Huddersfield Chronicle (08/May/1852) - A Walk from Bilberry to Holmfirth

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


A few days ago we strolled up the Digley valley to note progress. The whole of the water now running through the chasm in the embankment at Bilberry forms but a feeble current only a few inches in depth. It is still in the condition in which it was left on the 5th of February, except a small embankment about a foot high, which has been raised on the inside, but for what purpose we are not aware. Just below the reservoir there are about thirty-six or thirty-seven men at work clearing the bed of the river, which in some places hereabout was filled with rubbish from the embankment to the height of two or three yards above its former level. These men are set to work by, and receive their wages from, the relief committee, and their wages vary, in proportion to age and ability to work, from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 8d. per day. At the Bilberry Mill a number of men were at work excavating a foundation for a new erection towards which a quantity of materials are already prepared. The bridge across the watercourse to the mill was nearly finished, and for a considerable distance below this point the bed of the river has been cleared, and a wall is now in course of erection to separate it from the course of a road which led up the valley, but towards the repair of which nothing has been done. A little lower we came to the small reservoir connected with the Upper Digley Mill, where a number of men were at work, and which seemed to be progressing rapidly towards completion. It is understood that this mill will be in working order as soon as water can be got to it. Mr. Furniss’s farm building still remains in the condition in which it was left by the flood. Below this place a company of about eighteen more men were at work on the river and covering the debris beneath the soil of the adjoining land. At Digley Mill a number of men were at work, but whether employed by the committee or by the executors of the late Mr. Hirst, we are not aware. Here but little appears to have been done, except digging up the ruins of the dwelling-houses to obtain such remains of the furniture as the flood had left, and a great many little relics have been got out. At Bankend Mill nothing has been done towards repairing the damage. The broken portions of the machinery have, however, been detached from the rest, and such as was left in working condition has been ceiled off by a partition of boards from the open end of the building. When there is a supply of water four billies, and the required number of engines, and several jennies can be worked.

Nothing appears to have been done at Holm-bridge ; but the repair of the bridge at this place was progressing, and will soon be completed. At Hinchliff Mill and all down the valley to Holmfirth the work of resuscitation has progressed rapidly since our last notice. A part of the land has been already cleared and people were at work on the rest. In the large dye-house on the site of the former one, adjoining Farrar’s Uppermill, work has been commenced, and at Farrar’s Lower Mill things appear to be coming about rapidly. In Holmfirth perhaps less has been done comparatively speaking than at any other place. Dilapidated houses still meet the eye at every turn, and as yet the repair of the bridges has not commenced. How this is we cannot say, but there must be some neglect somewhere. In cases of private property we can see abundant reasons why repairs are not progressing, but in the case of townships the matter is different and a rate might reasonably be assessed at any time to meet public emergency of this kind. It may be that the surveyors of the various townships have been waiting to ascertain whether anything would be allowed by the relief committee for the repair of public works. We have heard it intimated that such has been the case, and also that one of the townships had received a loan, on condition that the amount be returned in case the final decision be, that none of the subscriptions be devoted to public works. Whatever reason may be urged, it will not cover the fact that they have been all along and are yet in a very dangerous and inconvenient condition, and that they ought to have been repaired before now by money raised from some source or other. The question as to who was to bear the expense in reality might have been reserved for after consideration.

A considerable portion of the materials of the fallen buildings are being used by owners in the erection of other buildings on fresh sites. Mr. Woodhouse is using the stone and other materials of the dyehouse, &c., opposite Hollowgate, in the erection of a new row of shops to face those already built in Victoria-street, and Mrs. Kippax, of the Elephant and Castle Inn, has erected a number of dwellings on the side of the old farm-building behind her dwelling, near Upperbridge. In Hollowgate, with the exception of the stone being collected into heaps, and the water confined in its former course, nothing has been done. It would be an improvement to this part of the town if arrangements could be made to add the sites of the former buildings to the breadth of the street. This, however, in all probability cannot be accomplished. Below Victoria Bridge, and near Holmfirth Mill, though great exertions have been made, it will be a long time before this portion of Holmfirth will resume its ordinary appearance. The Wesleyan chapel-yard is completely restored, and people are now at work repairing the injured portions of the church-yard on the opposite side of the river. Immediately after the catastrophe it was asserted on every hand that the valley would never recover from the shock it had sustained ; and, in truth, it seemed impossible for human exertions to restore its former prosperous and businesslike appearance. The people, however, seem to have set to work in earnest, and though, compared with the magnitude of the undertaking, the works may appear to progress slowly, still the people, whose business habits and untiring industry have, in a comparatively short space of time converted a barren and rugged-looking country into a densely populated district, famous the world over for the commercial enterprise of its people, will rise triumphant over their present misfortune, and ere long all traces of it will be lost in the revived prosperity and thriving appearance of the valley. The workmen employed at various points on the river still continue to dig up at times articles of broken furniture and other relics of the deluge. On Tuesday morning last the wheels, shafts, and springs of a gig, the property of Mr. Jas. H. Farrar, was found buried in the debris beneath the archway of the bridge below Holmfirth. The body of the gig had been taken away.

Of late, the number of strangers who have come to view the place has considerably decreased. Every day, however, brings a few, some of whom are actuated by strange fancies. Not long ago a party of two, who had journeyed a distance of eighty or ninety miles, came provided with two large wallets, which they filled with earth from the bottom of the reservoir, in which they intended to grow plants for beautifying the windows of their cottage home. Another old lady, from Hull, filled a small basket with pebbles from the foot of the embankment. One gentleman, who had come all the way from the capital of Scotland, kneeled down and drank of the water of the river, near the house of Mrs. Hirst, at Digley, in order that he might have something to tell of when he returned home. A London gentleman, whilst watching some workmen dig up the rubbish from the dwelling-houses at Digley, saw them pick up an old broken leaden spoon, for which he immediately offered a shilling, and departed highly pleased with his acquisition. Bits of broken looking-glasses, from the same place, have also fetched proportionably high prices. Many of the visitors have also been seen wending their way homeward an inch or two taller, on account of having possessed themselves of a small quantity of heath.