jonathan Sandford’s servant girl), a female not owned, —— Charlesworth, alias “Sneck,” a male not owned.

At the Shoulder of Mutton, Holmfirth. — Amelia Fearne, Joshua Charlesworth, a boy eleven years old, not owned.

At the Rose and Crown, Holmfirth. — Eliza Marsden.

At the King’s Head, Holmfirth. — Abel Earnshaw.

At the Waggon and Horses. Holmfirth. — A female four years old, not owned, a male one and a half year old, ditto.

At the George Inn, Holmfirth. — Jonathan Crosland, Joshua Crosland, Mary Hellawell, George Hellawell, Sarah, Elizabeth, (John, and Ann (all one family), a female not owned.

At the New Inn, Hinchliffe Mill. — James Booth, Nancy Booth (man and wife), William Heeley, Betty Brook, Hannah Brook, Elizabeth Dodd, Martha Hinchliffe.

It will be observed several bodies need identification, and the manner in which some of the corpses are mangled, renders that exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. In order that their interment might be proceeded with as early as possible, the inquest was opened pro forma this morning, under George Dyson, Esq., coroner.

The list of parties missing, obtained by personal enquiries on the spot, but not furnished as absolutely correct, gives the number of persons at present unaccounted for ac seventy. This shows a surplus of eleven, whose bodies have not yet been recovered, but which, most probably, will be found in a few days. Amongst these are the bodies of Mr. Jonathan Sandford and one of his daughters. We specially allude to these, in consequence of the prevalency of a rumour that a telegraphic despatch had been received, announcing that their bodies, with two others, had been picked up at Hull. On returning to Huddersfield, we made special enquiries at the station, and find the rumour to be without foundation.

The excitement continues unabated, and the weather proving fine to-day, the scenes of the catastrophe were again visited by thousands from every part of the county, and it is anticipated that the influx of visitors to-morrow (Saturday), and especially on Sunday, will be still greater.

The magistrates have continued sitting during the greater portion of the day, and we understand that instructions have been given for the erection of temporary bridges near to the county bridges, at Holmfirth and Holmbridge, so that the damage sustained to the latter may be ascertained and immediately repaired. The parochial constables have also received orders to be in attendance for duty on Sunday morning, under the instructions of the respective officers.

We observe that placards are out calling a meeting of the inhabitants at the Crown Hotel to-morrow night (Saturday), in order to take measures for opening a public subscription to relieve the distress caused by this melancholy and fearful occurrence.

Many instances have reached us during our investigations of the display of traits of bravery and courage of no common order among all classes of the inhabitants, under circumstances of imminent personal danger. We cannot in our present impression do justice to these noble fellows, but their names shall not be forgotten — all, whether rich poor, shall have their reward, as for as publicity goes, in our next, and we feel confident that among them will be found specimens of noble daring worthy of the high and awful occasion which has brought it forth.



Like scores and hundreds of my fellow-townsmen, I yesterday visited the scene of devastation which, has been occasioned by the bursting of the Holme Reservoir.
It would be impossible for pen to describe the fearful destruction and wide spread misery which presents itself on every hand, nor would any attempt to do so at present forward the immediate object which I have in view.
Sufficient is known and believed to excite sympathy and to actuate benevolence ; and it only remains that suitable channels be pointed out to ensure the necessary response.
From enquiries made on the spot I ascertained that numbers of the poor unfortunate individuals who had made but hair-breadth escapes from the destroying element were entirely destitute — not only of food, but of every article of clothing.
Now it occurred to me that if this fact were but known, there are numbers who could easily and most willingly contribute of their cast off garments, such a supply as would meet that particular feature of the case.
I have already forwarded what my own wardrobe, and that of my family, would supply and in order to facilitate the wishes of others in this matter, I will most willingly (and thankfully) forward to the proper authorities anything that may be sent to me for that purpose.
It will be very obvious to all, and perhaps needless of suggestion, that the plainest and most useful articles are those which will be most acceptable and appropriate.
Hoping that you will give insertion to this in your valuable journal,
I remain, Sir, yours very respectfully,
Chief Constable.
Buxton-road, Feb. 6th, 1852.



Slipping of the Railway Embankment. — About two o’clock yesterday (Friday) morning the burr or retaining wall which supported the railway embankment at the Holmfirth terminus gave way, in consequence of the foundation having been swept away by the flood of the preceding day, when the embankment and retaining wall directly opposite the station for several yards “slipped.” At three o’clock a still further quantity fell, making in all about forty yards. Workmen were immediately set to work to repair the damage, and in the meantime all the trains approaching Holmfirth are stopped a short distance below the station.