Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (06/Mar/1852) - The Lamentable Catastrophe at Holmfirth

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

The following are selected items relating to the 1852 Flood from this issue.

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.



not yet transcribed



The members of the Band of Hope Discussion Class gave an entertainment at the Guildhall, on Tuesday evening last, for the benefit of the Holmfirth sufferers, and we were glad to find a large and respectable audience present on the occasion. The noble and philanthropic spirit manifested by the youths in coming forward on their own responsibility to hold a meeting for such an object, is worthy of the highest admiration. After several recitations had been given by some of the younger members, an interesting discussion took place between eighteen of the elder youths, on the merits of total abstinence. The debate afforded a fine opportunity for the display of their oratorical powers, which many of them appear to have cultivated to a high degree. It is not at all going too far to say that some of them exhibited a good acquaintance with the principles of elocution. Different characters were assumed by certain of the disputants in the course of the discussion. A youth adorned with a pair of spectacles and a starched-up cravat, representing a doctor, and pleading for moderation in intoxicating drinks, and eulogizing their healing properties when used medicinally, together with a character on the opposite side, representing a rough looking teetotaller, in a smock from, advocating the good effects that flowed from abstinence, with several other characters, afforded much amusement to the audience. We understand that better than £2 was realised by the meeting.



On Saturday afternoon last, whilst a boy named Joseph Briggs, the son of Mrs. Sarah Briggs, greengrocer, Hollowgate, was playing on the bank side, he accidentally fell into the water and would have been drowned, had he not been seen by two men, Wm. Gledhill and John Beardsall, who went into the water and rescued him.


We are pleased to learn that Messrs. Hunt, Fourdrinier, and Co., of London, have presented to Mr. M’Clellan, bookseller, of Holmfirth, 20 reams of note paper, towards making up the loss which he sustained during the late calamity. This generous conduct is the more deserving of notice as they have never had more than one transaction with him in the way of business.


The committees appointed to dispense relief to the sufferers have continued their meetings daily during the past week, and have given considerable sums of money to small tradesmen and others for the purpose of enabling them to re-commence their business again. On Thursday last the number of visitors was more numerous and fashionable than it has been for several days previous.


The body of Richard Shackleton, of Holmfirth, was found on Saturday last, at Ferry-Bridge, by a boatman, who accidentally caught hold of it with a boat hook, which he was using in the water at the time. On information of the fact reaching Holmfirth, Mr. Dyson, of the White Hart Inn, went to the place with Mr. Shackleton, the father, and identified the body as that of Richard Shackleton. After an inquest had been held upon the body, it was removed to Holmfirth. The interment took place at St. John's Church, Upperthong, on Wednesday, when a large procession of Odd-Fellows’ and ringers attended the funeral, to pay their last tribute of respect to one who had for many years been a member of their respective societies. On Sunday last, the body of Mary Crosland, of Water Street, Hinchliffe Mill, was found near to Bradley Mills, and on Monday, the body of Josh. Dodd, of Water Street, was found near Horbury. Inquests were held upon the bodies on Monday, and they were removed to Hinchliffe Mill, where they have since been interred.



In accordance with a respectably signed requisition to the Constable, Mr. James Dransfield, desiring him to call a public meeting, to take into consideration the best means of securing the greater safety of the Holme-Styes Reservoir, a public meeting was convened yesterday, and held in the Town Hall, Holmfirth. On the platform were the Revels. R. E. Leach, J. Macfarlane, B. Firth, and T. Gar-butt ; Joseph Charlesworth. Esq.. J.P. ; Messrs. David Hinchliffe, Alfred Wood, W. Meikle, Samuel Wimpenny, John Hinchliffe, Richard Harrison, James Boothroyd, William Hinchliffe, J. Dyson, Sidney Moorhouse, Geo. Robinson, John Farrar, Geo. Johnson, J. Bower. J. Moorhouse, jun., J. Woodcock, — Miles, John Shaw, J. Garside, James Brook, Thomas Haigh, and several gentlemen from Huddersfield. James Charlesworth, Esq., filled the chair, and after a few important and appropriate remarks, he called upon—

Mr. S. Wimpenny to move the first resolution, who did so in a short speech, showing the unsafe state of the Holme-Styes Reservoir, as shown by Captain Moody’s report ; referring to the past conduct of the commissioners, as evidenced at the late inquest, which gave no guarantee for their future good management, and he urged the necessity of an amendment of the law, by attaching responsibility to the commissioners. He therefore begged to move the following resolution:—

That in consideration of recent statements concerning Holme-Styes Reservoir, this meeting resolves to petition Parliament to take immediate steps to secure us against danger in the future, and to make the commissioners responsible in law as they are in fact.

The Chairman then called upon

Mr. Joshua Woodcock who said he gladly came forward to second a resolution so necessary to the safety and security of the lives and property at Holmfirth and its vicinity.

On the resolution being put by the Chairman it was unanimously carried.

The Rev. J. Macfarlane was then called on to propose the second resolution, which he did alter making many excellent observations on the necessity of providing against a recurrence of a similar catastrophe. He strongly objected to coercion but the urgency of this case justified the means now being adopted, and therefore, he begged to move the following resolution :— That the following petition be presented to parliament :—

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned Inhabitants of Holmfirth, and adjoining neighbourhood humbly Sheweth :
That your petitioners were witnesses and sufferers by a tremendous calamity resulting from the bursting of Bilberry Reservoir.
That your petitioners have heard with much concern the statement of Captain Moody, the inspector appointed by Government, respecting the dangerous condition of the Holme-Sties Reservoir, which covers an extent of eight acres of ground, in dose proximity to Holmfirth, and the water from which flows through the town with a rapid descent.
That your petitioners have no reason whatever to believe that immediate and satisfactory steps for the security of our lives and property will be taken by the Commissioners, through whose culpable neglect the recent catastrophe occurred.
That your petitioners have learned with deep regret that the state of the law exempts the Commissioners from criminal responsibility, — a regret deepened by the consideration that the insolvent stale of their affairs precludes the possibility of obtaining pecuniary compensation.
May it therefore please your honourable House to allay our oppressive fears, by immediately appointing that such measures may he carried into effect as will render that Reservoir no more a source of reasonable apprehension.
And may it please your honourable House to amend the law with regard to the responsibility of the commissioners of such Reservoirs, so that when guilt attaches to them in fact, it may at the same time be legally recognised.
And your petitioners will ever pray, &c.

Mr. Meikle then rose, and made a few observations, in which he urged the necessity of the inhabitants of Holmfirth being united and steadfast in their determination to have the Holme Styes Reservoir made perfectly secure, or altogether done away with. He seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

The Rev. R. E. Leach, in an earnest address, urged the duty and necessity of using every possible effort to secure themselves against such terrible disasters before Providence could be justly expected to lend its all-powerful aid, and consequently begged to propose the next resolution :—

That this petition be entrusted to E. B. Denison, Esq., for presentation to the House of Commons, and that R. Cobden, Esq., be also requested to support the same.

Mr. J. Dyson seconded the resolution ; at the same time suggesting the utility of two culverts to all reservoirs, thereby almost certainly ensuring security against such being fast or obstructed.

The resolution was unanimously carried.

The Chairman then intimated that to meet the expenses incurred in calling the meeting a collection would be made at the door. Parties desirous of signing the petition were requested to do so in the room, or at any of the booksellers’ shops in the village until Saturday.

A vote of thanks to the chairman was moved, seconded, and carried, with marks of approbation, after which the business of the meeting was considered concluded; but owing to a question being put ns to the present security of the reservoir, a very animated discussion arose, during which it was elicited from two of the drawing committee of the commissioners that the reservoir would be safe at 45 feet, but orders had been given to reduce it to 40 feet, and since then it had been drawn down to less than 28 feet, and it was intended to reduce it still lower, if not fully to draw it off. In reply to a question regarding the guarantee for good faith on the part of the commissioners, an observation was made that parties being doubtful might easily walk to the reservoir in a morning occasionally, and so personally judge for themselves. The chairman expressed his confidence in the present security of the reservoir, and with the personal assurance of the two gentleman of the committee. After which the meeting, which was as numerous as the room would allow, separated.



To the Editor of the Huddersfield & Holmfirth Examiner.
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 embankments 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’ engineers. 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 he is a skilful engineer : and as he would be independent of any local influences 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 he satisfactory to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the public generally.
I am, Sir, yours obediently,
Huddersfield, 26th Feb. 1852.

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 appears to them of importance, namely, whether, while Captain Moody is staying at Huddersfield to investigate the facts attending the bursting of the Holm 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 & 8.Geo. IV., cap. 84, (A.D. 1827,) and 8 & 5) Vic., cap. 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,
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 bunting 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 & 8 Geo. IV, cap. SI, (1827) and 8 & 9 Vic. cap. 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 be glad either to wait upon you or to hear from you upon 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,
Capt. Moody, at the George Hotel, Huddersfield.

Whitehall, 21st February, 1852.
I am directed by Secretary Sir George Grey to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th inst, 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 on! v 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 inquiries, which may and ought to be conducted by other meant.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Mr. W. Barker, Huddersfield.

[The above correspondence reached us too late for insertion last week. — Ed. H. & H. E.]