This month's terrible winter storms have brought back memories for older Kirklees residents who lived through a biblical deluge 80 years ago.
Nostalgia writer Margaret Watson takes up the tale of an incredible once-in-a-lifetime weather event which hit Mirfield back in 1935:-
We have all watched with deep sorrow and growing concern the devastation being caused in some parts of Yorkshire due to heavy rainfall and rivers breaking their banks. Over the years Dewsbury and Mirfield have had more than their fair share of floods, but nothing in recent years quite as bad as what we are seeing today in other parts of the country. However there was one amazing storm in Mirfield in 1935, the likes of which local people had never seen before, and one which was terrifying in the extreme.
On that day in April, the sky turned black and suddenly it seemed day had turned into night, and torrential rain fell non-stop, hour upon hour. Lightning flashed vividly throughout the day, and thunder came in continuous deafening peals, and in the midst of it all hailstones crashed down and snow started falling. This never-to-be-forgotten storm varied between conditions of almost tropical intensity and Arctic severity.
During the height of the storm, two foals in a field were struck by lightning and killed, and as the water rushed down the hillsides of Hopton, people could see dead rabbits being washed down Chadwick Lane and into the River Calder. Much loss was sustained by hundreds of householders in the Lower Hopton district in particular, and in other parts of the town households’ belongings were ruined. Roads were turned into rivers by thousands of tons of water being released in a big burst which could have been likened to a cloudburst.
The first suggestions of an unusual visitation came in the early afternoon, just after noon, when the sky began to present an unsettled appearance. Later, the increasing gloom made it necessary to put on lights indoors, but darker and darker it became, until at 2.30pm the district presented a picture of night.
All the principal shops were closed, and walking along Eastthorpe was like walking along some dim cavern with side streets looking like tunnels which ended in vague darkness, their lower halves disappearing in the gloom. The storm broke over Upper Hopton and continued throughout the afternoon until early evening, and for about an hour it was a pure thunderstorm.
Lightning flashed vividly, thunder came in long drawn-out volleys, and for a time the rain was torrential. At about 3.30pm, snow and hail started to fall, and continued falling for an hour, the fall being so thick that snow was still lying in the fields until late at night. The thunder and lightning continued for five hours, and at night there were unprecedented scenes in the district of Lower Hopton.
The vicar of Upper Hopton, the Rev H.N. Myers, likened the visitation to tropical storms which he had experienced while serving in Jamaica and Panama .
“It was not at all like an English storm,” he said. “The sky was almost pitch black and from about 3 o’clock it was one mass of forked lightning.
“The roads leading to Lower Hopton were like many rivers, and when the rain turned to snow we could dimly see the white-topped roofs of the houses lower down.”
When the deluge was at its height, water roared its way down Hopton Lane, sweeping at a depth of 18 inches over the full width of the lane. It uprooted setts and even flagstones, leaving holes in the pavement into which ordinary-sized barrels could have been put. The torrent crossed the bridge over the River Calder into Station Road, and it was calculated that there were at least 18 inches of water under the railway bridge.
Amazing scenes were witnessed in the vicinity of the station, which was almost marooned, and the water submerged some of the entrance steps. For some time the station was rendered inaccessible from the ordinary entrance, and passengers were required to use the old goods yard to reach and leave platforms.
In one part of Station Road, snow was washed down from Upper Hopton and packed itself in a mass of some depth for a distance of ten yards. The rushing water down Hopton Lane brought with it stones of varying sizes and an amazing amount of mud. Quickly the Flower Pot Inn and two adjoining cottages were turned topsy-turvy. Linoleum, oilcloth and carpets were lifted from the floors, and the cellars were flooded from top to bottom.
The licensee of the Flower Pot Inn said: “The water came in at the kitchen door, then spread itself through the public rooms and finally went into the cellars.
“The oilcloth and carpets used in the adjoining cottages were ruined, and further along Calder Road, many other houses were flooded.”
The worst flooding occurred in the neighbourhood of Chadwick Fold, Chadwick Lane, and at Calder Road, by the Bridge Hotel. The water raced down the hillsides sweeping away nearly everything in its path. It ploughed up gardens, entered houses through ground floor cupboards, swirled its way over the living room floors, and rushed out by the doorway.
The water was still rushing down Chadwick Lane late the following day, and here again all the cellars of all houses were flooded to a considerable depth, as also were those in the vicinity of the Bridge Hotel. Further along Calder Road there was silt several feet deep, and Waste Lane was indeed laid to waste.
This thoroughfare and the roads in the neighbourhood of Chadwick Fold presented an amazing sight. So completely ploughed up were they that they might have been the centre of an air attack on miniature lines. At Battyeford, water rushed down Stocks Bank into Huddersfield Road, carrying with it large pieces of stone which had to be removed to facilitate the passage of traffic. There was also flooding in the vicinity of the Three Nuns Inn, Knowle, Doctor Lane and Eastthorpe. Water rose from 3ft to 4ft in the cellar of a house in Doctor Lane, and furniture was afloat.
An off-licence shop in Eastthorpe was inundated, and at Park Bottom a stone wall was washed away for a distance of five yards. Water 18 inches deep poured across the main roadway. Residents at Old Bank said during the storm a fire-ball seemed to drop in the vicinity of the old Reformatory.
Although Dewsbury did not suffer so severely as Mirfield on that day, nevertheless so heavy was the downpour that there were miniature floods in several places. Streets became miniature rivers, and there was slight flooding in the Market Place. People living on the hillsides found the repeated flashes of lightning an impressive spectacle, while the thunder was almost continuous, peal following peal for several hours.
The people of Mirfield would talk about this strange happening for many years to come. Perhaps there are some still alive who may recall it.