“The Flood Came and Took Them All Away”: The 1852 Holmfirth Flood in Multimedia and Memory




Newlin, Michael

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George Mason University


The 1852 Holmfirth Flood remains one of the deadliest and most destructive floods in the history of England, and it was a catastrophe of national significance. Newspapers throughout the country reported on the event and its aftermath through the year, while visitors flocked to the site of the calamity as early as the following day. Narratives and local histories chronicled the event in the years and decades that followed. But why was this particular flooding of Holmfirth so significant? Holmfirth had a decades-old history of severe flooding, so what was different about this one? The town of Holmfirth lies in the Holme Valley within the county of West Yorkshire. This county belongs to a larger geographic location, known as the Pennines. At the time of the flood, Holmfirth was an industrial hub for the textile industry. Because of Holmfirth’s position both geographically and economically as part of the “Backbone of England,” the flood was of national interest and was, by extension, a national catastrophe. The Holmfirth Flood of 1852 was both experienced as a local disaster and perceived as a national event, and the desire to interpret and experience the disaster was satisfied by various forms of multimedia. An examination of books, sermons, newspapers, and other mass communicative media provide a foundation for understanding how the people of Holmfirth and the greater whole of society dealt with the challenges presented by the flood.