Meltham Mills Reservoir

Meltham Mills Reservoir is situated to the east of Meltham Mills and was constructed circa 1805.[1]


The reservoir, which is sometimes named as "Brook's Reservoir" on old maps and covers around 5 acres, was built to provide a reliable water supply for Jonas Brook & Bros. of Meltham Mills. It was formed by damming Bank Dike below Slate Pits Wood and Windy Bank Wood, before its confluence with Greave Dike. Downstream from the confluence, the flow is known as Ridge Busk.

The following was published in The History of the Township of Meltham, Near Huddersfield (1866) by Rev. Joseph Hughes:

In the year 1785-6, Mr. William Brook, who was at that time residing at Thickhollins, which he had taken on a twenty-one years’ lease, built a small woollen mill on a part of the site occupied by the present extensive cotton thread factories, which was worked by a water-wheel. As, however, the supply of water proved insufficient to keep the machinery in action, a steam-engine was erected for the purpose of pumping it up from the pond at the foot of the wheel into a small dam above, from which it was conveyed back again to the wheel. By this means the whole machinery was kept in continuous motion, the same water being again and again used for the same purpose.

Some years later on, the building above mentioned was enlarged, the woollen mill converted into a cotton factory, and about the year 1805 a reservoir was made, calculated to afford a constant and sufficient supply of water for the carrying on of the works. The aid of the pumping steam-engine was therefore dispensed with, being no longer required.

The idea of the reservoir first originated with the late Mr. Jonas Brook, whose keen foresight, practical sense, and steadiness of purpose, peculiarly fitted him for the inauguration of a new and great design. It was under the auspices of this gentleman that the manufacture of cotton thread was introduced into the neighbourhood; and the firm of Messrs. Jonas Brook and Brothers, now so widely known, then first entered upon its successful career.

After the completion of this reservoir, some doubt as to the strength of its embankment caused Mr. Jonas Brook much anxiety and many sleepless nights, as he well knew the loss of life and property that must have ensued to the valley and village of Meltham Mills, in case of the bursting or overflow of the bank.

Most historic maps show a boat house situated on the northwestern corner of the reservoir and newspaper reports imply that Edward Brook kept a boat there.

The reservoir froze over in January 1881 and the Huddersfield Chronicle reported that "lovers of skating have indulged themselves in this pastime to a large degree during the last two or three days."[2]

Improvements to the safety of the reservoir were carried out by Towndoor Ltd. in 2014.[3]

The reservoir is now home to Windybank Fly Fishing Club.[4]

Deaths and Incidents

In December 1863, a group of labourers were gathering turnips in a field about the reservoir when they heard a scream and saw a person in the water. By the time they got to the banks, they could see "water bubbling up some ten yards from the side" and a hat floating nearby. Hanging from the rails on the bank was a man's coat. Dragging irons were fetched and the body was recovered about an hour later and taken to the Friendships Inn. The man was identified as Richard Hallas Oldham, so of James Oldham of Honley, who worked as a slubber at Folly Hall Mills. At the inquest, fellow worked Henry Dixon stated that Oldham had they had been at work when the deceased suddenly grasped his hand and said "Oh, Henry, I wish I was in heaven." A short while later, Oldham disappeared from the mill. It was also reported that Oldham had previously told three of his friends "that they would have to carry him to his grave next week." After satisfying themselves that the drowning could not have been accidental, the jury returned a verdict that Oldham had "drowned himself while in an unsound state of mind."[5]

On the afternoon of Saturday 15 July 1876, James Charlesworth, Tedbar Taylor and Joseph Mosley[6] were swimming in the reservoir when Mosley got into difficulties and drowned. Taylor and Charlesworth sought help but Mosley's body was not recovered until 8:15pm that evening. The inquest held at the Rose and Crown Inn recorded a verdict of "accidentally drowned".[7]

James Riley of Honley was found drowned in the reservoir in June 1879. The inquest could find no evidence to show how he entered the water and a general verdict of "found drowned" was recorded.[8]

In January 1885, teenager Albert Sykes, an employee of the bleach works at Meltham Mills, was skating on the reservoir when the ice cracked under him. The other skaters were unable to save him and his body was eventually recovered using grappling irons from the mill.[9]

61-year-old farmer Dan Thorpe of Honley Wood Bottom was found drowned in the reservoir in January 1898, apparently after having committed suicide.[10]

On the afternoon of Monday 26 October 1931, 38-year-old Eliza Winterbottom of Honley Wood Bottom was murdered by Charles Lappage. The manhunt for Lappage lasted two days before "a cap, a coat, and a double-barrelled sporting gun" were found on the banks of the reservoir. A further day was spent dragging the reservoir before Lappage's body was recovered, having apparently committed suicide about an hour after shooting Eliza.[11]

The body of Albert Fox of 11 Ash Street, Wombwell, was found hanging from a tree next to the reservoir on Sunday 1 November 1936.[12]


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Notes and References

  1. The Story of Meltham (1977) by Richard Orton, page 44.
  2. "Meltham: Skating" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jan/1881).
  3. "Towndoor Ltd carry out essential improvement works to Meltham Mills reservoir" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (18/Feb/2014).
  5. "Honley: Suicide" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Dec/1863).
  6. Mosley was named in the press as a weaver of Royd Edge.
  7. "The Fatal Drowning Case at Meltham Mills" in Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Jul/1876).
  8. "Inquest at Meltham" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Jun/1879).
  9. "Fatal Ice Accident at Meltham" in Lancaster Gazette (28/Jan/1885).
  10. "The Supposed Suicide of a Honley Farmer" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Jan/1898).
  11. "Honley Wood Tragedy" in Yorkshire Post (28/Oct/1831).
  12. "Hanging Man Identified" in Sheffield Independent (03/Nov/1936).