The Holmfirth Flood refers to a number of instances when severe flooding has occurred in the
Holme Valley, West Yorkshire, Englandaffecting Holmfirthand other settlements in the valley. The earliest recorded one being in 1738 and the latest in 1944. The most severe floodoccurred early on the morning of 5 February, 1852, when the embankment of the Bilberry reservoircollapsed causing the deaths of 81 people. It is recorded as the 23rd most serious, worldwide, in terms of loss of life from floods and landslides on the [http://www.armageddononline.org/deadliest_natural_disasters.php Armageddon Online - Deadliest Natural Disasters website] .
Rainstorms caused the
River Holmeto burst its banks and flood the valley. Though there was damage to farmland there was no loss of life.
Following a severe storm on Wednesday
21 July, 1777the River Holme burst its banks and flooded the valley. Three people were drowned and a stone church built in 1476 was swept away. It was rebuilt the following year with funding from local clothiers.
The River Holme again flooded the valley around Holmfirth, following rainstorms on
21 September, 1821, with no loss of life.
The 1852 flood occurred when the embankment of the Bilberry reservoir collapsed, releasing 86 million gallons of water down the
River Holme. It caused 81 deaths and a large amount of damage to property in the valley leaving many homeless and without work. The buildings and structures destroyed included 4 mills, 10 dye houses, 3 drying stoves, 27 cottages, 7 tradesmen’s houses, 7 shops, 7 bridges crossing the River Holme, 10 warehouses, 8 barns and stables. Numerous other buildings were damaged.
The collapse occurred at about 1.00am on the
5 February, 1852following a period of heavy rain. The story of the flood made the front page of the "London Standard" newspaper. [cite web
title=Holmfirth - Is there more to it than Last of the Summer Wine?
inquestafter the disaster concluded that the reservoir was "defective in its original construction" and that "the Commissioners, in permitting the Bilberry reservoir to remain in a dangerous state with the full knowledge thereof, and not lowering the waste pit, have been guilty of great and culpable negligence".
Whit Monday, May 29, 1944, flash flooding following a severe thunderstorm[cite web
title=1944 weather] , caused the deaths of 3 people in the Holme Valley. [cite web
title=Hitler's impact on the Great Flood of '44
Huddersfield Daily Examiner] Due to reporting restrictions in place because of World War II, it was not widely reported and was overshadowed by the invasion of Normandy a week later. This led to some confusion as to the exact cause of the flood but it was confirmed that Bilberry reservoir was not to blame. It was suggested that the reservoir prevented the flood from being more severe. German prisoners of war, housed in the area, assisted with the rescue of local residents and property. There was extensive damage to properties in the valley: 17 mills, 61 shops and 109 homes were flooded.
Geoffrey Riley (
20 November, 1929– 2005), who was aged 14 at the time of the event, was awarded the George Crossin recognition of his attempts to save the life of an elderly woman caught in the flood. Tragically, the woman, and Geoffrey's father who also tried to save her from drowning, both lost their lives in the flood. Geoffrey was initially awarded the Albert Medal. However, the Royal Warrantwas discontinued in 1971 and he exchanged this for the George Cross at Buckingham Palaceon 6 March, 1973. [cite web
title=Obituaries: Geoffrey Riley, GC
The Daily Telegraph]
*cite book |last=Minter |first=Gordon & Enid |title=On the trail of the Holmfirth Flood|year= |publisher=H. Barden & Company |year=1996 |isbn=0952474743
title=The Holmfirth flood of 1852
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