James Hartley (1837-1852)

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project which aims to make content available to researchers in advance of the 175th anniversary of the 1852 Flood which will be commemorated in 2027.

James Hartley was a victim of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, along with his parents and four of his siblings.


He was born on 28 November 1837, the son of mill engineer Sidney Hartley and his wife Mary Ann (née Lodge), and was baptised on 15 April 1838 at Christ Church, New Mill.

The 1851 Census listed the family residing at Mill Hill, Holmfirth, along with an apprentice woollen carder, 16-year-old Henry Dearnley of Wooldale. James' occupation was recorded as "woollen carder".


In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the Bilberry Reservoir embankment failed, unleashing a torrent of water down the Holme Valley. With the flood waters rising in their property, the Hartley family attempted to escape by breaking through the roof. David Hartley recounted what happened next:[1]

When we were in bed early in the morning we heard a noise as if the slates were falling off the house. I got up and cleared away a number of slates so that I was able to get out on to the thack. I then pulled up my sister Ann beside me ; after that I managed to get John, my brother, up and also the apprentice boy. I tried long and hard to pull brother James up but had to give up the attempt or we would both have been dragged down together. While we were standing on the roof we saw many persons with their heads a little above the water struggling and crying for help. We could see into the chamber where my mother was lying but it was impossible to reach her, the water had risen so high. We saw her look towards us and heard her say farewell and then she was swept away.

James' body was recovered on the day of the flood "in the middle of a field adjoining the road going up Hagg Road" by George Jagger.[2] The body was taken to the Travellers Inn, Honley, and was identified by his sister Hannah at the inquest.

With the exception of Ellen Ann Hartley, James and the other members his family who died in the flood were buried on Sunday 8 February at Christ Church, New Mill.

His surviving siblings were:

Notes and References

  1. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.
  2. "[[Halifax Guardian 14 February 1852 (The Dreadful Accident at Holmfirth) - {{{3}}}|{{{3}}}]]" in Halifax Guardian 14 February 1852 (The Dreadful Accident at Holmfirth). The time was reported as "seven o'clock" but whether that was in the morning or evening is uncertain.