James Charlesworth (1838-1852)
James Charlesworth was one of the victims of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852.
By the time of the 1851 Census, the family was living on Water Street, Hinchliffe Mill, and James (aged 12) was working as a warper.
As noted below, James would have survived the flood if he had not returned to try and rescue his hens.
In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the Bilberry Reservoir embankment failed, unleashing a torrent of water down the Holme Valley. Due to its location, the houses on Water Street took the full force of the flood, killing 35 of the residents. Rose Ann Charlesworth and five of her children were amongst the victims.
John Charlesworth (senior) was interviewed by the Huddersfield Chronicle newspaper:
During our enquiries in this neighbourhood we also met with John Charlesworth, weaver, who also lived in Water-street, and who with two sons, Henry Haywood and Eli Charlesworth, and two daughters, Ann and Mary, are all that are saved out of a family of twelve (including himself and wife). He is an elderly man, and in reply to our enquiries said,
- “I lived in Water-street when the flood came. The houses were three storeys high, and I lived in the centre of the six houses destroyed, there being two on one side of me and three on the other. We had heard nothing about the flood until it came. [This was in answer to a question put to him in consequence of a statement made to us to the effect that the whole of the inhabitants of Water-street had been warned of the danger on Wednesday night before going to bed.] I was in bed when I heard a cry, upon which I jumped out and ran to the door. This was about one o’clock as near as I can recollect. When I got to the door I saw one of James Metterick’s daughters was coming running to my door. The water was just damming up the fold, and she ran back. I stepped back into the house and lifted my wife on to the floor in her night dress. There were six children at the stairs bottom, and one asleep up stairs. I spoke to my eldest lad (Haywood), and we each took two children, and after telling my wife to follow us instantly, we rushed out. One of the children I had hold of was the eldest but one, named James, aged 14, and as we were going up the fold, he screamed out about his hens, and got from me and ran back to the house, and I did not see him afterwards. I saw one of the lads attempt to follow us, but finding that he could not escape that way, he tried to get round the street corner but was too late. I expected my wife and the other children were following us when we left the house, but she must have remained, and been washed away with the house. Two minutes after I lost hold of my eldest lad, the water rose six yards, and in less than five minutes from my being first alarmed the whole of the six houses were swept away. There were no doors opened in the street but the Metterick’s and our’s, and I think most of the other families would be swept away whilst in bed.”
Another statement by John was reproduced in The Desolated Valley: A Narrative of the Flood at Holmfirth (1852) by J. G. Miall:
I lived in Water Street. James Charlesworth was my son. My house is entirely destroyed ; four are saved besides myself, and six are lost; one of the bodies is wanting yet. James is 14 years of age. The one whose body is not found is Hamer [Emor] Charlesworth. On the night when this happened we were all sleeping in the house; four in the low room and seven above. Four of those above were saved and one below. Some one came and cried out, and when I got up the water was running in at the window. I had one child by the hand when I went out, and when I got to the door the water took me up to the knee. The water rose eight yards in two minutes. There were six houses in this row, the doors of four of them never being opened at all. Two of Mettericks and five out of my house were all that were saved out of these six houses. There were forty-two sleeping in these six houses, and only seven of them were saved.
The following report was later printed in The Holmfirth Flood (1910):
Three of Charlesworth’s children, by some means, had a most miraculous escape. They ran to the door of a neighbour named Robert Ellis, and were fortunately taken in by him just in time to make their escape out of the top of the house. Other two children of the same family had escaped as far as the top of the fold leading into the turnpike road, but returned to rescue two hens which they kept, and by so doing were caught by the waters and drowned.
James' body was recovered by John Rowbottom of Holmfirth Mill on the morning following the flood, "betwixt the floors of the first and second storeys of" Holmfirth Mill, and was taken to the White Hart Inn.
The bodies of Rose Ann and her children Joshua, James, John and John where buried on Monday 9 February at St. David's, Holmbridge.
Notes and References
- "John Charlesworth's Narrative" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).