Martha Hartley (1836-1852)

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.

Martha Hartley was a victim of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, along with her parents and four of her siblings.


She was born on 19 January 1836 in the Township of Netherthong, the daughter of mill engineer Sidney Hartley and his wife Mary Ann (née Lodge), and was baptised 15 April 1838 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. Martha's occupation was given as "house maid".

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.

Martha's body was taken to the Jacob's Well Inn, Honley.[2]

With the exception of Ellen Ann Hartley, Martha and the other members her family who died in the flood were buried on Sunday 8 February at Christ Church, New Mill.

Her surviving siblings were:

Notes and References

  1. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.
  2. No references as to who found or identified her body was located during research, which suggests her body may have been found on the afternoon of Friday 6 or during Saturday 7 February.