London Daily News (13/Feb/1852) - The Inundation at Holmfirth

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project and its content is believed to be in the Public Domain.
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.


Every circumstance connected with the awful occurrence which has rendered this unfortunate town and neighbourhood a scene of such painful interest continues to excite public attention to an intense degree. Vast numbers of people flock down by the railway every day, so that the ordinary trains of the companies have been found inadequate to the traffic. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company had several special, besides six regular trains there yesterday, and the carriages were loaded to excess. Passengers booked by first class yesterday, as on Sunday, were in some cases obliged to content themselves with very miserable accommodation in vehicles which, if denominated according to the degrees of comfort usually borne by one class of carriages to another in regular trains, would be styled some-thing like “fifteenth” class. Probably they are the best spare carriages the company have, and the public have to submit to travel by them or by none at all. The line from Huddersfield to Holmfirth includes six miles of rail perhaps such as could not be found elsewhere in the kingdom. Numerous tunnels, deep cuttings—here and there huge masses of stone, with their rough, jagged, unhewn edges’ peeping out to a height of 40 feet above the line; then immense seams of coal, and enormous embankments attract the eye in quick succession. The various sections of strata exposed in the cuttings would be a study for the geologist. Yesterday, and on the previous day, the weather was fine, so that the visitors could stroll through the romantic vales of the Holme and nibble with more freedom; and, while regarding with awe the devastation occasioned by the inundation turn for relief to regard the picturesque and beautiful scenes which meet the eye in all directions.

The improvement in the weather has afforded an opportunity for clearing away a good deal of the wreck, and many of the obstructions placed in the thoroughfares of the town by the flood ; but it is matter of regret that little progress has been made in searching for the bodies of the missing dead. The body of Mr. Jonathan Sandford has not yet been discovered, and a reward of UK, has been offered by his distressed relatives to the person who shall discover his remains. The notice is in the following terms, and, as the body of the unfortunate gentleman may have been washed far down into the Colne, or even the Humber, where the placard may never be seen, the Daily News might render a service to the bereaved by giving it publicity :—

“£10 Reward. — A reward of ten pounds will be given to any person for the body of Mr. Jonathan Sandford. Apply to Mr. Joseph Crosland, bookseller, Holmfirth. Description — Mr. Jonathan Sandford was about 45 years of age, stood about six feet high, rather fresh-looking in the face, and a little round in the shoulders.”

We have already stated that the bodies of Mr. Sandford’s unfortunate daughters, Emily and Sarah Jane, have been recovered and interred ; Emily, with singular taste, we have been informed, although no relative, was named after the Emily Sandford whose history was so recently brought before the public in the trial of Rush as one of the victims of his passions, and who was the principal witness against him. There are now about 70 bodies recovered, and the chief constable was of opinion yesterday that 30 or 32 were still missing. These include, besides Mr. Sandford, Richard and Grace Shackleton, James Metterick, Samuel Greenwood, George and Ellen Hartley, and John Ashall. Orders have been given for the preparation of a list of the bodies found and of those still missing, so that an authentic account may be expected. A schedule has also been issued headed as follows: “Calamity at Holmfirth and neighbourhood. — Schedule to be filled up and returned on or before Monday, the 16th February, by persons who have had their property destroyed or damaged thereby.” The schedule, after spaces for the names of owners and occupiers, indicates descriptions and value required of “buildings destroyed,” with particulars of length, breadth, number of stories, and for what purpose used ; “buildings damaged” (how damaged) ; “mills, dams, goits and weirs damaged ;” “machinery destroyed ;” “machinery damaged ;” “stock-in-trade destroyed ;” “stock-in-trade damaged ;” “furniture, fixtures, farming stock and produce,” “wearing apparel, provisions, &c., destroyed” (and ditto damaged), “money and securities lost” “land damaged,” “fences damaged,” “roads and bridges.”

It is found that the injury done to the mills, roads, and bridges is much greater in amount than was at first supposed. Part of Holme Briggs bridge has been carried away, and the stone arch which remains standing has been so shattered that it will probably have to be entirely rebuilt. The three bridges in Holmfirth are mere wrecks — scarcely safe for foot passengers to travel over. They were good, substantial erections of stone, and it will require a considerable sum of money to replace them. Visitors stand over the dilapidated arches, and gaze upon the ruins accumulated near them in perfect astonishment and bewilderment. The bridges stretching across the valley for some space, as well as across the river, with dry arches to carry off surplus waters, though deprived of battlements by the flood, have been an obstacle to masses of property floating down the stream, and the quantities of wreck piled up against the upper sides are extraordinary, both for bulk and variety. They include portions of woollen mills, with their spinning frames, weaving looms, carding machines, floors (split up almost into shreds), household furniture, barrels of oil and of other liquids, bushes, trees torn up by the roots, garden and field gates, and moveable property of almost all descriptions. Although the inquest is postponed until Wednesday next as regards the principal evidence, the coroner will sit to-day to take evidence as to the identification of the bodies found since Friday last.

The following is one of the latest notices on the walls of the town : “Holmfirth Flood. — Sermons. — The Lord Bishop of the diocese, in his paternal sympathy for the afflictions of Holmfirth and the neighbourhood, has intimated his wish to offer his personal consolations to the inhabitants of Holmfirth, Upperthong, and Holm-bridge, on Sunday next, Feb. 15, 1852. It has accordingly been arranged that the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Ripon shall preach in the morning at Holmfirth Church ; in the afternoon at the National School, Holmbridge ; and in the evening at Upper thong Church. It is not intended to make any collection on this occasion.” The notice as to collections, we believe, will not prevent strangers desirous to do so from leaving donations, to be applied for the benefit of the surviving sufferers from the catastrophe.


A private meeting of members of the council, and other influential gentlemen resident in Leeds, convened by the mayor (George Goodman, Esq.), was held in the council room yesterday (Thursday) for the purpose of considering the propriety of calling a public meeting of the inhabitants to raise subscriptions in aid of the sufferers at Holmfirth.

On the motion of John Gott, Esq., seconded by Henry Hall, Esq., it was resolved to request the Mayor to call a public meeting for Monday next for the purpose of raising subscriptions. The requisition was at once signed by all the gentlemen present, and the mayor immediately complied with the request, fixing the meeting to be held in the Stock Exchange Hall, the proprietors having offered the use of it free of expense.

Mr. Ridsdale, chairman of the Stock Exchange, said the sharebrokers had subscribed £100, and the clerks attending the exchange £7, making

£107, which he should hand over to the Leeds committee when formed. A committee was then appointed to make arrangements for the meeting on Monday, and after some £500 or £600 had been put down by a few individuals by way of opening the subscription, the preliminary meeting broke up.