Maude Evelyn Wimpenny (1867-1944)

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.

Maude Evelyn Wimpenny was one of the three victims of the Holmfirth Flood of 1944.


She was born on 5 November 1867 in Wakefield, the daughter of grocer James Wimpenny and his wife Mary (née Hinchliffe).

She never married and was able to support herself financially.

By the 1930s, she was living at 51 Woodhead Road, Holmfirth, which was part of a row of back-to-back properties on land adjoining a bend in the River Holme.

According to at least one newspaper report, she was "very deaf".[1]


On Whit Monday 29 May 1944, heavy rains from a thunderstorm led to flash flooding in the Holme Valley.

Perhaps having been in her garden to watch the river in spate, Maude became trapped by rising water and reportedly climbed onto a garden wall. Nearby neighbours, Donald Riley and his teenage son Geoffrey, attempted to rescue her. Another neighbour, Mavis Lockwood of 80 Woodhead Road, was an eyewitness to what happened:[2]

She [Mrs Wimpenny] was sitting on a wall. When it was seen that she was in danger of being carried into the river, Mr. Riley, with the help of his son, managed to reach her with a clothes line and tied it round her. But then the wall collapsed, and all three were swept down river.

Another account of the rescue attempt was published in the Yorkshire Post on 1 June:[3]

Father and son were near their home on the left bank of the River Holme when they saw Miss Maud Wimpenny (75), a neighbour, struggling in the water. They raced to her aid. Without hesitation, Geoffrey plunged in and tried to rescue the woman, but failed. He then came out of the water, stripped off some of his clothes, and rushed in again. Seizing the woman by the wrist, he attempted to swim with her to safety. Mr. Riley, thinking his son was in danger, then plunged into the water and grabbed him. All three were clinging to each other when they were carried down the river and under a bridge.

Geoffrey Riley was successfully rescued downstream but his father drowned.

The body of Maude Evelyn Wimpenny was found "embedded in sludge only a short distance down the river" three days later on 1 June.[4] She was reportedly buried at Lane Independent Chapel.

Notes and References

  1. "Yorkshire River Fatalities" in Yorkshire Evening Post (30/May/1944).
  2. "Holmfirth River Deaths" in Yorkshire Post (31/May/1944).
  3. "Boy Hero's Rescue Attempts" in Yorkshire Post (01/Jun/1944).
  4. "Third Body Found at Holmfirth" in Yorkshire Post (02/Jun/1944).