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

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


We greatly deplore what we fear is one of the feelings of the age, — to set class against class ; as if by nature or interest, or both, they were prompted to mutual repulsion. The rich are represented as being the enemies of the poor ; the different interests of the nation as being the rivals of each other ; and even Ministers and their flocks as having not only distinct but opposite interests and feelings, — the one class proud and selfish, the other oppressed, and suffering from priestly tyranny. We sincerely hope that one effect of this catastrophe, in a district which probably is not innocent in these respects, will be, to counteract these alienating influences, and to convince those who may have felt and diffused them, that to a very large extent they were unfounded. The parties and classes who were thus isolated, envied, and maligned, were the first to feel and act in the terrible emergency which this inundation created, and they have set a noble example, and excited an emulation in the heart and conduct of others, which it is hoped will mitigate the severity of the stroke. From the Queen to the Sunday-scholar, the nation has been roused, and more especially in the vicinity of the loss. Her Majesty sent a donation of £100, and Prince Albert and the Duchess of Kent, £50 each. In Huddersfield and the vicinity, the donations have been princely. Messrs. John Brooke and Sons have given £500 ; four other firms £200 each ; and about twenty others, sums varying from this amount to £100. Mr. Brooke's workmen subscribed upwards of £100. In Halifax, Bradford, and Leeds, noble sums have been given. At the Leeds' meeting, thirteen gentlemen came forward with £100 each. In Halifax a canvass was made from house to house ; and after the gentlemen had thus made their application, a few excellent ladies carried boxes to the kitchen-doors of every house, to receive the contributions of the servants. The following is a statement published in the "Huddersfield Chronicle :" perhaps the most creditable amount of all is that from Holmfirth :—

"The Holmfirth Relief-Fund. — Though not in a position to announce officially the amount of subscriptions received in aid of the above fund, we believe, from returns before us, that we may safely estimate it in round numbers at £50,000. So noble a response to the appeal made to public charity, forms a gratifying feature in connection with this melancholy event. The subscriptions received include the following sums : —

Holmfirth — £4,300
Huddersfield — £14,000
London — £6,800
Leeds — £6,700
Halifax — £4,500
Bradford — £3,440
Manchester — £2,500
York — £2,100
Sheffield — £600
Birmingham — £500
Barnsley — £600
Hull — £450
Liverpool — £400
Ashton — £350
Wakefield — £350
Preston — £300
Stockport — £300
Oldham — £300
Rochdale — £300
Skipton — £140
Exeter — £126
Devonport — £121
Bristol — £18
Total — £49,095

The following painful intelligence from a local newspaper shows that the fears excited for the subsequent health of the district have been painfully realised :—

"Typhus now reigns paramount here : not only in the central part of the town, but in the various adjacent hamlets ; the filthy locality of Burn-Lee being especially under its influence. In this place, during the last week, death revelled triumphantly amongst its victims ; and at the present moment (March 26th) the number of cases, in some houses, is two, three, four, and even five. The fearful result of the flood is indeed beginning to manifest itself in all its coming terror. Considering the baneful effects of inhabiting inundated, and therefore inevitably-damp, houses alone, considerable disease must prevail. But when to this is added the death-dealing effluvium which under the sun's rays, rises, almost palpably, from the conglomeration of decomposed animal matter, and other various feculent abominations at present composing the contents of the river's-bed, who shall wonder if, ere Midsummer-day, the neighbourhood be decimated by pestilence?"

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