William Gledhill (c.1826-1893)

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 Gledhill was a grocer and corn dealer.


He was born at Norland, the son of cloth finisher Samuel Gledhill and his wife Nancy, and was baptised on 10 September 1826 at Christ Church, Sowerby Bridge.

By 1851, he was a corn dealer on Towngate, Holmfirth. The census of that year listed his sisters Mary and Ellen residing with him.

He married Mary Hoyle of Upper Bridge, daughter of grocer John Hoyle, on 28 October 1855 at St. John's, Upperthong. The couple had at least seven children.

The family moved to South Lane, Wooldale, and later to Park Riding, Upperthong.

In 1856, he became a constable for the Township of Wooldale.

William Gledhill died aged 66 on 1 June 1893 and was buried on 5 June at Upperthong.

Holmfirth Flood of 1852

An account of William's escape from the flood was printed in the Leeds Intelligencer: [1]

Another very narrow escape was made by Mr. Gledhill, provision merchant, whose residence is immediately adjoining the White Hart Inn. He had been in bed in a room in the lower storey, and hearing a noise he went up stairs to look out, in order to see what was the matter. He then saw the mighty torrent approaching, and immediately ran down stairs to the street door, and was about to rush out when he thought he might have time to put on some clothes before the flood could reach so high as his house. He had only taken a step or two from the door, however, before it was burst in by the waters, when he sprung to the staircase, and succeeding in reaching the upper floor, he there remained in safety until the inundation had subsided. While looking out at the fearful ravages which were being made around him, he saw a pony borne on by the torrent. After several fearful struggles, during which it was repeatedly turned over it managed to reach the land, where it stood for a few seconds trembling, looking upon the rushing torrent, and then suddenly turning it started off at a furious gallop, heedless of every obstacle, and was soon lost in the distance.

His losses from the flood were reported as £150.[2]

On the 50th anniversary, the Huddersfield Examiner published an eye-witness account from artist Peace Sykes which referenced William: [3]

The corner shop near, belonging to Dr. Beeley, was occupied by William Gledhill, grocer, who had his bed in the cellar kitchen under the shop. He told me that he was awoke by a great noise, and jumped on the floor, when found he was in water. He rushed upstairs, and every step up he took the water was following on his feet. This also occurred as he went up a second flight of stairs, and got safely out into an upper room, in which his sister slept.


On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter:

A little further along Towngate, opposite the White Hart Inn, William Gledhill, corndealer and grocer, had a shop and warehouse. Mr. Gledhill, slept in an underground kitchen which was on a level with the river. That night he heard thunder in his dreams and awoke to find water rushing in. In total darkness he made his way upstairs feeling, he said, that every step was worth a sovereign to him. By the time he reached the top, the kitchen was completely flooded. Having so narrowly escaped with his life Mr. Gledhill regarded the loss of his stock of corn and sugar with equanimity.

Notes and References

  1. "The Holmfirth Calamity" in Leeds Intelligencer (14/Feb/1852).
  2. The Flood Came and Took Them All Away: A Sermon on the Holmfirth Flood (1852) by Rev. Joshua Fawcett.
  3. "The Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (14/Feb/1902).