Fire at Holmfirth 1853

Of all the various branches of the Bashforth family in south west Yorkshire, the one centred on Thurnscoe seems to have been the most well-to-do, from which several interesting individuals emerged. Among these was Charles Bashforth [1826-1907], a woollen manufacturer. But things could often go wrong even for the well-to-do, as the following report from the Leeds Intelligencer shows:

AWFUL CONFLAGRATION AT HOLMFIRTH – £12000 WORTH OF PROPERTY DESTROYED.

This ill-fated locality – last year the scene of the awful flood caused by the disruption of Bilberry Reservoir, entailing the loss of 80 human lives and a great deal of property – has again become the seat of disaster and woe. Amongst the thickly-strewn woollen mills in the valley of the Holme, stood, pre-eminent for extent and importance, Spring-lane factory, erected, piecemeal, by the proprietor, Mr. William Lockwood, until it had at length assumed an almost colossal appearance. Mr. Lockwood having himself retired from business, the premises were rented by Mr. Charles Bashforth, David Brook and Thomas Hinchliff, manufacturers. About three o’clock last Wednesday morning, flames were observed issuing from the ‘teazing room’, occupied by Mr. Bashforth, and before any effectual check could be afforded – not a single fire-engine being kept in the district – the upper rooms became ignited, and the fire immediately spread to the principal pile, where rapid, unmitigated, and unrestrained havoc ensued. At half-past five the first engine arrived on the ground; shortly afterwards came the Huddersfield engine, and there being a plentiful supply of water and a multitude of willing hands, a considerable proportion of the works was preserved. Throughout the day the smouldering ashes continued to burn, despite the flood of water continually poured in by the unflagging firemen and operatives. The wreck is fearful to behold; charred and blackened walls, and roofless, gutted, ‘hives of industry’ presenting a paralysing and heart-appalling contrast to the proud, towering magnificence of yesterday. The precise cause of this deplorable calamity, by which hundreds of work-people will be thrown out of employment, is not distinctly ascertained. The general belief, however, is that some accumulated ‘waste’ in the ‘teazing room’, became spontaneously ignited – and hence the conflagration. At present, of course, the entire loss cannot be positively vouched, the estimate of £12000 being probably under the mark. Mr. Lockwood’s loss is fully covered by insurance on the buildings. Mr. Hinchliff also, whose loss upon machinery and stock is very heavy, had just completed two separate policies, which, it is understood, will wholly indemnify him. Insurances had likewise been effected by Mr. Bashforth and Mr. Brook upon stock and machinery, but, it would seem, only to a limited amount.

The family farm in Thurnscoe was 183 acres in 1851, farmed by John Bashforth, the father of Charles Bashforth. In 1851, Charles Bashforth aged 26 was a woollen manufacturer at Spring Grove, Upperthong, unmarried and employing 16 women, 6 boys and 7 girls. He lived there with his younger brothers William and Henry and an unmarried older sister, Elizabeth.

By 1861, after the fire at Holmfirth, he was in Leeds, still a woollen merchant employing 1 man and 2 women, while his brother William continued in Upperthong with the older sister, Elizabeth. He had by now married Maria Boothroyd, and lived with his mother in law and a servant, but they had no children.

By 1871 he had rebuilt his business as a manufacturer based in Wooldale, Holmfirth, employing 16 men, 6 boys and 10 females. This had grown to 26 men and 15 boys and girls by 1881. He was still there in 1891. By 1901 he lived in Ribbledon Cottage, Cartworth, Holmfirth with his wife Maria, but was now described as ‘retired’. He died in 1907 aged 81.]

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