Sorrow on the Land: An Account of the Inundation Occasioned by the Bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir (1852) - Postscript

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Sorrow on the Land: An Account of the Inundation Occasioned by the Bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir (1852)


During the time that this work has been in the press, facts have been ascertained which are of an extraordinary character. First, that the wide-spread desolation of the valley of the Holme has not inflicted loss of property to above one-third of the amount of the original estimate. This, it is true, cannot be either fully ascertained, or satisfactorily repaired ; but, perhaps, instead of the amount first stated, £ 100,000 will be near the sum. Secondly, the liberality of the nation has supplied for the relief of the sufferers upwards of £67,000! Thirdly, in the appropriation of this sum, the repair of the reservoir, and the claims of the mortgagees, have been excluded from all consideration, and attention directed solely to those of private individuals, and the repair of places of worship. Fourthly, the private claims have been so carefully sifted, reduced, or rejected, that the whole have been settled for about one-half of the amount claimed. The number of schedules sent in was 400 ; amounting to £67,224. 10s. 9½d., exclusive of the reservoir, the estimated loss on which was £8,508. The latter claim was rejected : towards the amounts on the schedules, about £32,000 have been paid ; and for the repairs of places of worship, £543 were allowed, — which it is hoped will repair the damage sustained by them, except the tombstones. The probability is, that one-half of the amount subscribed will be returned to the subscribers ; so that, whether the sufferers be satisfied or not, the subscribers cannot complain. It is a high gratification to them to discover, that effectual though not full relief has been afforded to so many sufferers ; and that their sufferings, in a pecuniary point of view, have been found to be less severe than competent judges at the time computed them to be. The mistake was unintentional, and indeed unavoidable. No one, looking at the miles of country laid waste, could have supposed the case to be within the reach of the most enthusiastic benevolence. The Committee of distribution have had a most arduous and delicate task to perform, and richly do they deserve the gratitude of all. They have exercised a wise discretion, where enough remained to render help entirely needless, or but partially required ; and to the poorer class of sufferers they have been more liberal.

It was no part of our intention to produce a mere financial sympathy ; and this statement ought not to detract from the proper effect of such a narrative as this. On the loss of life we might even enlarge ; for since the date of this narrative, several persons have died, undoubtedly victims of the flood. Amongst them is Joseph Charlesworth, Esq., whose house was surrounded, and was in awful jeopardy ; and who received such a shock at the time, and subsequently underwent so much fatigue in sympathy with the sufferers, and in rendering incessant attention, as the senior Magistrate of the district, to their relief, that he has sunk, universally regretted.