Lydia Greenwood (c.1806-1852) née Roebuck

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.

Lydia Greenwood (or Midgley) was one of the victims of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852.


Lydia Roebuck was born in Shepley, the daughter of John Roebuck and his wife Martha. Her known siblings were:

  • James Roebuck (c.1800–?)
  • Elizabeth Roebuck (1802–?)[1]
  • Ann Roebuck (c.1804–?) — mother of Eliza Matthews
  • Benjamin Roebuck (1811–1878)[2]

She married Samuel Midgley on 12 September 1828 at All Hallows, Kirkburton. The couple initially lived at Shepley and and, according to their gravestone, they had ten children, all of whom apparently died before being baptised with the exception of:

  • Henry Mark Midgley (1829-1831)[3]
  • Mary Ann Midgley (1839-1839)[4]

By 1841, the couple were using the surname "Greenwood". The census of that year recorded Samuel as a labourer residing at Hollowgate, Holmfirth. Also living them was their young niece, Eliza Matthews, whom they appear to have raised from infancy.

By 1850, the couple were the toll keepers at Harewood Bridge Bar, Meltham Mills, on the Lockwood and Meltham Turnpike.[5] However, by the time of the census in 1851, they were the toll keepers at the Hollowgate toll gate in Holmfirth.


Samuel, Lydia and their niece Eliza were killed in the early hours of 5 February 1852 by the Holmfirth Flood.

On the night of the flood, it was reported that Samuel was seen at the door of the toll house with a candle. He then returned inside, presumably to warn Lydia and Eliza, but the property was washed away within moments:[6]

The Hollow-gate is a long narrow street, which runs parallel with the river. The inhabitants of this locality suffered severely. The bed of the river was completely choked up, and the current diverted from its usual course. On the side next the river stood the toll-bar house, kept by Samuel Greenwood, who, with his wife and child, were swept away. He was seen to come out of the house with a lighted candle in his hand : he returned, closed the door, and in a moment or two not a vestige of the house could be seen.

Lydia's body was "found in the shop of Mr. Joel Haigh, draper, Hollowgate, on the opposite side of the stream [to the toll house]" at around 4pm on Saturday 7 February by John Exley of Jackson Bridge. It was taken to the Elephant and Castle inn where she was formally identified by her brother, Benjamin Roebuck. At the inquest, it was reported that Haigh’s property was “almost opposite the toll-house” and that James Bailey of Holmfirth had also identified Lydia’s body.[7]

Samuel and Lydia were both members of the Ancient Order of Shepherds who paid a total of £16 towards their burial costs.[8] Eliza Matthews was buried at All Hallows, Kirkburton, on Sunday 8 February 1852. Lydia Midgley was buried there on Tuesday 10 February, with Samuel Midgley being buried with her on the following day.

Their gravestone reads:[9]

In Memory of
Henry Mark Midgley the son of
Samuel & Lydia of Shepley
who died Jany 19th 1831 aged 1 year
and 8 months
Also of eight of their children who
died in their infancy
Also of Martha Ann their daughter
who died Aug 13th 1839
aged 1 week
Also of the above named Samuel
Midgley who departed this life
February 5th 1852 aged 47 years
Also of Lydia wife of the above
Samuel Midgley who departed this
life Feby 5th 1852 aged 46 years
Also Eliza Matthews their
niece who departed this life Feby
5th 1852 aged 12 years
All three of whom were drowned by the
bursting of Holme Reservoir Feby 5th 1852


On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter:

Nearest to the bridge was the Hollowgate toll bar house where lived Samuel Greenwood, gatekeeper, his wife, Lydia, and their twelve year old niece and servant, Eliza Matthews. Only a few hours before the disaster Greenwood was visited by his brother who warned him of the perilous state of the reservoir and advised him to move to a safer place. Unfortunately, Greenwood, probably because of his duties as gatekeeper, decided to remain at his post. Later, as the flood began to roll down Hollowgate he was seen to come outside holding a lighted candle. After a brief look around he returned and as he closed the door the water crashed over the house which immediately disintegrated. The body of Eliza Matthews was found at Rotcher Bottom about two hours after the water subsided but because of the accumulated debris in the area her aunt and uncle were not discovered until Saturday and Tuesday respectively, the former in the cellar of a house in Hollowgate, the latter behind a washing machine in Holmfirth Mill.

Notes and References

  1. Born 7 October 1802 and baptised on 26 December 1802 at All Hallows, Kirkburton.
  2. Born 22 February 1811 and baptised 14 April 1811 at All Hallows, Kirkburton. Died in 1878 at was buried on 6 June at St. Paul's Church, Shepley.
  3. Born 26 April 1829 and baptised 20 September 1829 at All Hallows, Kirkburton. Died 1831 and buried on 23 January at Kirkburton.
  4. Died 13 August 1839.
  5. "The Brutal Assault upon Mr. Shaw" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Aug/1850).
  6. The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) by Henry James Morehouse.
  7. "The Inquest" in Leeds Intelligencer (14/Feb/1852).
  8. "Relief Afforded for the Interment the Dead by Benefit Clubs" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  9. Inscription kindly provided by Robert Carter.