The day bombs dropped in the Walterclough Valley

Walterclough Pit - 1905
Walterclough Pit - 1905

It is 75 years since the Second World War arrived on our doorsteps with six bombs being dropped in the Walterclough Valley, an area between Hove Edge, Hipperholme and Southowram.

I have an ordnance survey map which was given to me by the Brooke’s stone company family and they had marked on the map where the bombs fell exactly and confirmed there were six. I had always thought it was seven but have been told by an old RAF man that would make it unbalanced and would have had an equal number on each side of the undercarriage.

At that time the Hove Edge ARP (Air Raid Precaution)was based at Kershaw’s Garden Centre basement with the owner Mr Yates being the chief warden.

On that Saturday in August 1940 people were turning out from the cinema with many of them walking home from the town centre on what was a warm sultry summer evening. One couple Mr and Mrs Howarty arrived at Granny Hall Lane and heard the air raid sirens. It was almost dark and as they looked into the evening sky where there was a fair amount of lumpy cloud.

The couple quickly made their way home. Mr Howarty, grabbing his kit, almost ran up Laverock Lane to get to Kershaw’s and make contact with the other members of the ARP. Standing with his colleagues near the open fields at the Coach Road it was then they heard the unsynchronised sound of a lone aeroplane flying towards them from the general direction of Wyke and Bailiff Bridge.

The aeroplane was flying quite low towards Halifax with the Hove Edge search light (in the field off Halifax Road)trying to pick it out over the Stoney Lane area. It was then that the ARP wardens saw the aeroplane fly over them and saw a cluster of six bombs fall from it. In fact they all saw the bombs before they heard the familiar whistling sound of falling bombs.

Willie Cowling, a nurseryman who had recently moved from his nursery at Holme House in Lightcliffe to Wood Nook on Woodbottom Lane, had almost a ringside seat watching the whole incident unfold in front of him.

The ground shook and a series of flashes followed from the valley as the overhead power cables came down. The bombs dropped in a line in a field on the Southowram side of the beck, finishing just short of Ben Bates’ Lower Nortcliffe farm.

Someone else who has memories of the bombs in 1940 was Jane Binns, who was then 20 years old and lived at Norwood Green in a house near the cricket field. Her father was the local policeman PC Hanson Binns. Jane and her friends were returning from Halifax and caught the train back to Wyke and Norwood Green Station. As the train pulled out of Halifax they told the air raid sirens had been heard and the train was stopped in the tunnel. This was to prevent any possibility of the fire from the engine been seen.

Making their way home it was then they heard the aeroplane and it sounded to be quite low and damaged from the sound the engine was making, she recalled. Shortly afterwards Jane and her friends heard a series of bangs coming from the direction of Sunny Vale (Walterclough Valley).

PC Hanson Binns was the Incidents Officer for the area and one of his jobs was to go to the bomb site and collect bomb fragments for the air ministry. Jane’s father confirmed the bombs were dropped in the valley quite close to an area known as the Shaking Delph (opened c1841 closed c1934) which had been part of his beat some years earlier.

Jane highlights in her 1994 letter how relieved her parents were when she arrived safely home all those years ago when the bombs fell. This photograph shows the Walterclough Pit, the largest and last coal pit in the area, which was opened in 1888 and closed on February 18, 1969, when Brooke’s closed down.