Philias Whiteley (1836-1914) née Cartwright

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.


Philias Cartwright was born on 11 March 1836, the daughter of John Cartwright and his wife Mary, and was baptised on 15 May 1836 at Holmfirth Chapel.

The spelling of her first name varies considerably in historic records and it seems she adopted the spelling "Phyllis" in later life:

  • Philles or Phillas (baptism register)
  • Fillias or Fillies (1851 Census)
  • Philias (1852 newspaper article)
  • Phellis or Phillis (marriage register)
  • Phillias (1871 Census)
  • Philis (1901 Census)
  • Phillis (1911 Census)
  • Phyllis (1914 death certificate)

Curiously, her mother-in-law's name was also Philias.[1]

In 1851, she was living with her widowed mother and siblings at Newtown, Holmfirth.

During the early hours of 5 February 1852, the failure of the Bilberry Reservoir embankment caused a torrent of water to flood down the Holme Valley. The Cartwright's home was flooded and widow Mary "had a very narrow escape from drowning" — she later died from typhoid fever, which she likely caught from from her son-in-law John Earnshaw.

The United Committee of Huddersfield and Holmfirth — "appointed for the collection and management of the funds for the relief of the sufferers by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir" — had appointed a subcommittee to investigate the circumstances of those orphaned by the flood. It was reported that 16-year-old Philias was working as a weaver and "earning about 1s. per week".[2] Due to her age, she was not awarded any financial support, but four of her younger siblings — Clementina Cartwright, Johnson, Emma, and Hannah Maria — received payments of either 3s. 6. or 5s per week until they reached the age of 16.

She married cordwainer Elliott Whiteley of Holmfirth, son of James and Philias Whiteley, on 4 June 1856 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth. Unable to write her own name, she signed her name with a cross in the marriage register. The couple had five known children:

  1. Annie Whiteley (1858-1922)[3]
  2. James Wilson Whiteley (1860-1945)[4]
  3. Emmeline "Emily" Whiteley (c.1864-1926)
  4. Sarah Whiteley (1867-?)
  5. Harry Whiteley (1870-1916)[5]

Elliott Whiteley died on 1 May 1877 and was buried at St. John, Upperthong.

By 1901, she was living with her married daughter Emmeline and her husband Thomas Nuttall in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.

At the time of the 1911 Census, she was a visitor in the house of Tom Marsden and his family at 29 Palatine Road. Blackpool.

Phyllis Whiteley[6] died of breast cancer on 26 October 1914 and was buried at Layton Cemetery, Blackpool.[7]

Notes and References

  1. Find a Grave.
  2. "The Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/May/1852).
  3. Born 8 April 1858. Married Crossland Marsh. Died May 1922.
  4. Born 25 December 1860. Married Alice Ann. Died 3 March 1945 in Oldham.
  5. Born 27 May 1870. Married Edith Johnson. Died 11 February 1916.
  6. This is the spelling given on the death certificate.
  7. Find a Grave.