London Daily News (06/Feb/1852) - Floods in the North

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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.



Leeds, Feb. 5.

A terrible calamity has just occurred at Holmfirth, a large manufacturing village, a few miles from Huddersfield. Several of the factories in the place are supplied with water from reservoirs in the elevated parts of the locality. The rain during the past few days had fallen heavily, and caused such an extraordinary pressure of water, that the Bibbery reservoir gave way, and at two o’clock this morning burst its banks, and caused most appalling devastation and loss of life. The immense body of water rushed with fearful force and impetuosity upon the village, and swept away in its restless course whole rows of houses, hurrying the sleeping inmates into eternity. At the moment your correspondent writes it is impossible to give an adequate detail of the catastrophe. Not only houses, but warehouses and mills were swept away by the mighty rush of waters and the streets were blocked up with the wrecks of buildings, wool, casks of oil, the bodies of the dead, &c. By four o’clock in the morning, the water had so far subsided, that preparations were commenced for recovering the dead, and at 7 o’clock, a.m., 60 lifeless bodies had been taken up. In one row of houses swept down there were 54 persons.


A correspondent, writing from Manchester, yesterday thus adverts to this most distressing occurrence, and to various other casualties caused by floods in the north.

In consequence of the continuous heavy rains, which fell partially on Tuesday, but more particularly on Wednesday, from a very early hour in the morning up to 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening, the rivers which flow through Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire, were swollen till the water burst the banks, and in many places covered the surrounding country, converting all the low grounds into immense lakes.

At Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, we regret to learn that great loss of life, the whole extent of which is not yet ascertained, and serious destruction of property, have taken place. During the night of Wednesday the Bilberry Dam reservoir, at Holmfirth, overflowed its embankments, and deluged the lower grounds for miles down the Holme valley. The flood swept away the Digley Mills, the residence of Mrs. Hirst, the owner ; and that of her son-in-law, Mr. H. Bardsell, manufacturer, together with all the outbuildings, and it had not been ascertained at ten o’clock yesterday morning whether the three persons named had perished in the flood, or had been fortunate enough to escape in time. At five o’clock yesterday morning one of our informants, on leaving Holmfirth, saw the furniture of the two houses floating about in the flood. By a later account we learn that at 10 o’clock it had not been ascertained how many lives had fallen a sacrifice to this fearful inundation, but at that time a number of men were engaged in dragging such of the bodies as came within reach out of the raging waters. Up to that hour 8 bodies had been taken out at Lockwood, and 2 at Bury Brow, and it was feared that these were only a small proportion of the aggregate number of sufferers. Amongst other damage the flood in its devastating course swept away part of the village of Hinchcliffe Mills; and carried away two rows of new buildings at Holmfirth, as well as the bridge over the Holme, which formed the only communication between the parts of the village lying on opposite bunks of the river.



Huddersfield, Thursday, 10 p.m.

The excitement and grief occasioned by the terrible calamity at Holmfirth is beyond description. A body of water 90 feet deep and 100 yards wide was liberated from a narrow mountain gorge (by the bursting of an embankment belonging to the River Hulme Reservoir Commission) almost at a sweep, and precipitated down the valley. An immense mill, built of stone, with its steam engine, spinning and weaving frames, and huge boilers and other heavy iron machinery, was totally swept sway. A row of houses was carried away, and their inhabitants drowned. Bodies have been taken from the river 15 miles distant. A hundred persons are missing, and to this time I have lists of more than sixty corpses lying at the inns. Some say nearly 90 have been picked up. Total loss some hundreds of thousands sterling.