William Exley (c.1820-1852)

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.

William Exley was a victim of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852, along with several members of his family.


He was born in the Township of Wooldale and is likely the William Exley born on 12 February 1820, the son of Charles and Martha Exley of Cliff, who was baptised on 29 July 1820 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.

At the time of the 1841 Census, he was residing in the household of James Mettrick at Hinchliffe Mill along with Sarah Exley (aged 15). It is unclear if Sarah was his younger sister or perhaps his wife:[1]

  • if she was his sister, no baptismal records for were found for her during research
  • if she was his wife and the daughter of James Mettrick, no baptismal or marriage records were located

William was still residing in the Mettrick household on Water Street in the 1851 Census, when he was described as being James Mettrick's unmarried son-in-law.[2] As this seems self-contradictory, it may be that William was a relationship with James' married daughter Betty (whose husband Enos Earnshaw had left for America in 1846, possibly deserting Betty and her young son).

A note in The Flood Came and Took Them All Away (1852) described William as "insane" however no other references to this were found during research and he was employed as a "sizer boiler" in 1851.


Along with nine members of the Mettrick household, Exley was killed by the Holmfirth Flood of 1852.

According to a statement by John Charlesworth, the houses on Water Street were three stories high and six of them were destroyed.[3]

The body of William Exley was "found near Mr. Farrar's mill dam"[4] by John Kenyon and was taken to the Elephant and Castle Inn where it was identified by Thomas Armitage.

He was buried on Sunday 8 February at Hinchliffe Mill Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

Notes and References

  1. The death of a "Sarah Exley" was recorded in Q1 1871 Dewsbury aged 46, although this is likely the wife of a different William Exley who was from Heckmondwike.
  2. At the inquest into the 1852 Flood, Thomas Armitage of Hinchliffe Mill stated that William "was 32 years of age, and was a sizing boiler, was not married". Source: "Second Day's Inquest" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (14/Feb/1852).
  3. "John Charlesworth's Narrative" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1852).
  4. "The Inquest" in Leeds Intelligencer (14/Feb/1852).