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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 440 Volume 17, New Series, June 5, 1852   By:

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No. 440. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JUNE 5, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


The great flood which took place in the valley of Holmfirth in February last, was in itself a deeply interesting and awe exciting incident. I was curious to visit the scene, while the results of the catastrophe were still fresh, both on account of the sympathy I felt with the sufferers, and because of some physical problems which I thought might be illustrated by the effects, so far as these were still traceable. I therefore took an opportunity on the 22d of April, to proceed from Manchester to Holmfirth, accompanied by two friends, one of whom, though he had not visited the place since the calamity happened, was well acquainted with the scene and with the country generally, so as to be able to guide us in our walk. A railway excursion to Huddersfield, and a second trip on a different line from that town to the village of Holmfirth, introduced us to a region of softly rounded hills and winding valleys, precisely resembling those of the Southern Highlands of Scotland, as might indeed be expected from the identity of the formation (Silurian), but which had this peculiar feature in addition, that every here and there was a little cloth making village, taking advantage of the abundant water power derived from the mountain slopes. The swelling heights were brown and bare, like those of Tweeddale; and there the blackcock may still, I believe, be found. The slopes are purely pastoral, with small farm steadings scattered over them. But down in the bottom of the dale, we see the heavy stone and lime mill starting up from the bare landscape, with a sprawling village of mean cottages surrounding it, giving token of an industrial life totally opposite to that which is found beside the silver streams of the Tweed and its tributaries. When we passed near any of these spots, we were sure to catch the unlovely details, so frequently, though so unnecessarily attendant on factory life the paltry house, the unpaved, unscavengered street, the fry of dirty children. It was a beautiful tract of natural scenery in the process of being degraded by contact with man and his works.

Arriving at Holmfirth at one o'clock, we found it to be a somewhat better kind of village, chiefly composed of one or two irregular streets running along the bottom of a narrow valley. Hitherto, in passing up the lower part of the vale, we had looked in vain for any traces of the inundation; but now we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of ruin and devastation. Holmfirth is only two miles and a half from the reservoir, and being at a contracted part of the valley, the water came upon it in great depth and with great force. We found a bridge deprived of its parapets, the boundary walls of factories broken down, and court yards filled with d├ębris and mud. Several large houses had end or side walls taken away, or were shattered past remedy. In a narrow street running parallel with the river, and in some places open to it, many of the houses bore chalk marks a little way up the second storey, indicating the height to which the flood had reached. When we looked across the valley, and mentally scanned the space below that level, we obtained some idea of the immense stream of water which had swept through, or rather over the village.

A rustic guide, obtained at the inn, went on with us through the town, pointing out that in this factory precious machinery had been swept away in that house a mother and five children had been drowned in their beds here some wonderful escape had taken place there had befallen some piteous tragedy. Soon clearing the village, we came to a factory which stood in the bottom of the valley, with some ruined buildings beside it... Continue reading book >>

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