Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Feb/1852) - The Holmfirth Catastrophe

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

The following are the items relating to the Holmfirth Flood of 1852 that appeared in this issue of the newspaper, with the exception of:

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.



To the Editor of the Huddersfield Chronicle.
Huddersfield, 26th February, 1852.
I beg to ask your kindness to insert in your next Paper a Copy of the Correspondence between myself, as the Law Clerk to the Huddersfield Waterworks Commissioners, and Sir George Grey, Bart., late Home Secretary, and Captain Moody, the Government Engineer, now attending in Huddersfield for the purpose of investigating the facts in reference to the bursting of one of the Holme Reservoirs.
The Correspondence explains itself, and needs no remark from me I think it right, however, for the satisfaction of the inhabitants, to take this opportunity of stating that those parts of the Reservoirs of the Huddersfield Waterworks which were executed under Contracts, consisted only of the Excavations for the Reservoirs, and the carrying of the materials necessary to form the embankment to the places required ; and that the whole of the puddling of the embankments, as well as the construction, forming, and finishing of the embankments were done by the Commissioners’ own labourers, under the immediate superintendence of the Commissioners’ Engineer.
I regret that the Commissioners cannot avail themselves of the opportunity of Captain Moody’s being in this neighbourhood to have their Works Surveyed by him, as I understand he is one of the Officers in the Ordnance Department of Her Majesty’s Government, and that be is a skilful Engineer ; and as he would be independent of any local influence or prejudices, a Certificate from him of the soundness of the Reservoirs of the Huddersfield Waterworks would have been very satisfactory to all who feel an interest in their safety.
I have, however, the assurance of Mr. George Crowther, the Commissioners’ own Engineer, that all the three Reservoirs connected with the Huddersfield Waterworks are perfectly sound and safe ; and I hope this assurance with the facts I have mentioned may be satisfactory to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the public generally.
I am, Sir, yours obediently,

Huddersfield, 19th February, 1852.
Sir George,
I am directed by the Commissioners of the Huddersfield Waterworks (as their Law Clerk) to call your attention to a point which appeals to them of importance — namely, whether, while Captain Moody is staying at Huddersfield to investigate the facts attending the bursting of the Holme Reservoir, it is not desirable, on public grounds, that he should examine the reservoirs connected with the Huddersfield Waterworks.
The Huddersfield Waterworks are of a public nature for the benefit of the inhabitants of the township, and were constructed by commissioners by means of borrowed capital under the authority of two local and public acts, 7 and 8 George 4th, c. 84, (A.D. 1827,) and 8 and 9 Vic., c. 70, (A.D. 1845.)
The fears excited by the recent calamity at Holmfirth seem to render it desirable while Captain Moody remains in this locality, that the Huddersfield Reservoirs shall be surveyed by him, accompanied by the Commissioners’ Engineer ; and the Commissioners are ready, if the suggestion shall be approved of by you, and as soon as Captain Moody may receive directions from you as the proper public authority for that purpose, to supply every information within their power to render the survey by him complete, and, as they hope, satisfactory.
If you, Sir George, should therefore agree with the Commissioners of the Huddersfield Waterworks that the survey now suggested is desirable, it would seem to be necessary that Captain Moody shall receive the necessary instructions either direct from yourself or through Sir John Burgoyne, the head of the department of her Majesty’s government, of which Captain Moody is an officer.
I have the honour to remain, Sir George,
Your very obedient humble servant,
Wm. Barker.
The Right Hon. Sir George Grey, Baronet,
Home Department, London.

Huddersfield, 19th February, 1852.
I am directed by the Commissioners of the Huddersfield Waterworks (as their Law Clerk) to call your attention, as Engineer appointed to investigate the facts attending the bursting of the Holme Reservoir, to the propriety, while you remain in Huddersfield, of examining the reservoirs connected with their works. The Huddersfield Waterworks are of a public nature, for the benefit of the inhabitants of the township, and were constructed by Commissioners, from borrowed capital, under two local and public acts, 7 and 8 George IV, chap. 84 (1827), and 8 and 9 Viet., chap. 70 (1845). The fears excited by the recent calamity near Holmfirth, seem to render it desirable, while you remain in this locality, that the Huddersfield Reservoirs shall be surveyed by you, accompanied by the Commissioners’ Engineer ; and the Commissioners are ready, if their suggestion now made through me is adopted, to supply every information within their power, to render the survey by you complete, and, as they hope satisfactory.
When you have considered, the subject, and submitted the proposal to such authorities as you may deem proper, I shall he glad either to wait upon yon, or to hear from you on the subject, when, if you shall be authorised to make the survey, a day shall be appointed for commencing the examination and survey of the reservoirs connected with the Huddersfield Waterworks.
I think it right to add that I have written to Sir George Grey, Bart., the Home Secretary, on this subject.
I have the honour to remain, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
Wm. Barker.
Captain Moody, the George Hotel,

Whitehall, 21st February, 1852.
I am directed by Secretary Sir George Grey, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th instant, and to inform you in reply that it is the duty of the Commissioners of the Huddersfield Waterworks to ascertain and provide for the security of their own works. Captain Moody has duties elsewhere to perform, which only admit of a temporary absence. He has been sent under the peculiar circumstances of the late accident at Holmfirth, to assist at the request of the magistrates in the investigation of its causes ; but he cannot be employed at the public expense in other enquiries which may and ought to be conducted by other means.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
H. Waddington.
Mr. W. Barker, Huddersfield




The adjourned inquest on the body of Eliza Marsden, of Hinchliffe Mill, and 70 others, and enquiry into the causes of the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir, was opened yesterday morning at half-past ten o’clock, at the Town Hall, Holmfirth, before George Dyson, Esq., and the following jury :—

Mr. Godfrey Mellor, manufacturer, Thongsbridge, Foreman
Mr. Thomas Mellor, manufacturer, Thongsbridge.
Mr. Thomas Dyson, manufacturer, Thongsbridge.
Mr. James Brooke, manufacturer, Bridge Mill, Holmfirth.
Mr. W. D Martin, clock and watch maker, Holmfirth.
Mr. Joseph Crawshaw, saddler, Holmfirth.
Mr. Charles Taylor, linen draper, Holmfirth.
Mr. Joshua Moorhouse, shopkeeper, Holmfirth.
Mr. John Burton, schoolmaster, Holmfirth.
Mr. Richard Bower, manufacturer, Holmfirth.
Mr. Joseph Crosland, bookseller, Holmfirth.
Mr. John Wylie, schoolmaster, Holmfirth.
Mr. James Horncastle, gentleman, Holmfirth.
Mr. Thomas Hinchliffe, manufacturer, Upperthong.
Mr. Ralph Carter, manufacturer, Upperthong.
Mr. David Brook, manufacturer, Burnlee.

Captain Moody, royal engineer, was again present on the part of government, and Mr. Jacomb watched the proceedings for the Commissioners.

The jury having answered to their names, the court was duly opened.

The Coroner — I understand, Mr. Robinson, that you have a statement to make to the jury.

Mr. George Robinson — I have.

Coroner — I shall not put you upon your oath, being a Commissioner, but having tendered yourself, I am bound to hear you.

Mr. George Robinson then made the following statement : I am a mill owner, and live at Thongsbridge. I became a mill owner in 1846, and afterwards qualified as a commissioner. Previous to this time I had taken an active part in the opposition which the commissioners had encountered, especially with reference to the validity of their, rates.

The Coroner — I do not think, gentlemen of the jury, that the question of rates affects this enquiry, but if you wish to hear Mr. Robinson on this subject you can do so.

The Foreman — I do not think we have anything to do with the rates.

Mr. Robinson — I am not going on with the subject. In 1848 I was one of the parties who opposed the act. The Commissioners had then borrowed to the extent of their powers, namely, £40,000, and they had then claims against them to the amount of £7,000 ; they had proceeded with the making of the reservoir, although their estimate for making the eight was £26,600. A large portion of this sum had been spent in the repairs of Bilberry Reservoir before this application, — first under the supervision of the Commissioners, and next under contract with Messrs. Porter. The opponents considered they would never repair the reservoir for £10,000, as the Commissioners had already claims against them to that amount, including the expenses of obtaining the act. Before the bill came into committee in the session of 1846 the opponents made this offer to the Commissioners — to raise £10,000 ; rates to pay the interest on the £40,000, and the £10,000 to be levied on the several mills according to the degree of benefit received by each, such benefit to be ascertained by a surveyor appointed by the Commissioners ; the reference clause in the old act to be inserted in the new ; the £10,000 to be applied first in completing the Bilberry Reservoir ; and, secondly, to pay the expenses of the bill and of its opponents, and then to pay the Commissioners’ debts. The Commissioners refused to accede to this. They went into committee next day, and without any evidence on either side the bill was upset. The opposing mill owners have been precluded from taking any management of these reservoirs up to 1848, since up to that time the rates were in dispute, and the act requires that the rates be paid before any person can be allowed to vote on any question. With the exception of a few meetings the whole proceedings have been conducted by a few Commissioners, most of whom were largely interested as mortgagees or occupied mills nearest the reservoirs. Since I began to attend the meetings of the committees the state of Bilberry reservoir has been frequently under discussion, and I have always urged the necessity of keeping the reservoir permanently empty to avoid the possibility of danger. I recollect a meeting when the question of cutting a hole in the waste-pit was discussed, and it was the opinion of the board it should then be done ; that it was at a higher elevation from the shuttle than the previous resolution in 1845 on the subject. As nearly as I can recollect it was 30 feet. I Lave examined the minute book of the committee, to ascertain whether any resolution was recorded, but can find none. I went up to the reservoir about this time to examine it, and to Mr. George Hirst, one of the drawing committee, upon the subject, and wished the hole to be cut. Mr. Hirst stated that if the shuttles were in proper working order, and with the numerous leakages, the reservoir would not be likely to fill to endanger its safety. He stated that he went up to examine it almost every day, and when there were heavy rains more than once a day. I was not aware before this inquest that there was no grating to the shuttle. I have always expressed at the Commissioners’ meetings the necessity of keeping both this and the Holme-sties Reservoirs empty until they were repaired, but my own opinion has been that they were not worth the expense, as I never considered them of any very material advantage to the mills on the main stream. In 1850 the Holme-sties reservoir was also pronounced dangerous. Myself and Mr. Haigh, another Commissioner, went up to examine it. We went up the culvert, and found the water spouting out from the crevices of the arch on all sides.

Coroner — I think it is not necessary to go on with that.

Mr. Robinson — I am merely stating this to show that certain Commissioners were always desirous of having these reservoirs repaired.

Coroner — I don’t think there is any difference of opinion amongst the jury on this subject. It is very necessary this should be known, but it is unnecessary to mention it here at this time.

Mr. Robinson continued — In 1849 the mortgagees went to parliament, but there was no power in that bill to repair the Bilberry Reservoir. After the first bill had been withdrawn, and the second passed the committee of the House of Commons, Mr. Jacomb proposed to insert clauses to raise £5,000 to repair this reservoir. Whenever any suggestion for expending a portion of the rates upon these reservoirs has been made by any Commissioners, other Commissioners have always objected and defeated it. I had some other matters to mention to the jury, but as you think it extraneous, Mr. Coroner, I shall not proceed.

It being understood that the jury were not to receive the evidence of Mr. Robinson, Mr. Jacomb declined to cross-examine him.

Captain Moody was then sworn.

The Coroner — In pursuance of directions from the Home-office, have you, Captain Moody, examined the Bilberry Reservoir?

Captain Moody — I have.

The Coroner — You have also heard the evidence, and examined into the state of repairs of this reservoir, and into its mode of bursting?

Captain Moody — I have.

The Coroner — Can you assist the jury in their enquiry, if so, you will be so kind as do so in your own terms ?

Capt. Moody, Royal Engineer, then made the following observations :—


The immediate cause of the late catastrophe was the middle portion of the dam at Bilberry Reservoir being lower than the top of the waste pit.

This waste pit was designed to carry off the waste or flood water, but the top of the embankment having sunk below the top of the pit, and Buffered to remain so, the flood waters had no proper or sufficient escape, but went over the dam, which, as a necessary consequence, gave way.

In the evidence before you mention been made of a spring, of different leaks, and defective workmanship, but so long as the level of the dam was below the level of the waste nit, and the flood suffered to pour over the top of an embankment of this kind, it would give way, though there were no springs, no leaks, and though the best quality of puddling was put in as water tight as possible. It would give way, though not so simultaneously, from top to bottom ; it would be slower in its operation, out still quick enough to form a flood of terribly destructive effect in its course.

To enable the jury to apprehend clearly the force of all the facts of the case bearing directly on the engineering part of the question, it is necessary first to give some idea of the principles on which these kinds of dams are designed, and how these designs are carried out. This I will do in as few words as possible, and equally concisely offer a few observations on the design of this reservoir and dam in particular, and draw your attention to the evidence given as to the manner in which that design was executed.

In constructing a reservoir of the nature of the one at Bilberry, the site being fixed upon, the extent or area of the district, the surface water from off which will be drained into it, is ascertained. Calculations are also made from the most authentic records of the quantity of rain that falls upon and flows off this area in a given time, both on ordinary occasions and what may be expected in times of flood. In these calculations allowance is made for absorption and evaporation.

The capacity of the reservoir, when full, is estimated from levels taken at different depths.

To impound the water an embankment is formed across the ravine, or valley, to the height that will contain the greatest quantity of water at a reasonably economical outlay.

The supply of water which may be needed for the manufacturer or other uses, and for which the reservoir is constructed, is led away from the interior, and nearly at the bottom, by what maybe called “supply pipes,” or enclosed channels, constructed of metal or masonry according to the size. The quantity of water to be discharged is regulated by sliding valves (called here “shuttles”) working in these, or at the extremities of these pipes. The sliding valves in this case work vertically, and are placed one behind the other, at no great distance, and in the same pipe, so that the water passes through the opening of both slides, and it either gets fixed by accident or injury when down, the passage of the water is stopped, and the reservoir must necessarily fill, rendering it a difficult operation to get at the slide to rectify, besides losing the use or service of the water. It must be understood distinctly, and borne in mind always, that these channels or pipes are solely for the ordinary supply of water for the economical purposes alluded to, and for these alone. Their capacity is regulated accordingly. They should be protected from anything but water pressing upon or passing through, and this is generally done by iron gratings, removed to a little distance, and so designed that though obstructions may be intercepted, and for a time rest against them, there shall be space for the requisite supply of water to get into the pipes and through the slides.

To carry off the waste water, and the floods that may fall on the drainage area, other arrangements are made. In the case before you a circular pit of masonry was built up in the body of the embankment on the inner side. The ordinary supply pipes passed into the bottom of the pit, and a nearly horizontal culvert was constructed to convey away from the bottom of the pit the water coming through the ordinary supply pipes, as well as any waste or flood water flowing down into the pit. The culvert leads to a goit for the supply of mills down the valley.

When these waste pits are adopted, I need scarcely impress upon you that they are so designed in height and capacity, and the culvert also in capacity, that the flood or waste water shall freely fall down the pit, and pass off through the culvert in sufficient quantities to prevent the water in the reservoir ever rising to the height of the top of the dam.

The position of the entrance to the supply pipes, and the plan for carrying off the flood waters at Bilberry, are, I understand, very common in this part of the country, but I would not counsel their adoption in such sites as the one in which this is situated, high up in a hilly district, at the junction of two deep ravines, with precipitous sides and a rapid descent from above —obstructions of various kinds may be expected to be continually brought down, particularly in heavy floods of rain. They would be drawn by the set of the current towards the pit, and may impede the escape of the flood waters in sufficient volume, by getting into the waste pit and choking up the passage. Even if there was a grating over the waste pit, they would be gathered about it, and by the downwards suction be kept upon it. It is stated in evidence that a tree once passed into the sliding valve and there remained fixed. When I caused the water remaining in the reservoir after the “burst” to be drawn off a large stone was jammed against the entrance of the supply pipe, and the whole bed of the swallow is deep in mud, and wreck, peat, ling, and stones, close up to the sliding valve. Some arrangement at the entrance of the swallow to prevent this is always advisable, in addition to a proper description of grating in front of the valve.

I would prefer the byewash which is in more general use. It consists of a notch as it were, cut out at one or both ends at the top of the embankment. Through this notch the surplus water passes, and is conveyed away along the side of the valley in a broad open ditch or canal to a sale distance, and then emptied into the valley lower down if allowed to run to waste. Obstructions getting into the byewash could be removed with more facility, certainty, and expedition. It is also possible to widen the channel on the side of the natural ground in some cases, and greater room could be made for escape on any occasion beyond human foresight.

I think it will be more convenient to you, if, before I proceed to allude to the embankment, I connect the foregoing observations to this particular case.

I estimate the drainage area for Bilberry Reservoir at 1920 acres, shown on the accompanying portion of the ordnance survey. The space drained is coloured red.

I find it very difficult to get good data for estimating the quantity of rain that passed off the surface. Very careful records are kept at Woodhead, in the vallies on the other side of the hill-range, where Mr. Bateman is constructing a series of reservoirs for Manchester. By the kindness of Mr. Bateman I have had access to these records, and calculating from them, and supposing equal quantities of rain to have fallen on both sides of the hill, on the day and night of the 4th instant, 1920 acres would have given a supply of 500 cubic feet per second. I am under the impression, however, that a considerably greater quantity must have fallen on this side of the range at that particular time.

The accompanying drawings will give you the dimensions of the waste pit, the slide valves, and passage included, between them and the dimensions of the culvert including its length.

[Capt. Moody here laid before the jury several plans and drawings of the reservoir which he explained to them, and then continued.]

The waste pit is circular, 12 feet in diameter in the clear, the depth to the bottom of the culvert is 59 feet. The slide valves are at the bottom and 18 inches in the clear, the space between them is two feet square and 6 feet in length. The culvert is 6 feet 4 inches high, and 6 feet 6 inches wide, semicircular at the top, with perpendicular sides, and is 180 feet in length. The sectional area of the waste pit is 113.09 ; that of the culvert, 35.4 square feet ; that of the slide valves, 1.7 square feet.

From these dimensions, with the pressure due to the whole height, the culvert has capacity to discharge about 1500 cubic feet per second. The quantity coming into the reservoir is assumed above at 500 cubic feet of water per second, so that proper allowance has been made for its escape had the waste pit been so circumstanced as to fulfil the object designed in its construction.

I will now proceed to make observations on the dam.

The water is impounded in the reservoir by an earthen dam across the valley. The one which has been adopted in this case is of a common construction, and perhaps the most economical. It is formed of a wall of puddle with a mass of earth on either side. The puddle is 16 feet thick at bottom and 8 feet at top. The inner slope of the earth has a base of 3 to 1, the outer slope a base of 2 to 1.

The length of the dam is 340 feet, and was carried up to 98 feet high, according to the original design. This mass, or rather that part of it on the outside including the puddle acts by its weight, which should more than counterbalance the pressure or weight of water acting against it. The object of the puddle wall is simply to present the water getting through to the outer portion. It is to keep the whole water-tight, and is not to be considered as having any strength in itself. Such a dam answers extremely well, if the materials are carefully selected and the whole work well executed.

The heaviest portion of the materials (the. heavier the better, stones, &c.) should be placed on the outside, and the more binding materials on the inside. Close also to the puddle dam or wall, on both sides, the material should be very binding in its quality and well rammed ; the nearer it approaches in effect to puddle the better.

In the construction of the Bilberry dam this careful selection has not been made. The material is similar on both sides, and loose in its nature. The inner portion is permeable throughout, and instead of the part next to the puddle dam being closely rammed and almost puddle in its character, a dry, open, rubble wall or backing appears to be carried up from the bottom, on both sides of the puddle dam, inviting the water, as it were, to act on the whole inner surface of the puddle, and to escape with greater ease at any leaks or fissures arising from settlement or bad execution of the work. In flowing over the top of the dam (which it ought not, if the waste pit was in a position to act), the water would flow down through this dry rubble to the very bottom, and, acting on any cavities or porous or weak portions at that part of the embankment, would act with immense hydraulic pressure, — in fact, on the principle of an hydraulic ram. In the case before us you have it in evidence that the water, before passing over the outer surface of the dam, did pour down thus for half an hour and also acting on the water which was forcing its wav through leaks and a spring at the bottom, the dam boiled up in the centre, as the witness stated, and burst out from the bottom, almost simultaneously with breaking away in masses from the top. It was thus the whole dam gave way, and the volume of water in the reservoir burst forth at once.

The construction and materials of the earth work in the slopes of the dam are comparatively of minor importance to the puddle in the centre The trench extending1 down the sides and bottom of the valley to receive the ends and base of the puddle wall, should, as the specification before you provides, go down to the solid rock or impervious strata. All springs should be carefully led away, and even every fissure got pastor through until all is safe, firm, and solid, clear of water, or what might be channels for it when the reservoir is filled, after the completion of the work. This observation applies equally to the sides as well as the bottom. In executing this, it sometimes happens that very heavy and quite unforeseen expenses have to be incurred. The excavations are sometimes obliged to be extremely great in depth, and if the rocks are shaky or open in their stratification at the sides, it may be found necessary to puddle all over the ends or junction of the dam with the sides of the valley. It may be necessary to puddle part of the sides of the reservoir itself. In short, no care can be too great, and no expense should be withheld to make all perfectly water tight. Leakages or springs are continuous and continuously injurious, reaching eventually, perhaps to very heavy expenses, if not to disastrous consequences.

The puddle should also be of the best quality. But puddle should always be excellent. There are different opinions as to the best mixture. In this instance gravel and clay are mixed together, and it is unequal, though what is now seen in the embankment may be considered good. You have evidence of much which we cannot at present see, being bad, and the effects which are to be observed seem to confirm that evidence. To be water-tight and not liable to crack or settle unequally are the conditions good puddle should fulfil.

The trench to receive the puddle wall at Bilberry Dam was cut down through the rock to a depth of 9 feet in the centre, in consequence of coming on a soft place. At this depth it appears that a very strong spring was tapped in the lower strata of shale. The section before you shows the stratification of the rocks, (millstone grit and shale) and from the dip it will be seen that water might be expected to rise where did rise. The stratification of the rocks immediately above the dam are full of fissures and very shaky. From the runs showing themselves lower down than the dam, and the leaks at each end of the dam, when there was much water in the reservoir, it is to be inferred that the openness of the strata was not sufficiently regarded.

It appears in evidence that the spring at the bottom of the puddle trench was not led away by any of the usual modes. I think it proper to observe that the expense of doing this would have had to be borne by the contractors. It, however, was not done, but very objectionable plans resorted to in the hope of choking it up, or “weighting it down,” to use the words of the evidence. But it was not to be “weighted down,” it rose as the work rose, materially injuring the lower portion of the puddle ; making it weak and bad, of a nature easily to be worked away with the water of the spring, as the latter forced itself through the outer part of the embankment like a little rill of water issuing from the foot. At times this rill was clear, and at times muddy and yellow. The muddiness varied with the head of water in the reservoir. To the weak nature of the puddle at the base, and the washing away from time to tuna by the continuous run of water from the spring under the bottom of it, the great settlement of the puddle dam m the centre is to be attributed, a settlement which continued to go on during the construction, and after the dam had been raised to the height required in the specification. Of late years the settling down appears to have gradually raised ; doubtless the soft puddle had been nearly all squeezed out, and then would probably commence a different mode of action, leaks increasing in size and unequal settlements causing fractures.

The formation of the pits or craters along the top of the embankment admit of speculation as to their cause. It is not a matter of certainty. The lowest point of the pits now remaining are exactly at the edge of the puddle dam, and immediately over the dry rubble backing described before. In one instance the lowest point is at the inner edge, and in the other at the outer edge of the puddle dam. They might have been formed at the time of the high water or freshet alluded to in the evidence, and which filled the reservoir soon after its completion. At this time it is not unlikely that some water poured over the edge of the puddle dam into the dry nibble backing, carrying with it some of the earth and leaving a crater-like formation. At the time of the catastrophe it poured down into this portion, at the centre of the dam, for half an hour. At the time to which I am alluding, it might have been only for a very short period. I am induced to think they must have been formed at an early period, when the dam was at its full height, because there is a similar formation on the right flank of the dam, at an elevation above the level of the top of the waste pit. The top of the dam, nearer the centre, but close to this little crater or pit, has sunk bodily all across ; and in the sunken part is a large crater formed, I conceive at the same time as the higher one ; both are shown in the plans and sections before you. This sunken part is over the culvert, and is no doubt due to the washing away of the bad puddling over and about the culvert where it passes through the puddle wall below. This bad work and the fruitless attempts to remedy it, are detailed abundantly in the evidence you have had before you. That evidence does not bear directly on the bursting of the dam, but proves the inferior execution, the misunderstandings, and faulty management and control that has marked the whole construction of the dam.

From the description of a leak half way up the middle of the dam, as well as the great depth and width of the centre pit, as described in evidence, but now washed away, I would infer it is probable the puddle was shaky at this part, and had some fissure near the upper portion though which water leaked when the head of water was high. This shakiness would be caused of late by the continual wearing of the spring beneath.

I will not take up more of your time by alluding to. other points that have attracted my notice ; I would just observe they would simply serve to show, in addition to what I have already stated, that the execution of the work was not what it ought to have been, and bad execution in works of this kind, or any works connected with water, is fatal. The work must be good and water-tight, or they will be dangerous, and their destruction must come sooner or later.

In the evidence there appears to have been much stress laid on the great cost of this reservoir. I think it therefore right to observe to you that in hydraulic engineering generally it is extremely difficult if not impracticable to say with certainty what the final cost may be. It has been shown in evidence that eminent engineers have tendered estimates of different amounts to put the reservoir in an efficient and sate condition. The plan proposed being to cover the inner slope of the dam with puddling and re pitch it with stones, also to puddle a portion of the sides and thus make it if possible water-tight. Still if that had been done it might not have answered so long as that full spring existed where it was ; and unknown to the engineers there were also, runs of water round the flanks of the dam. They might have had to execute other works and incur other expenses. I am speaking of really eminent men, skilled in their profession and well knowing what they were proposing. I do not mean “un-professional” men who are unskilled, who do not know what they are proposing, and had better, much better leave hydraulic engineering, and all engineering, to engineers. I conceive it quite possible that it might have been necessary to extend the puddling and pitching far up the sides of the valley, making it almost like a tank. It might have been necessary to do this. The stratification is extremely full of fissures and shakes. In this neighbourhood there are many mountain reservoirs receiving floods of water, impounded by lofty dams ; pray don’t look upon them and treat them like mill dams or fish ponds. They are engines of mighty force, strong in aid of your industry to augment your wealth, and terrible in their power to destroy if mismanaged or neglected. This fact must be indelibly impressed on the minds of all the dwellers in Holmfirth.

The conclusion of the above report was marked by a burst of applause from the parties present.

The Foreman of the Jury — Is it your opinion, Captain Moody, it the waste pit had been low enough, although the embankment was imperfect, that all this disaster would have been avoided?

Captain Moody — I cannot but believe it would. I ought to add that it would still be a dangerous reservoir ; but I do not think if the waste pit had been lower the reservoir would have burst now, though it would have given way eventually.

Henry Edward Horsfall, examined by Mr. Jacomb — I live in Holmfirth. I recollect Wednesday, the 4th of February About half-past twelve o’clock that day I heard that the reservoir was unsafe. I went to a person named Garside, and accompanied him first to Digley, and afterwards to the reservoir, where we arrived at ten minutes past three. We met with Elliott Brown. He went with us. The water was coming in as strong again from the the Bradshaw dyke as it escaped from the shuttle or waste pit. We met a person named Broadhead. He said that the reservoir was lower than on the Sunday before. I saw if the water ran over it would burst: there was no remedy for it. I returned to Holmfirth. I got home at five minutes to five. A person named William Barrowclough came in and asked what I thought of the reservoir? I said it was nine feet on the slope from the top of the bank, at the settlement. Garside and I went to the Victoria-bridge at ten o’clock, and were watching the water all night. Persons passed by frequently, and some said the water was running over then.

By Mr. Martin — Brown thought it dangerous. I told Woodcock, the draper.

The Coroner — You did not tell the magistrates or constable?

Witness — No.

By a Juror — Were you watching all night?

Witness — No, not all night. I went to bed myself between eleven and twelve, I can’t say exactly. As long as we watched the beck, and saw it got lower, and as the rain had ceased at half-past ten, we considered it safe, and that the reservoir would not burst. Brown’s shop was carried away, but he was not himself lost.

Edwin Barber, of Kiln House Bank, manufacturer, examined by Mr. Jacomb — I recollect the 4th February. In consequence of a communication from my wife I went to Bilberry Reservoir about six o’clock that day. My wife stated it was generally reported the reservoir was about to burst. I remained on the embankment till about ten o’clock. Several persons were there — John Roebuck, Benjamin Bray, Joseph Whiteley. There were several persons from Holmfirth and Hinchliffe Mill, but I cannot tell who the Holmfirth people were. About half-past ten Mr. Roebuck said the reservoir would burst, if the water continued to rise. I recollect his calling out that those persons from Holmfirth and Hinchliffe Mill should go down and give an alarm, as the reservoir was likely to burst. By direction of Mr. Roebuck I went and assisted Mrs. Hirst in getting out of her house.

By the Coroner — I knew they were from Holmfirth by seeing them there. At half-past ten Mr. Roebuck directed people to go down and give an alarm.

By the Foreman — I cannot tell the name of one Holmfirth person present. Roebuck shouted to the people that came from Holmfirth.

By the Coroner — I cannot say that any left in consequence of what John Roebuck said. I was at Digley when the reservoir burst.

Charles Batty, miller, of Bottom’s Mill, said — I was on the embankment of the reservoir about four o’clock in the afternoon of the 4th. I returned between five and six, and called in Water Street when I returned. I went to the house of Joseph Dodd, who lived next door to Eliza Marsden, one of the persons drowned. I had promised him to let him know what I thought about it. I had been told before I went that they had something in the shuttle. I told Dodd that the water was 50 feet deep, only 2 feet from running over, and if it continued raining he was to take care of himself. He said, “Nevermind, Charles.”

By the Coroner — It was six o’clock when I called at Dodd’s. He said, “Tell old Shaw to keep a good fire, and I’ll be down in the morning.” Old Shaw keeps the fires up, and sleeps in the pan hole

By the Foreman — I live close to the mill, and sleep at home. I thought it would do no harm to us ; but I pre-pared the mill as well as I could. I removed the goods in the mill to where I thought they would stop. I went to bed at twelve, and was up again at half-past. I did not remove my own furniture. It was a yard high in my house, but 7 or 8 feet in the mill.

By a Juror — I did not tell any of my masters.

By the Coroner — I did not think it would burst and come town all at once. I did not think about that.

Benjamin Bray, of Bank End Mill — I am in the employ of Messrs. Roebuck, and was on the embankment two or three times on the evening of the 4th February, watching the water. I was there from ton to eleven o’clock. Mr.

Joe Roebuck was there, in a field on the north side. He said he thought it was time for somebody to go to Holmfirth and Hinchliffe Mill to give warning. I told him I had been at Charles Batty’s, and he had told me there were parties from Holmfirth there that afternoon, Garside and Brown. I heard Mr. Roebuck crying out often to the people on the embankment to come off. I accompanied Mr. Roebuck to Mrs. Hirst’s, and Mr. Roebuck insisted upon them coming out of their house. This would be between eleven and twelve o’clock. They did not leave while we stopped, I went back to the embankment. This was between twelve and one o’clock. Mr. Roebuck was there then. The water was running over the settlement. I did not give the alarm by Mr. Roebuck’s orders ; but I met John Whiteley coming off the embankment, and asked him to go with me to Holmfirth and Hinchliffe Mill, to alarm them. He did so, and I called as we went down Water-street, whilst he went on to Holmfirth. We parted at Long Wall. As I went I gave the alarm. I got as far as Mrs. Marsden’s door, in Water-street. She is a person who is drowned. I then thought I had gone as far as I dare. I was then in danger of my own life. I shouted out at Marsden’s as loud as I could.

By the Coroner—When I went to Mrs. Marsden’s door the water was close behind me. Mr. Roebuck removed his own property. He removed the pieces from Bilberry Mill. This he did at six o’clock on Wednesday. He had them taken to Bank End. Bank End is partly carried away. I am not aware that he removed any on Sunday or Monday. I believe he did not. The pieces removed on Wednesday evening were removed on account of the flood. They were removed out of the way of the water, into an upper room at the Bank End. These goods were not removed from one mill to the other in the ordinary course of business.

James Charlesworth, of Digley, was called, but

The Coroner put it to the jury whether they should hear any more evidence of the warning said to have been given on the night of the calamity. It was clear that persons were sent down at night to give warning ; but Mr. Roebuck had removed his own goods on the afternoon of that day.

Mr. Jacomb said he had a mass of evidence to offer, but it appeared to him of little use calling it, after Captain Moody’s report, as he intended to show — what the Captain had done — that the work had been badly executed.

The Coroner — The effect of that is that the embankment was very improperly made.

Mr. Jacomb — As I understand it, it was an ill-conceived design, and badly executed ; and here allow me to say that the public are much indebted to the government for sending down an intelligent gentleman to investigate this matter ; and also indebted to Captain Moody for the manner in which the investigation has been made.

The Coroner — Then that is all the evidence you have to produce?

Mr. Jacomb said it was, and signified his wish to address the jury, against which the Coroner decided.

The Coroner then commenced summing up the evidence to the jury. It was perfectly clear, he bought, without troubling them, or going over the evidence at length, that previous to this 4th of February this embankment had been in an improper state, and dangerous to the public, and was known by the Commissioners to be so. The Commissioners had taken various steps towards repairing it. Evidence to show this had been gone into at great length ; but he was still of opinion that there was not much weight as regarded the absence of funds on the part of the Commissioners, because if they were criminally responsible all their want of funds would not have saved them. With regard to the evidence as to the construction, he did not think — after the statement of Captain Moody, of the cause of the accident being that the embankment was below the waste pit — that the imperfect condition had anything to do with it ; for, long after that, in the years 1848 and 1849, there was ample time for the Commissioners to lower the waste-pit ; and the workmen, therefore, could not be held liable for this accident. The Bilberry reservoir was one of the Holme reservoirs, made under an Act of Parliament passed in 1837 ; and by that Act, the millowners — that was the principal millowners of the district — were declared to be one corporate body. That established the fact of their being a corporation ; and under the authority of a legal opinion, which he should lay before them, it would be seen that they could not be made answerable, individually, for any acts they had done, or had omitted to do. Mr. Leather was appointed engineer for the making of these reservoirs in 1848 ; but as he was under no criminal liability in this case, it was not worth while to inquire into what was done by him. The Coroner then referred to the contract taken, to the persons employed to superintend the work, and said that in all their appointments the Commissioners appeared to have acted wisely, and so as to secure the proper performance of the works. After alluding to the complaints made from the first, as to the construction of the works, and to the spring at the bottom of the puddle trench, he said he would not trouble them with that, as the waste pit not being lowered was the cause of the accident. In 1846 an order was made by the Commissioners for making an opening in the waste pit, 18 feet above the clough of the shuttle ; and Mr. Littlewood was empowered to carry it into effect Mr. Littlewood did take some steps, but in consequence of some interference, or threatened resistance, the opening was not made. Mr. Littlewood took no further steps in it, nor did he even report to the Commissioners, or call a meeting of the Commissioners, as he ought to have done, for this purpose. Supposing these Commissioners were acting as individuals, he could not say that the threatened resistance would have been sufficient to make them criminally responsible. To make them criminally responsible, active resistance should have been resorted to. He (the Coroner) could not think that the order of the Commissioners for making this opening was sufficient to fix the liability upon Mr. Littlewood. He ought to have called a meeting of the Commissioners, laid the matter before them, and taken steps to prevent the evil, for by the statement of Captain Moody it was the want of this remedy which caused the rupture of the embankment Possibly the spring might at some other period have caused it ; and, if it had happened in the day-time, a greater misfortune might have resulted, as the mills might have been filled, and a still greater sacrifice of life might have occurred. He could not but think that Mr Littlewood was highly censurable, and highly to blame for not making the opening, or, when it was not made, for not calling another meeting of the Commissioners, and laying the matter before them. They then came to the time when the accident took place. The Coroner then referred to the very heavy rains which had fallen immediately before the 5th of February, to the rapid rise of water in the reservoir, to the obstruction in the shuttle, and to the bursting of the embankment, as described in the evidence of Whiteley, which he read, adding that Whiteley’s testimony agreed entirely with the opinion expressed by Captain Moody. He then alluded to the question of warning or alarm of the bursting, observing that the conduct of parties at the embankment on this night showed that they did not apprehend immediate danger ; and that these parties had awaited too long before they gave an alarm, consequently their efforts failed altogether, as he did not know any one who had received warning in time. He alluded to the expressions imputed to Mr. John Roebuck, who, like others, had acted in ignorance of the imminence of the danger, and clearly thought they would have plenty of time to give warning. He next quoted that part of Captain Moody’s statement which alluded to the cause of the accident. That statement, so far as the jury were concerned, must discharge the engineer, the contractors, the overlookers, and others from all responsibility, as a few shillings outlay at any time would have prevented the accident. The next point was whether this had arisen from the criminal neglect of any party. It appeared to him from this enquiry that there had been very gross and culpable negligence on the part^ of the Commissioners, and he did not think from what they had in evidence, notwithstanding their applications to parliament, that there was anything which could excuse their negligence. It was a negligence of a most gross kind, and if they had been individuals, instead of a corporate body, it would have justified and called for a verdict of manslaughter. But the Commissioners being a corporate body they were not answerable criminally to them. It was well for the Commissioners that it was so ; for had it been otherwise, without doubt, the jury could not have hesitated as to their verdict. He could not say that the Commissioners, in all their applications to parliament, had done what they might have done. There had been differences amongst them ; and it appeared that a part of the Commissioners only were acting as such. He thought when they failed in their application to parliament the proper course for them to have pursued was to have had the water taken out altogether from the reservoir. True, in their act of parliament there were penalties to which they might have been liable by doing this ; but, under the circumstances in which they were placed he thought no magistrate would have convicted. Had they done this, and any other Commissioners chose afterwards to dam the water up again, then such Commissioners would have been as answerable criminally as any other individual for this accident. He was not aware of any acts done by these Commissioners, individually, which would make them answerable in law ; indeed, he was afraid that the state of the law would have protected them, if they had done any such acts. He did not know that he had any further observations to make to them on the evidence. The evidence went to three points. It showed the state of the embankment, the improper works, and the state of the waste pit. What the jury had to consider was, the want of giving warning on the evening of the 4th. It was an extraordinary thing it was not done, but looking at the conduct of individuals at Holmfirth, and the reports respecting these reservoirs — for he did not know how many years — they could not but be under the impression that the danger was not so great as it appeared to have been. They must consider the verdict they would give, and along with it they should consider whether some means could not be adopted to prevent these awful occurrences in future. He would leave the case in their hands.

The jury then retired at a quarter to two, and were absent two hours and a half. On returning into court the Foreman handed a written verdict to the Coroner.

The Coroner — This, gentlemen, is your unanimous verdict.

The Foreman — Yes.

The Coroner then read the verdict, which was as follows :—


We find that Eliza Marsden came to her death by drowning, caused by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir. We also find that the Bilberry Reservoir was defective in its original construction, and that the Commissioners, engineers, and overlookers were greatly culpable in not seeing to the proper regulators of the works ; and we also find that the Commissioners, in permitting the Bilberry Reservoir to remain for several years in a dangerous state, with a full knowledge thereof, and not lowering the waste pit, have been guilty of gross and culpable negligence ; and we regret that the reservoirs being under the management of a corporation, prevents us bringing in a verdict of manslaughter, as we are convinced that the gross and culpable negligence of the Commissioners would have subjected them to such a verdict had they been in the position of a private individual, or a firm ; we also hope that the legislature will take into its most serious consideration the propriety of making provision for the protection of the lives and properties of her Majesty’s subjects exposed to danger from reservoirs placed by corporations in situations similar to those under the charge of the Holme Reservoir Commissioners.

The Coroner (after being spoken to by Mr. Martin) said — There is one of the jurors (Mr. Martin) who wishes me to say that he dissents from this verdict. The verdict is, therefore, unanimous, with the exception of Mr. Martin.

The Coroner again rose and said he understood that Captain Moody was desirous of expressing to them some observations in reference to the Holme Styes Reservoir, Their enquiry was now ended, and they were not bound to hear those observations, but he thought it would be much more satisfactory to do so.


Captain Moody said — I have been requested to make some observations to you on the state of the Holme Styes Reservoir. I have inspected it, and it appears to me that the Commissioners should not delay in sending for some superior engineer, one well acquainted with these kind of works. Let them take his advice and carry it out, and not think too much about making an economical bargain. You remember what I told you just now respecting the grating which should guard the entrance to the ordinary supply channel. There is one in this case, but not of a good design. It is vertical and close to the channel, if not a little within it. It might therefore get choked up, and the ordinary supply of water not be able to pass through it. There is also the same arrangement of the sliding valves — one behind the other, so that should either get fixed when down, the outlet would be stopped up, and the reservoir must fill. There is a masonry valve pit in which these sliding valves work. In this pit there is a leak much larger than the other. The water from it ran out of the circular supply pipe four feet in diameter, at the rate of sixteen inches in a second, a segment of a circle two feet three inches the chord and four and a half inches deep. There is also evidence of a leak at the outside of the masonry of the culvert. This, with the leak I before mentioned, falling into the valve pit, makes a rather considerable quantity. The rate at which water was running was timed by a step watch. When I saw it the water was muddy. Two brother officers and myself watched it for a considerable time. These flaws are not so great as those which have come before you during this investigation, but they are such as demand immediate attention. You remember how strongly I have just impressed upon you the importance of an adequate escape for waste or flood waters. I then recommended a bye wash in preference to a waste pit. There is a bye-wash at the Holme-sties Reservoirs, but after my arrival here, when I first saw it, a wall was built across it, firmly puddled so that the water filling into this reservoir could not escape through the byewash, but must have flowed over the dam, and had the water risen but a very few feet higher on the night of the 4th, you would had a flood down the Ribbleden valley, meeting the Bilberry flood at a right angle, and the destruction would have been much more awful. (Sensation.) When I saw with my own eyes this wall built across the byewash it seemed so incredible that l said to myself, these people must be insane. I could not believe that sensible men, knowing the operation and force of water, could allow such things to exist, had not I seen it. Under the authority of the magistrates I took upon myself instantly to order its removal. (Hear, hear.) There are sinkings in various parts of the dam that require rectifying, but I do not purpose entering into any suggestions as to how that should be done. I recommend the Commissioners to send for a clever hydraulic engineer, and carry out what he recommends. (Hear.) I also think it proper that I should make a remark about the men in charge of these large engines of power. They are not paid enough. The Commissioners have no right to expect to get an intelligent man who will devote his attention to the management of these reservoirs for a salary of £5 a year. They must pay such servants more if they desire to have an efficient man. I might further recommend, should these reservoirs on any occasion get out of repair, that an engineer be immediately sent for, and that the Commissioners do not attempt to rectify the evil themselves. (In answer to some enquiries by the jury, Captain Moody said) — I do not know the depth of the sinking near the valve pit. I do not know its exact depth below the top of the embankment, but it is a very bad sinking.

A Juror — Did you notice a sinking on the inner slope of the embankment, near the bye-wash, and if so do you think it unsafe ?

Captain Moody — I think it should be repaired, and it is as well the water was not allowed to come above it. I will also observe that the bye-wash itself is very much out of order, and should be repaired. The water from a bye wash should be carried away to a point of safety down the valley, but I do not think the point of safety is reached in this instance.

Mr. Hinchliffe wished to know whether Captain Moody thought that the water would overflow the embankment of Holme Styes Reservoir, before flawing over the wall into the bye-wash.

Captain Moody — The wall appeared to me to be on a level with the top of the dam.

Mr. Hinchliffe — Then I must differ with you. (Laughter)

Thus terminated the proceedings arising out of this painful event and the court rose at 4 30 p.m.

The court, during the absence of the jury, was thronged with spectators ; and the greatest interest was manifested when the jury returned into the court and delivered their verdict. The excitement continued to increase ; and, during the delivery of Captain Moody’s remarks, very strong expressions of feeling were made from the body of the court.

[We take this opportunity of acknowledging the courtesy of Mr. Dyson, (the Coroner,) Captain Moody, and others connected with the enquiry, for the facilities afforded us during the proceedings.]

Immediately after the close of the inquest, a meeting of the “drawing committee” of the above reservoir was held, when the majority present signed the following order, addressed to Joseph Beaumont, drawer of the Holme-styes Reservoir, the tendency of which will be, we trust, to allay those fears which still prevail among the inhabitants of the valley. The “order” is as follows:—

We, the undersigned members of the drawing committee of the Holme Reservoirs, do hereby authorise you to draw the shuttle ten turns, and continue the same at that height until further orders, and under no circumstances to allow the water to accumulate, but gradually to empty the reservoir. — Dated the twenty-seventh day of February, 1852.


On Wednesday evening a public meeting was held in the Court-house, Rotherham, called by the Greave of the Feoffees, in accordance with a numerously signed requisition. The Greave, Thomas Wheatley, Esq., presided. The attendance, though not numerous, was highly respectable, including the leading magistrates and gentlemen of the town. The Earl of Effingham, who was prevented attending the meeting, addressed a note of apology to the chairman, expressive of his sincere sympathy for the sufferers, and enclosing a cheque for £20, as his lordships subscription. The Rev. J. M. Maxfield, T. P. Crosland, Esq., and Mr. Wimpenny, of Holmfirth, were present as a deputation from the two committees. The expression of feeling at the meeting was of the most unequivocal character ; and it was most gratifying to observe that, notwithstanding the late lumen table loss of life by the colliery accident at Raw-marsh, in the immediate neighbourhood, and the subscription at Rotherham on behalf of the survivors, kind and generous feeling was by no means exhausted. Amongst those present we observed Thomas Wheatley, Esq., Greave, Henry Walker, Esq., and George Chambers, Esq., county magistrates ; W. F. Hoyle, Esq., J. Yates, Esq., Charles Nightingale, Esq., J. Badger, Esq., C. Coward, Esq., &c., &c. A committee was formed for the purpose of canvassing the town without loss of time, and before the meeting broke up the subscription list amounted to nearly £100.


The following is the copy of a letter received from a little boy at Greenwich, by the Rev. R. E. Leach, incumbent of Holmfirth :—

Dear Sir,
I have the greatest pleasure in sending the half of a five pound note, the other half shall be sent as soon as I hear of the safety of this. It has all been collected in small sums. I shall send the list of sub-scribers when I send the other half of the note.
I hope you will succeed in raising a large sum.
I am, dear Sir, yours most respectfully,
James T. Symes.
P.S. — I shall not be satisfied unless I can send you another five.




After the sad calamity which so lately occurred at Holmfirth, an enquiry naturally suggests itself — how may such accidents be prevented? May I be allowed, through the medium of your journal, to draw attention to a self-acting clough which has been in operation nearly seven years, at a place called Broad-cut, between Horbury-bridge and Wakefield, on the Calder and Hebble Navigation. It is five feet wide, three foot deep, with a fall of eight feet ; but there is no limit as to size on the same principle. At any given height it draws itself, and at another given height it sets itself how down, after having drawn off the superfluous water — requiring no attendance whatever ; although a boy, seven years old, may, at any time desired, draw it with ease. I will not trouble you with an account of my invention, or the difficulty I had to contend with, and the prejudices I had to surmount, before my plan was adopted. I have no personal interest in the matter, but shall be glad to shew it any time on receiving a few days notice. Had such a clough been fixed at Holmfirth we should not now have been deploring the loss of so many lives and so much valuable property.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
Greenwood Lock, Mirfield.
25th February, 1852.



In pursuance of a notice given by hand-bills, a public meeting was held in the National school-room, Lockwood, on Wednesday night, to express sympathy toward the sufferers from the recent calamity at Holmfirth, and to devise means for collecting subscriptions from those inhabitants of the district who have not already contributed. The chair was occupied by the respected incumbent, the Rev. T. B. Bensted ; and the meeting was attended by the Rev. J. Fearon, incumbent of Holmbridge, and J. Charlesworth, Esq., as a deputation from the Holmfirth Committee. The attendance was not numerous, but the proceedings were of a most animated character, and about £70, inclusive of a subscription of £25 from the workmen of Messrs. Berry and Crowther, was collected in the room amongst the gentlemen present. In addition to those already mentioned, we noticed the Rev. F. Wilson, curate, the Rev. J. Barker, baptist minister, J. C. Fenton, Esq., Bentley Shaw, Esq., Messrs. W. G. Armitage, S. Ogden, Josiah Berry, Thomas Booth, E. Battye, T. Haigh, Thomas Beaumont, John Kaye, William Dale, Benjamin Vickerman, and Joseph Armitage ; together with several ladies.

The Chairman, in opening the business of the evening, said, — I thank you, my Christian friends, for the honour you have conferred upon me by calling me to the chair this evening, but I should have been ashamed of my position had this been the first expression of our sympathy with our suffering neighbours. It was our purpose to have called a meeting during the week which immediately followed the calamity that we so much deplore, but our proximity to Huddersfield and the fact that gentlemen from that town had solicited and obtained from the inhabitants of Lockwood munificent subscriptions, even before the great meeting at Huddersfield, induced us to attend that meeting, and there to testify our sympathy, and to add many other names from Lockwood to those previously enrolled on the Huddersfield list. I was happy to find, from perusing that list last evening, that the value of our sympathy had, in some degree, been proved by an amount of £700 ; of this about £500 had been subscribed by residents in Lock-wood, and above £200 more by gentlemen whose works are situated in Lockwood. This, therefore, is not the beginning of our sympathy. We meet to endeavour to put a good finish to subscriptions so happily commenced, to devise means for gathering up “the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost ;” but before we enter upon this part of the evening’s proceedings a resolution expressive of the feelings of our hearts will be proposed by

The Rev. F. Wilson, and which was as follows :— “That this meeting sympathises deeply with those neighbours who have suffered family bereavements and pecuniary losses by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir.”

The Rev. J. Barker, in rising to second the resolution, said, he did so with mingled feelings of pain and pleasure. There was pain connected with the thoughts of so many being hurried immediately into eternity, and yet pleasure in thinking how a Christian land could sympathise with such bereavements. He could not help feeling that there was no foundation for the charge that Lockwood was behind in the expression of such sympathy. Lockwood had already contributed largely, very largely, so largely that he had not felt justified in calling upon his own particular congregation to come forward. Most of those present had probably also attended at the Huddersfield meeting. He himself was only prevented from being there by having been away from home. That “charity begins at home,” he was often told when going from house to house to collect funds for various institutions, and he would echo this statement on the present occasion ; for surely what was so very near our door might justly be reckoned our home. He appealed to the poor men present whether they could not feel for those in a similar station to themselves, who had been deprived of their only means of obtaining support and sustenance for their families: and sorry was he to learn that from five to six thousand operatives had been thrown out of employment. With mingled feelings of sorrow and happiness he begged to second the resolution.

The Rev. J. Fearon, when introduced to the meeting said, that it was very cheering in the midst of all their sorrows to hear wherever they went the voice of sympathy. And truly their poor afflicted district needed both that ready sympathy and that munificent charity which had been everywhere added to the expression of kind feelings. He then in most pathetic language gave some details of the sad scene which he was called to witness on the dreadful morning of February 5th. He was roused from his sleep by a voice calling to him “Digley is gone.” He hastened to the spot which so lately had been occupied by the mills and dwellings of happy industry, but his greatest anxiety was about the precious lives of the people. He then related the wonderful rescue of the Hirst family, and of the poor rheumatic man who was lifted over a high gate with iron spikes on the top ; and of the blacksmith and his family. He described the desolation of Holmbridge Church, beautifully designated by him as “the asylum of penitence and prayer,” but as he said, “now rendered unfit for a time to receive its votaries.” He next gave a touching account of his visit to Hinchliffe Mill and Water-street, and after relating a case of merciful preservation said, he would at this point leave the scene of desolation as Mr. J. Charlesworth will continue the sad narrative. The rev. gentleman’s speech left a deep impression upon his audience.

Mr. Josiah Berry moved the second resolution to the effect that the inhabitants of Lockwood who had not already subscribed, should be furnished with an opportunity of doing so, which was seconded by J. C. Fenton, Esq.

Bentley Shaw, Esq., in supporting the resolution, said he would not make any lengthened remarks, more especially as a gentleman from Holmfirth (Mr. James Charlesworth) was about to address them, nor would he again go over those harrowing scenes, to a description of which they had just listened, as it would not be productive of any good, but only give rise to still more painful feelings. He expressed his delight at the noble response made in every part of the kingdom, but more particularly in this immediate locality, which had done honour to itself in coming forward so promptly and munificently to alleviate in some degree the effects of this most disastrous calamity. He had no doubt that their gatherings, though small, would be appreciated, for all were aware that pence made pounds, and that even the ocean itself is made up of drops of water. He begged the meeting would excuse his dwelling longer upon the subject, as from its very painful nature he felt it impossible to do so.

James Charlesworth, Esq., made an eloquent and forcible appeal, during which he dwelt upon the fearful scene which presented itself during the flood, and detailed a number of thrilling incidents in connection With this melancholy catastrophe, and concluded by stating that the object contemplated was to meet the more pressing necessities of the sufferers, and afford relief by employing the work people in removing the rubbish which had been accumulated, so that the mills might shortly again be put into operation.

The Chairman, in submitting the second resolution, said he trusted they would respond to it in the most practical manner.

Slips of paper were then handed round amongst the audience, in order that they might communicate the amount of their subscription to the chairman, after which the list of donations in the room were read amidst applause. (The list will be found in the ordinary subscription list, under the “Lockwood” head, in our impression of next week.)

A resolution was next moved by Mr. T. Beaumont, in a short speech of deep feeling, and seconded by Mr. T. Haigh, which embraced the appointment of a committee, and it is a gratifying circumstance that it includes the names of gentlemen connected with the various religious denominations of the village.

The resolution having been adopted,

The Chairman announced the amount of subscriptions obtained in the meeting as £70.

The Rev. J. Fearon remarked that from the “boxes” in his own district there had been received £170 as the contributions of visitors and passers-bye. The whole amount received from these auxiliary sources would not be less than £200, including £80 in copper.

The proceedings terminated immediately afterwards with the doxology and benediction.

After the meeting the committee remained, and appointed a treasurer, secretary, and collectors.


A public meeting was held in the National Schoolroom, Slaithwaite, on Wednesday evening week, for the purpose of receiving a report of the results of the public collections and private efforts which had been made in the district during the week, and also for hearing further details from a deputation of gentlemen from Holmfirth. The chair was taken a little after seven o’clock by the Rev. C. A. Hulbert. when a respectable though not crowded audience were assembled, including members of each of the dissenting congregations, as well as those usually attending the church. The Chairman said that as it was the regular evening for a service and lecture in that room, and as he wished the proceedings to be based on the highest Christian principals, they would be commenced as usual with singing and prayer, after which he adverted to the circumstances which had led to the meeting, and referred to letters from the Earl of Dartmouth, with donations of £50 ; Fred. Thynne, Esq., his lordships agent, £20 ; Joseph S. Scholes, Esq., £5 ; James Bridcocker, Esq., £5 ; the St. Peter’s Lodge of United Free Gardeners, Slaithwaite, £5 ; and a letter from Edward Brooke, Esq., regretting his inability to attend ;and another to the same effect from J. Holladay, Esq., enclosing £5, both the latter gentlemen having kindly noticed the meeting in their discourses the preceding Sunday. A donation of £10 also from John Farrar, Esq., was announced ; and the chairman, after a brief appeal to the Christian feelings of the audience, said, that having addressed them already on the same subject several times, he should not now detain them, but call upon the gentlemen who had kindly attended from Holmfirth, who would not only give them full details of the awful disaster which had called them together, but also the plans of distribution which were matured by the committee.

The Rev. J. Macfarlane, Independent Minister, Holmfirth, then delivered an eloquent address, in which he first described in an affecting, graphic, and poetical manner, the origin and progress of the catastrophe—its overwhelming consequences in carrying away whole families and separating others — overthrowing mills, houses, bridges, and works of all kinds — and the results, which were almost inestimable, but it was a moderate computation that five thousand persons would, directly and indirectly, be thrown out of employment. Many of them were, however, being employed by the committee in restoration and preparation for work. Clothing had been kindly supplied by many persons, but bedding and under-clothing were still wanted. He said there was one result, the union of all parties of Christians in a common cause of charity, in which he much rejoiced, and assured the audience, in reply to an objection raised, that no case had been or would be allowed to go to the workhouse — that the greatest care would be taken in the disposal of the funds, and he fully believed that should such a calamity or any other affliction happen at Slaithwaite, that the people of Holmfirth would be ready to come over and help them. A man of Macedonia had said to Paul in vision, “Come over and help us ;” and when the apostle was in prison at Rome a man of Macedonia came over and helped him. The speech was received with hearty cheers, amidst which the rev. speaker sat down, and

The Chairman having expressed his satisfaction at the spiritual bearing as well as interesting character of the address, called upon

James Charlesworth, Esq., banker, of Holmfirth, who, with that animated and fervid, though plain and unadorned eloquence, for which he is remarkable, gave similar statements to those which he delivered at Huddersfield, alluding particularly to the heroism of a female, who, when awaked with her husband and family by the alarming crash of the waters, climbed up the chamber chimney, descended on the roof, and taking off the slates, drew her husband and children through. He also alluded to the kind donations of the Queen and Prince Albert of £150. Thanked the Slaithwaite people for the exertions they had already made, and hoped they would proceed — that they had begun before the deputation had waited on the minister. He said that the funds would be expended in the first place in giving employment rather than in relieving persons who were idle ; and he believed that it was always more grateful to a Yorkshire-man to receive wages as a workman than relief as a pauper. The committee had not yet arrived at any conclusion as to the ultimate objects of relief, that must depend on the amount collected ; but he had no doubt that a satisfactory account of every sixpence expended would be given in print. His address was also received with much feeling and applause.

The chairman then called on the Rev. S. P. Lampen, who was acting as treasurer, to give in his report, who said that he had a peculiar interest in the sufferings of the inhabitants of Holmfirth, as he was for twelve months engaged in parochial visitation among them, and several of those who had been carried away, as well as most of the survivors, were well known to him. He read the list of subscriptions, including those already named, and that the collections in church and Upper Slaithwaite school amounted to £8 10s. 6d., besides which there had been collected by Mr. J. Pickles, £3 5s. 5d . Mr. James Hoyle £3 4s. ; also smaller sums by Mr. William France, Mr. Joseph Radcliffe, and Mr. Richard Horsfall, in the upper part of Slaithwaite. Several districts — Lingards especially — were yet unvisited. He also reported several other subscriptions of two pounds, one pound, and smaller sums, of which particulars will be hereafter given. The Chairman then said that he had felt called upon to double his own contribution, which was much less than he desired, and hoped after the details that had been given, others would do the same.

David Haigh, Esq., then rose and said, he had intended to give one pound, but now felt he must make it five pounds. Several collections were not yet received ; and at the suggestion of the chairman several friends undertook to collect in the factories. Mr. Benjamin Sykes said, that the Earl of Dartmouth Lodge of Oddfellows intended to take the matter into consideration on the following Saturday, and it was hoped that the other secret orders would do the same.

Thanks to the deputation were proposed by the Rev. S. P. Dampen and seconded by Mr. D. Carter, which was carried unanimously.

The Rev. J. Macfarlane in acknowledging the same, proposed the thanks of the meeting to the chairman, which was seconded by Mr. D. Haigh, and carried unanimously.

The meeting was concluded by singing the doxology.

Since the foregoing was written we have learned that the Earl of Dartmouth has increased his donation to £250. The amount collected at Slaithwaite is £95, and more is expected.


A public meeting, convened by the mayor (Mr. John Carr), was held at the Council-hall, on Thursday, at noon, “to take into consideration the late awful calamity at Holmfirth, and to originate a public subscription for the relief of the surviving sufferers.” The Mayor presided. The meeting, though not a numerous was a very influential one. Amongst those present were the Rev. Thomas Sale, vicar ; Mr. Wm. Butcher, town regent ; Mr. W. Webster, the master cutler ; Mr. Hudson, the capital church burgess ; Alderman Dunn, Alderman Birks, Alderman Fawcett, Alderman Vickers. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hawksworth, Mr. E. Smith, and about a score of the clergymen of the Church of England and dissenting ministers. T. P. Crosland, Esq., of Huddersfield, and the Rev. J. M. Maxfield, of Marsden, attended as a deputation from the United Committee of Huddersfield and Holmfirth.

After the business had been introduced by the Mayor,

The Rev. Thomas Sale moved the first resolution, — “That this meeting desires to express its deep sympathy with the inhabitants of the Holme valley and the town of Holmfirth under the awful calamity by which they have been visited, whereby, through the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir, upwards of one hundred persons have lost their lives, and a large amount of property has been destroyed, and in consequence of which a considerable number of the surviving inhabitants will be for some time out of employment.”

Mr. E. Smith seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.

The Rev. J. Wilkinson moved a proposition to the effect that as local efforts were insufficient to provide for the sufferers by the recent calamity, other parts of the country were called upon to afford aid. The proposition was seconded by Mr. T. W. Rodgers, and supported by

The Rev. J. M. Maxfield, one of the deputation, who said he felt overwhelmed by two considerations—the magnitude of the calamity to be represented, and the weakness of the instrument to take such a task. This dispensation of desolation and death, in its visible effects set at defiance the pen, the pencil, and the tongue of the most eloquent, After adverting to the mend effect of the dispensation, he said he believed that upwards of 100 persons had perished and the bodies of 71 had been found. Two bodies had not been recognised, the probability being that all their relatives and friends had perished with them. In one instance the corpse of an infant had two claimants, but it was believed that the body was ultimately awarded to the right one. He then read a list of the property destroyed and injured, the particulars of which have already appeared in our columns. The number of adults thrown out of employment is 4896, and children 2142, making a total of 7038. Whoever might be to blame for the calamity, humanely speaking, all would agree that these 7000 were innocent. (Hear, hear.) It was for them he pleaded. The working classes of Huddersfield had set an example which their employers might well venture to follow, and which they had followed. The work-people in two manufactories had subscribed in one case nearly £200, and another £178. He was afraid the poor would have to be restrained in their offerings. In one instance there was a dispute between some relatives as to a legacy of £50, and the dispute was ended by giving it to the Holmfirth fund. The newspaper press, he said, had been a great aid to the committee, and he begged to express their public obligations for the noble part taken by the Sheffield press. The whole amount collected was £25,000, but the true value of this apparently large sum was soon found, when it was seen that allowing even the small sum of 10s. per week each to the sufferers, the fund would only last seven weeks.

Mr. Crosland, another of the deputation, said that immediately after the accident a committee was formed at Huddersfield and Holmfirth, and it was the first business of the relief committee to sec that the poor were cared for. The able-bodied receiving relief were employed in clearing out the valley, and as far as possible in repairing the damages. Those who had been deprived of furniture had had new bought them, and small shopkeepers had as far as possible been placed in a state of comparative prosperity.

Ald. Vickers asked what was intended to be done for the permanent relief and education of the orphan children. He alluded approvingly to the plan pursued by the committee of the Rawmarsh colliery relief fund.

Mr. Crosland said that it was contemplated that the surplus fund, after voting assistance in cases of urgent necessity, should be disposed of by a committee who would solicit the aid and assistance in the final distribution of one or two gentlemen from the towns which had principally contributed.

Mr. Ald. Dunn moved that a subscription list be opened in aid of the general fund to be raised for the relief of the sufferers by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir, and that the several banking houses in Sheffield be requested to receive subscriptions. After expressing his concurrence with the preceding remarks as to the providential design and moral effect of the accident upon the mind, he said that on public grounds he felt bound to state that the calamity strictly speaking had not arisen from natural causes, but from a course of bad management on behalf of the body having the control of these reservoirs.

Mr. Crosland said that great mismanagement had taken place with regard to that reservoir. From the first, engineer and contractors had scarcely ever worked amicably. But it was only fair to state that an order of the commissioners to lower the waste pit was thwarted, and the commissioners, as a body, at the time of the accident did not know that the order had not been carried out.

Mr. Waterhouse seconded the proposition.

Mr. Nadin suggested that a penny subscription should be set on foot for the working classes.

Mr. Alderman Vickers said he was about to suggest the same thing. He regretted that the working classes were not present in greater numbers.

The motion was put and carried, and on the suggestion of the vicar it was arranged that a public meeting should be held especially for the working classes.

Mr. Fisher moved the adoption of a committee, with power to add to their number, which was seconded by Mr. Wilson, and carried unanimously.

Alderman Birks suggested the necessity for dividing the town into districts, and for making personal applications for donations.

A vote of thanks to the Mayor concluded the proceedings.

A subscription was entered into immediately, and £550 was subscribed on the spot.

We have been favoured with slips of the above meeting by the courtesy of the proprietors of the Sheffield Times.


A public meeting, convened by the mayor, was held in the Town-hall, on Monday morning last, to concert measures for the alleviation of the sufferers in the above lamentable event. The meeting was thinly attended but several of the principal manufacturers, merchants, and clergymen of the town were in attendance. Shortly after eleven o’clock W. Warner, Esq., jun., mayor, took the chair, on the motion of Sidney Cartwright, Esq., and observed that he had taken the liberty of calling that meeting in consequence of a circular he received from Huddersfield, containing an account of a matter he had little doubt they had fully heard of through the newspapers, viz., a lamentable accident which occurred during the night of the 4th February. He did not wait to see whether the inhabitants of Wolverhampton would take the matter up, as he was convinced that, when the matter was put in a proper form, they would fully sympathise with the distressed residents in so extensive a manufacturing district. The worthy mayor then read a circular, relative to the particulars of the loss sustained, received from the United Committees of Holmfirth and Huddersfield, after which resolutions expressive of sympathy with the sufferers, and pledging the meeting to enter into a subscription on their behalf, such subscriptions to be at the disposal of the United Committee of Huddersfield and Holmfirth, were unanimously agreed to. A treasurer was then appointed, means devised for obtaining subscriptions adopted, and at the close of the meeting a total sum of about £155 had been subscribed by the gentlemen present.


On Sunday week sermons were preached in Slaithwaite Church in furtherance of the exertions which are being made with so much praiseworthy zeal, in this as well as other neighbourhoods, for the above object, in the morning by the Rev. C. A. Hulbert, incumbent, from Acts xx., 35 verse, setting forth the blessedness of a liberal and charitable spirit ; and in the afternoon, by the Rev. S. P. Lampen, curate, from 2 Cor., 8, 13, and 15 verses, in which the reciprocal duty of relieving distress as occasion required was earnestly and faithfully maintained, with a reference to the local circumstances, which the preachers acquaintance with the neighbourhood in which he formerly laboured rendered more affecting and impressive. In the afternoon also, a sermon was preached by the Rev. C. A. Hulbert, at the Upper Slaithwaite Chapel, from Psalm xc., 5 v., “Thou carriest them away as with a flood.” The collections altogether amounted to £8 10s. 6d. The subject was also adverted to by the same gentleman in a solemn manner on the preceding Sunday, and on the last Sunday at the Wesleyan Chapel, by Mr. Edward Brooke ; and Baptist Chapel, by Mr. Holliday ; and Powle Moor, by the Rev. Mr. Holmes.


On Sunday last, in the morning and afternoon, the Rev. Mr. Green, the incumbent, preached two sermons in Christ Church, Friezland, in aid of the sufferers by the recent inundation at Holmfirth. The worthy minister delivered two excellent and appropriate dis-courses. his text in the morning being the latter portion of the 17th verse of the 19th chapter of the Book of Genesis, viz. : “Escape for thy life ; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain ; escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.” Collections amounting to the handsome sum of £33s. were made.

On the same day, in the afternoon, the Rev. J. A. Boake preached in St. Thomas’s Chapel, Friar Mere. The attendance was very good, and at the close of the service a collection, amounting to £14 15s., was made in behalf of the Holmfirth Relief Fund.

On the afternoon of Sunday last the minister of the Independent Chapel, Upper mill, held a special service tor the purpose of appealing to the sympathies of his congregation in behalf of the victims of the late dire calamity at Holmfirth. The rev. gentleman selected tor his text the words of Jesus which occur in the 13th chapter and the 4th verse of St. Luke — “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt at Jerusalem.” A collection amounting to £20 2s. 6d. was made in aid of the above object.


A sermon was preached by the Rev. J. Hanson in the Baptist Chapel, Milnsbridge, on Sunday afternoon, in aid of the sufferers at Holmfirth. The collection and previous subscription amounted to £27 13s. and upwards.


Last Sabbath afternoon a sermon was preached in Tintwistle Chapel, by the Rev. R. G. 3Iilne, M. A., on behalf of the sufferers at Holmfirth. The collection amounted to £23.


On Sunday evening last a sermon was preached in Zion (Independent) Chapel, Bridlington, by the Rev. G. F. Ryan, D.D., resident minister, in behalf of the sufferers by the Holmfirth catastrophe. The rev. gentleman selected for his text the 4th verse of the 90th psalm, “Thou earnest them away as with a flood,” from which he delivered a most eloquent discourse. The chapel was crowded, and the collection amounted to the sum of £13 18s.


MR. HARTLEY’S CONCERT. — On Monday evening last Mr. Hartley gave a vocal and instrumental concert in the Riding School, Ramsden-street, on behalf of the sufferers by the late melancholy catastrophe at Holmfirth, on which occasion Miss Sykes, Miss Milner, and Miss Hepworth, pupils of Mrs. Wood, made their debut in this town. Mr. G. Hemingway, from the York and Newcastle concerts, was also engaged. The orchestra was conducted by Mr. Hartley, and the instrumental performances were managed with care and taste. Miss Sykes, Miss Milner, and Miss Hepworth were well received, and created a very favourable impression. The singing of Miss Milner was marked with great taste, and her voice (a soprano) is one of considerable sweetness ; the tone is full and round. She was honoured with an encore in Bellini’s beautiful song, “On the cold shores,” and was most deservedly applauded in the fine ballad, “On the banks of Allan Water,” which she rendered with great effect. Miss Sykes’s voice struck us as being too weak for the concert room, and is deficient in power, though it possesses many fine notes. She received an encore in the duet with Miss Hepworth, “The shadows now are blending,” and in the songs given to her she sang with taste. Miss Hep worth possesses a contralto voice of great sweetness, though deficient in power. She sings with feeling, and her rendering of the beautiful ballad, “Oh, ye sunny days of childhood,” was exceedingly fine, and displayed a good expression. Mr. Hemingway fully maintained his previous reputation ; and Mr. Hartley was deservedly applauded. The attendance was respectable. — We observe that Mr. Hartley announces the first of his series of People’s Concerts for Monday next, and we trust that this spirited effort on the part of Mr Hartley to provide a means of innocent recreation for the working classes will meet with a generous support. The engagements hitherto made are of a high character.



WESLEYAN DAY-SCHOOL. — On Sunday last, in the morning and evening, two sermons were preached in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, in aid of the day-school in connection therewith, by Mr. J. Dyson, of Thurgoland. Collections amounting to upwards of £4 were made in aid of the funds.


CURIOUS COINCIDENCE. — We are informed that a flood took place at Holmfirth on the 23rd July, 1777, and that a person of the name of James Armitage, was born in this village on the 24th, the day after that flood, and died on the 6th instant, which was the day after the late flood.


STATE OF THE SLAITHWAITE RESERVOIR. — The Rev. C. A. Hulbert having by desire of the vestry meeting communicated to the Directors of the London and North Western Railway, (Huddersfield Canal department,) the resolutions agreed upon, has received a reply that the directors having had Mr. Hulbert’s letters laid before them, had directed their engineer to report to them on the state of the Slaithwaite Reservoir at their next meeting. Mr. Farrar, one of the gentlemen interested in the Cupwith Reservoir, has also written to Captain Moody, to request a visit of inspection. We have no doubt that if these matters are now allowed to slip, when the present excitement is over, the security of the district from future accidents of the character of the Holmfirth flood, will have been greatly promoted, even by this terrible catastrophe.