John Hartley (1839-1879)

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.

John Hartley was a survivor of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, which killed his parents and five of his siblings.


He was born on 11 August 1839 in the Township of Wooldale, the son of mill engineer Sidney Hartley and his wife Mary Ann (née Lodge), and was baptised on 3 November 1839 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.

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.

Along with David, his other surviving siblings was Hannh (also known as Ann).

By 1861, John was working as a woollen slubber and lodging with Francis Watson and his family at Ossett.

He married Ellen Windess Emery (born in Hull), daughter of cabinet maker William Emery, on 30 December 1861 at St. Mary's in Wakefield.

He was listed in the 1871 Census as an innkeeper on Kirkgate, Wakefield with two children:

  • Edith Ellen Hartley (1864-1948)[2]
  • John Edward Hartley (1868-1936?)[3]

After Ellen Windess died in 1871, it seems he then married widow Jane Jagger (née Hepworth)[4] on 24 March 1872 at the Parish Church in Wakefield.

John Hartley died before the 1881 Census.[5]

Notes and References

  1. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.
  2. Married 9 April 1887 to John Edward Blackburn, she died in June 1948.
  3. Listed living with his married sister in the 1891 Census. Possibly died 4 March 1936 at Wakefield.
  4. Born circa 1838, the daughter of miller William Hepworth, she married mechanic Benjamin Jagger on 1 January 1860 at All Saints, Wakefield.
  5. He is possibly the John Hartley whose death was recorded in Q1 1879 at Ecclesall Bierlow, aged 39.