Rose Ann Charlesworth (c.1815-1852) née Haywood

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.

Rose Ann Charlesworth was a victim of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852.


Rose Ann Haywood[1] was the daughter of John and Mary (née Hirst).

She married John Charlesworth on 26 December 1833 at All Hallows, Almondbury. The couple had eight known children, five of whom perished in the 1852 flood:

Prior to her marriage, Rose Ann had a son outside of marriage — Henry Haywood (c.1831-1895) — who was born in the Township of Austonley.

At the time of the 1841 Census, the family was living at Hinchliffe Mill where John worked as a woollen clothier. By 1851, they were living on Water Street, Hinchliffe Mill, and John was a woollen power loom weaver. Henry is listed living with the mother and step-father although he also spent time living with his maternal grandfather, John.


In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the Bilberry Reservoir embankment failed, unleashing a torrent of water down the Holme Valley. Due to its location, the houses on Water Street took the full force of the flood, killing 35 of the residents. Rose Ann Charlesworth and five of her children were amongst the victims.

John Charlesworth (senior) was interviewed by the Huddersfield Chronicle newspaper:[7]

During our enquiries in this neighbourhood we also met with John Charlesworth, weaver, who also lived in Water-street, and who with two sons, Henry Haywood and Eli Charlesworth, and two daughters, Ann and Mary, are all that are saved out of a family of twelve (including himself and wife). He is an elderly man, and in reply to our enquiries said,

“I lived in Water-street when the flood came. The houses were three storeys high, and I lived in the centre of the six houses destroyed, there being two on one side of me and three on the other. We had heard nothing about the flood until it came. [This was in answer to a question put to him in consequence of a statement made to us to the effect that the whole of the inhabitants of Water-street had been warned of the danger on Wednesday night before going to bed.] I was in bed when I heard a cry, upon which I jumped out and ran to the door. This was about one o’clock as near as I can recollect. When I got to the door I saw one of James Metterick’s daughters was coming running to my door. The water was just damming up the fold, and she ran back. I stepped back into the house and lifted my wife on to the floor in her night dress. There were six children at the stairs bottom, and one asleep up stairs. I spoke to my eldest lad (Haywood), and we each took two children, and after telling my wife to follow us instantly, we rushed out. One of the children I had hold of was the eldest but one, named James, aged 14, and as we were going up the fold, he screamed out about his hens, and got from me and ran back to the house, and I did not see him afterwards. I saw one of the lads attempt to follow us, but finding that he could not escape that way, he tried to get round the street corner but was too late. I expected my wife and the other children were following us when we left the house, but she must have remained, and been washed away with the house. Two minutes after I lost hold of my eldest lad, the water rose six yards, and in less than five minutes from my being first alarmed the whole of the six houses were swept away. There were no doors opened in the street but the Metterick’s and our’s, and I think most of the other families would be swept away whilst in bed.”

Another statement by John was reproduced in The Desolated Valley: A Narrative of the Flood at Holmfirth (1852) by J. G. Miall:

I lived in Water Street. James Charlesworth was my son. My house is entirely destroyed ; four are saved besides myself, and six are lost; one of the bodies is wanting yet. James is 14 years of age. The one whose body is not found is Hamer [Emor] Charlesworth. On the night when this happened we were all sleeping in the house; four in the low room and seven above. Four of those above were saved and one below. Some one came and cried out, and when I got up the water was running in at the window. I had one child by the hand when I went out, and when I got to the door the water took me up to the knee. The water rose eight yards in two minutes. There were six houses in this row, the doors of four of them never being opened at all. Two of Mettericks and five out of my house were all that were saved out of these six houses. There were forty-two sleeping in these six houses, and only seven of them were saved.

The following report was later printed in The Holmfirth Flood (1910):

Three of Charlesworth’s children, by some means, had a most miraculous escape. They ran to the door of a neighbour named Robert Ellis, and were fortunately taken in by him just in time to make their escape out of the top of the house. Other two children of the same family had escaped as far as the top of the fold leading into the turnpike road, but returned to rescue two hens which they kept, and by so doing were caught by the waters and drowned.

Rose Ann's naked body was found by Thomas Armitage near Armitage Fold where it was "laid by the river side in Mr. Batley’s field, with nothing on but a hankerchief on the head". The body was taken to the Oddfellows Arms where it was identified by her eldest son, Henry.

The bodies of Rose Ann and her children Joshua, James, John and Ruth where buried on Monday 9 February at St. David's, Holmbridge. She was a member of the women's branch of the Ancient Order of Shepherds who met at the Waggon & Horses Inn, Holmebridge, and the branch paid £6 towards her funeral.[8]

John Charlesworth died overnight between the 19 and 20 December 1853, aged 48. He was "found dead in bed, in a lodging-house[9], in the fold of the Shoulder of Mutton Inn" in Holmfirth. The Chronicle reported that he had "of late led a dissolute life" and had told others at the lodging house that he hoped to "try to get into the workhouse". An inquest into his death held on 22 December returned a verdict of "death by natural causes".[10][11] He was buried at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.

Notes and References

  1. Her surname is also given as Heywood, Harwood and Howard in historic records.
  2. Baptised 16 October 1836 in Holmfirth.
  3. Born 16 April 1838 and baptised 29 July 1838 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.
  4. Born 28 November 1839 and baptised 24 March 1845 at St. David, Holmbridge.
  5. Born 21 December 1841 and baptised 24 March 1845 at St. David, Holmbridge.
  6. Born 7 February 1845 and baptised 24 March 1845 at St. David, Holmbridge.
  7. "John Charlesworth's Narrative" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  8. "Relief Afforded for the Interment of the Dead by Benefit Clubs" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  9. Described by the Leeds Intelligencer (24/Dec/1853) as being an "Irish hovel".
  10. "Holmfirth: Sudden Death and Inquest" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Dec/1853).
  11. "Holmfirth: Found Dead" in Leeds Intelligencer (24/Dec/1853).