Joseph Barrowclough (1804-1862)

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.

Joseph Barrowclough[1] was a carpenter and architect of Birch Hill, Wooldale.


He was born in the Holmfirth area on 9 February 1804, the son of joiner George Barrowclough and his wife Ruth, and was baptised on 20 February 1804.

He married widow Mary Teale (née Butterworth) on 6 December 1837 at All Hallows, Kirkburton. She was the mother of architect and surveyor John Cuttell Teale who later became the licensee of the Swan Inn, Meltham.

He was declared bankrupt in May 1843.[2]

In 1851, his occupation was recorded in the census as "joiner & carpenter employing 4 men". By 1861, he was an architect.

Joseph Barrowclough died on 7 May 1862 at Holmfirth.

Holmfirth Fkood of 1852

The following account by Barrowclough was published in Huddersfield Chronicle:[3]

My residence is at the bottom of South Lane, Holmfirth, and my threshold about six teen feet above the bed of the river. At a quarter before one I was awoke by my wife : she asked what that rush was. I said it was the wind; but I was not quite awake. I put my clothes on, and gave the alarm that the water was up to my door-stone: that was at one o’clock. I then went out, turned my attention to the churchyard, and saw a man just drowning — the water was about four feet deep — Matthew Fearns was his name. I dragged him out, and took him to my house, and left him there, and then went to see after my daughter living at Nathan Littlewood’s, Ribbledon Road; and on my way back, I tumbled over the body of the wife of the above Matthew Fearns, dead on the road. The thought struck me, "I must not stay with the dead, but try to save the living" so I left her just where she was. My attention was next attracted by six persons on the top of a house-ridge, one side of which stands in the river. I got upon a wall, and shouted to them, "Stay where you are; for the water, I believe, is about to lower." I then attempted to make my way to them, but saw that I could not with safety. I waited five minutes, and I believe the water lowered four or five feet. I then got on a piece of timber; and from one piece of timber to another, I got to George Haigh’s shop, close to James Whiteley’s house. I lost my footing, and fell up to my neck in water. I got out; and William Martin then shouted out of his chamber-window, "Come and save us!" and I said, "I will shortly." He said, "You can now, if you will." He first flung out a mattress out of the bed, and then flung five children, and I caught them and handed them to his brother, who had then come to my assistance; and he took them to my house, where they were put to bed. Martin and his wife came down by a ladder, which was handed over to me. Another long ladder was brought, and was put up to James Whiteley’s window. I then went up the ladder, through the window into the back room next the river; and while I was there one part of the house-side fell into the river. I then went up one flight of stairs on the back-side, next the river, into the attic, and then up through the roof, and shouted, "Where are you?" They said, "We are all here." "Come then," I said: "I’ll try to save you." I then brought them down, put them all out of the chamber-window, — James Whiteley, his wife, two sons, and two daughters: parties took them away to my house and the neighbours', and they were put to bed. I then came down myself into the street, which was still swimming with water; and, turning my head up to the place from which I had fetched Whiteley’s family, I saw four more persons. I went up the ladder again in the same way; and brought down Charles Marples, his wife and servant, and a little girl, who had made their escape through the ceiling and slates to the roof of a house near to Victoria-Bridge.

Barrowclough appears to have been a close acquaintance of Samuel Sandford of Butterley, whose son Jonathan had perished in the flood. When Jonathan's body was not found, Samuel instructed Barrowclough to travel to Hull on Friday 13 February "for the purpose of ascertaining whether amongst the six bodies there found" included Jonathan's. The Chronicle also reported that "in case of not succeeding in his search, Mr. Barrowclough will search the stream upwards by way of Selby and Wakefield, with the same object in view".[4] Jonathan's body was eventually found a week later on Friday 20 February at Robinson's Mill, Thongsbridge.

On 20 February 1852, Barrowclough was travelling home to Holmfirth from Huddersfield by train. As the train set off, Thomas Newsome — a reporter for the Halifax Guardian and Leeds Mercury who was in the same compartment and had been covering events in Holmfirth — realised that he had caught the wrong train, opened the carriage door and attempted to jump back out onto the platform. Unfortunately, as he did so, the train entered Springwood Tunnel and Newsome instead hit the wall of the tunnel entrance and fell under the train. The stationmaster found the reporter "dreadfully mangled about the leg and foot". He died on 24 February at Huddersfield Infirmary. Barrowclough gave evidence at the subsequent inquest.

In the early hours of Wednesday 1 September 1852, people in the vicinity of Upper Bridge "were aroused from their slumbers by a tremendous crash, accompanied by a loud and terrific noise resembling a hurricane" as the remains of Aner Bailey's house collapsed onto and demolished a "cart-shed, the property of Mr. George Bower".[5] Inside the cart shed were "four valuable pigs" belonging to Bower, two of which were trapped under the rubble:[6]

Eventually these were extricated through the agency of Mr. Joseph Barraclough, architect and joiner, (who distinguished himself so laudably in rescuing drowning victims from the violence of the flood) and thus, happily, little absolute injury, beyond inevitable fright, was sustained.


Huddersfield Chronicle (10/May/1862):

SUDDEN DEATHS. — Last week we noticed a sudden death which occurred at Holmfirth, and this week it is our painful task to notice two others of the same distressing character The one is that of Mr. Joseph Barrowclough, architect. On Wednesday morning last this worthy gentleman rose from his bed, and, as was his custom, went out of doors, soon after six and as it seemed, before any others of the family were up. A little before seven o'clock a workman called in to inquire about some work tools tools, when he found his master lying on the hearth, with his head towards the fire-grate. The workman seeing that something was the matter, at once aroused the family, and the sons were immediately down stairs, and the father was speedily got to his bed. Dr. Ediss was summoned, and arrived in less than fifteen minutes. In the meantime Mr. Mitchell and other near neighbours were called in, and all that could be done by medical skill and neighbourly assistance, under the directions of Mr. Ediss, was done. During the forenoon Mr. Ediss called in other medical aid, and the struggle against death was vigorously carried on until one when the grim tyrant triumphed. Deceased was in the 59th year of his age, and in full business, having more extensive concerns on hand as architect than at any former time. Mr. Barrowclough's loss will be much felt in the circles in which he moved. He was a man highly esteemed in his dealings with the men of the world. According to his means he was a great benefactor to the poor, who never appealed to him in vain, and many will have to mourn the loss of a sincere friend. His dangerous efforts to rescue many poor persons who would otherwise have been lost at the great "Holmfirth flood," have been brought to vivid remembrance, and have been again gratefully acknowledged. As deceased was a member of the Wesleyan Methodist connexion, no doubt some one of that body will do justice to his memory now that be has "rested from his labours."

Notes and References

  1. Sometimes spelled "Barraclough", the spelling "Barrowclough" is the one used on his probate record.
  2. "Declarations of Insolvency" in London Evening Standard (31/May/1843).
  3. "Mr. Joseph Barroclough's Statement" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  4. "Mr. Sandford" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  5. "Local News: Falling of a Building" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (04/Sep/1852).
  6. "Another Sequel of the Flood at Holmfirth" in Bolton Chronicle (11/Sep/1852).