Maud Ellis (1886-1894)

Maud Ellis was a young girl who accidentally drowned in the River Holme in August 1894.


She was born on 27 March 1886 in Stainborough, near Barnsley, the oldest child of miner Harry Ellis and his wife Agnes (née Denton), and was baptised on 16 May 1886 at St. Mary, Barnsley. Her parents had married on 1 December 1885 at All Saints, Stainborough, whilst Agnes was pregnant with Maud.

Harry and Agnes had two more children whilst living near Barnsley — Sarah Annie and William.

By 1891, the family had moved to St. Stephen’s Road, Lockwood, where Harry worked for brewers Bentley & Shaw Ltd., eventually rising to the rank of foreman. A further daughter, Lucy, was born in Lockwood.

Within a couple of years, the family moved to Dog Hall, an area adjacent to the Woodfield Estate (now Lockwood Cemetery) and the daughters began attending the church school of St. Paul in Armitage Bridge, where they were taught by Miss Keighley[1].


On Thursday 30 August 1894, Miss Keighley had taught the children how to make bread, and a number of them had been given pieces of dough to take home and bake.

Maud Ellis, with her younger sister Sarah Annie and an older friend, Annie Sykes (aged 11), who also lived at Dog Hall, walked back from school together along the footpath adjoining the River Holme. Maud was concerned that her piece of dough was drying out and said that she wanted to dip it into the river, but Annie Sykes told her not to as they would soon be home.

As they passed a section where only a horizontal metal rail separated the footpath from the banks of the river, Maud — who had dropped behind the other two girls — knelt down to try and reach the water.

Annie Sykes turned round just in time to see Maud start to tumble forwards and she jumped towards the girl to try and grab her, managing to get hold of one of her feet before Maud slipped into the river. Sarah Annie then tried to grasp Maud's other foot. By now, Maud was likely head-first in the water and struggling, and sadly the two girls were unable to keep hold of her feet or to pull her out. Maud was pulled downriver by the current and then over the weir at Dungeon Mills.

Both girls then ran up the footpath to Dog Hall and burst into the Ellis house where Sarah Annie cried out, "Oh, mamma, Maud's fallen into the water!"

Harry and Agnes quickly ran down to the river and began searching the banks, but were unable to find any trace of their daughter. A police constable, who happened to walking alongside the river, assisted with the search and then alerted the authorities.

News of the incident spread and a sizeable number of local people turned out with the search over the following days.

Maud's body was eventually recovered on the following Monday by local fettler Robinson Dyson (aged 29) and stone quarry contractor John William Mellor (37). Dyson and Mellor had taken a rowing boat out onto the river from Lockwood and rowed upstream whilst sweeping a boat hook across the river bed. As they approached Dungeon Mill, the hook snagged the girl's body.

Police Sergeant Callaghan assisted the two men and then carried the body back to her parent's house.


The inquest into the death took place the following day at the Shoulder of Mutton in Lockwood, chaired by District Coroner William Barstow. Two representatives of the South Crosland Local Board attended — Mr. Rushworth and Mr. A.J. Slocombe.

The inquest quickly agreed that the metal rail was insufficient to stop children from getting to the riverbank from the footpath. Mr. Slocombe stressed that the Local Board had no legal responsibility for erecting a more substantial barrier and the Coroner was of the opinion that, "if persons strayed from a footpath they must take the consequences".

Sergeant Callaghan took the opportunity to make a statement denying rumours that the police had "not used every effort to recover the body".

It was also noted that the construction of the weir above Dungeon Mill had made the river deeper and more dangerous at the section where Maud had fallen in.

The jury returned a verdict of "accidental death" and recommended that the land owner be ascertained and requested to erect a stone wall between the footpath and river.[2]


The funeral was held the day after the inquest, on Wednesday 5 September 1894 at St. Paul in Armitage Bridge. Reportedly, hundreds of local people attended to pay their respects to the grieving parents.

Miss Keighley, who had apparently spent much time with Maud's parents whilst the search for the body took place, arranged for all the girls of the school to be dressed in white and to be given bouquet of white flowers.

On the arrival of the funeral at the church the sacred edifice was crowded, and the Vicar, in a most impressive manner, went through the service. The well-known hymn, "Children sing in glory," was sung. At the grave side hundreds of people assembled, and the manifestations of sympathy were very great. Wreaths and crosses were very numerous, including one from the scholars and teachers and friends, as well as from Stainborough, the late residence of the parents. The parents’ desire to tender their heartfelt thanks to the numerous friends who have expressed their sympathy, and who helped in the search for the deceased girl.[3]

The family continued to live locally and, by the time of the 1901 Census, 13-year-old Sarah Annie was working as a "cotton bobbin ticketer", probably in the mills at Armitage Bridge. By this time, there had been three further children: Tom, Mildred and Harold.

Harry Ellis died in 1902, aged only 36, and was buried alongside his daughter Maud on 8 July 1902.

The 1911 Census lists widow Agnes continuing to live at Dog Hall. She later moved to Victoria Street, Lockwood, where she became a munitions worker during the First World War — by 1918, Huddersfield was manufacturing approximately one-third of Britain's high explosives.[4]

Agnes Ellis passed away in 1951, aged 84.

Further Reading


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Notes and References

  1. Harriet Beatrice Keighley married James Mellor (c.1857-1937) in 1897 at York and they moved to Wokingham, Berkshire.
  2. It seems unlikely this ever happened, as there remains no wall at this section, and only some evidence of an old metal rail.
  3. "The Sad Drowning Case at Armitage Bridge" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (06/Sep/1894).
  4. "Huddersfield's narrow escapes manufacturing munitions during World War One" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (05/Nov/2014).