Sidney Hartley (c.1811-1852)

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.

Sidney Hartley was a carding engineer who perished in the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, along with several members of his family.


He was born around 1811 in Fulstone, near Holmfirth, the son of weaver Abraham Hartley and his wife Hannah (née Moss).[1]

He married Mary Ann Lodge on 17 March 1833. They had eleven known children, although three died prior to the 1852 Flood:

  1. David Hartley (1833-1900)[2]
  2. Ann Hartley (1834-1846)[3]
  3. Martha Hartley (1836-1852)[4]
  4. James Hartley (1837-1852)[5]
  5. John Hartley (1839-1879)[6]
  6. Hannah Hartley (1841-1897)[7]
  7. Joseph Hartley (1843-1847)[8]
  8. George Hartley (1845-1847)[9]
  9. Elizabeth Hartley (1848-1852)[10]
  10. Ellen Ann Hartley (1849-1852)[11]
  11. George Hartley (1851-1852)

At the time of the 1841 Census, the family were residing at Ing Nook, near Greenhill Bank, Wooldale, along with Sidney's father, 75-year-old Abraham. Sidney's occupation was recorded as "woollen engineer" and it seems possible that the family was living in a property at Ing Nook Mill.

Two of his children — Joseph and George — died in February 1847 and were both buried on 14 February at Christ Church, New Mill.

The 1851 Census listed the family residing at Mill Hill, Holmfirth, along with an apprentice woollen carder, 16-year-old Henry Dearnley of Wooldale. By that time, Sidney was working at Holmfirth Mill for Messrs. Nathan Thewlis & Co.

Holmfirth Flood

In the early hours of 5 February 1852, the Bilberry Reservoir embankment failed, unleashing a torrent of water down the Holme Valley. With the flood waters rising in their property, the Hartley family attempted to escape by breaking through the roof. Sidney's son, David, recounted what happened next:[12]

When we were in bed early in the morning we heard a noise as if the slates were falling off the house. I got up and cleared away a number of slates so that I was able to get out on to the thack. I then pulled up my sister Ann beside me ; after that I managed to get John, my brother, up and also the apprentice boy. I tried long and hard to pull brother James up but had to give up the attempt or we would both have been dragged down together. While we were standing on the roof we saw many persons with their heads a little above the water struggling and crying for help. We could see into the chamber where my mother was lying but it was impossible to reach her, the water had risen so high. We saw her look towards us and heard her say farewell and then she was swept away.

An eyewitness to the events was Peace Sykes:[13]

I watched the flood do its destructive work, and the first thing I saw fall was the Old Genn, as was termed the large pillar which had been erected to commemorate some important public event. Next Mr. Shackleton’s house. Immediately afterwards I saw the house in which Mr. Richard Shackleton (the son of Mr. James Shackleton) and his family resided completely swept away, with all its inmates, and Sidney Hartley’s house I also saw go down and sink into the waters. A large empty oil cask passed along the street, and I saw it afterwards in the church burial ground, having been driven against the iron gates, which it had burst open.

The body of Sidney Hartley was found by Thomas Haigh "laid on his back about two yards from the sixth window of the Bridge Mill", between "the mill and the dam", and taken to the Crown Hotel, Holmfirth, where it was formally identified by his son David. The body "was much bruised".[14]

With the exception of Ellen Ann, the other six members of the Hartley family who died in the flood were buried on Sunday 8 February at Christ Church, New Mill.

Sidney and his wife were members of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and their family was awarded £10 10s. and £5 5s. respectively to help cover the costs of the family's funeral.

Of the three orphaned children, Hannah was looked after by an uncle and aunt in Armitage Bridge, but they subsequently requested that she be placed in an orphan asylum.[15] David and John were old enough to be deemed capable of supporting themselves.

Notes and References

  1. Hannah's name is also recorded as Anna and Ann.
  2. Married Martha Webster in 1853.
  3. Born 5 July 1834 and baptised 15 April 1838 at Christ Church, New Mill. Died aged 11 and buried 2 June 1846 at Christ Church, New Mill.
  4. Born 19 January 1836. Baptised 15 April 1838 at Christ Church, New Mill.
  5. Born 28 November 1837.
  6. Born 11 August 1839.
  7. Married Joseph Pickles in 1863 at Dewsbury Parish Church. Died 24 April 1897, aged 56, in Batley.
  8. Died February 1847 aged 3. Buried 14 February 1847 at Christ Church, New Mill.
  9. Died February 1847 aged 1. Buried 14 February 1847 at Christ Church, New Mill.
  10. Born 17 November 1848.
  11. Born 23 October 1849.
  12. On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter, page 34.
  13. "The Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (14/Feb/1902).
  14. "The Fatal Flood at Holmfirth" in Halifax Guardian (14/Feb/1852).
  15. "The Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/May/1852).