Echoes of the past: Floods of 1946 were worst to hit our town in past 75 years

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The horrendous floods that have hit Cumbria will bring back memories of the floods we have had in our area.

Whilst these were awful thankfully we have had nothing on the scale that Cumbria is having, the South West of England, North Yorkshire and nearer to home Hebden Bridge had not that long ago.

Those readers who can remember the floods of 1946 will be able to appreciate some of the problems flood victims are experiencing particularly residents who lived in the low lying areas of Brighouse. The floods of 1946 was at the time the worst the town had ever experienced for just over 75 years, since the great floods of 1868. The floods of 1946 were 30 inches higher than the previous highest level of 1944.

With the Lower Briggate and Daisy Croft areas of the town being low lying just off the town centre these were not just isolated occasions when flooding struck. Earlier floods included 1872, 1875, 84, 87, 89, 1890 and 1899 with another example being the severe weather conditions of July 12, 1900 when there was a sudden change from fine weather to the whole of the West Riding being hit by a severe storm. It was reported at the time that the centre of the storm appeared to be in the Brighouse district. This particular storm was so violent that rain fell in torrents ensuring that some of the roads became impassable. The lightning was described at the time as being vivid and the crashes of thunder shook the many buildings - not to say people’s nerves.

These were really tested when the storms hit the old Fever Hospital at Thornhills Clifton when a gable end at the administration block was struck by lightning. With only minor damage reported the effects were minimal but still frightening for those in the building at the time.

The storms of summer 1899 were even worse when houses were struck by lightning both in Brighouse and Clifton. Once again the weather prior to the storm had been hot and oppressive similar to that of July 1968.

All the floods and severe weather conditions have always been compared to the great one of 1868 which was reported to have been the worst in Brighouse’s history with the Calder over six feet above safe levels. At the other end of town the rain was running down from Lightcliffe towards Bailiff Bridge down Wakefield Road (then called Lightcliffe Road) like a stream.

The all time record was broken at 3pm when the water level reached six foot nine inches in the mill yard at Sugden’s in 1946. All the low-lying properties in the Briggate area were devastated by the three inches of water and mud flowing through their ground floors. As the water receded the damage it caused was plain to see. Brown and green slime was running down both on the outside and inside walls of the mill premises and of course inside people’s homes.

One of the most important tasks for the Sugden’s office staff was to dry out the wage packets which had been soaked once the water level had risen above the company Safe.

In more recent times floodwater reached a serious depth in the spring of 1989 when it caused havoc at Jumble Dyke. However, by comparison this photograph shows the 1946 flood waters in Mill Royd Street looking towards Lower Briggate where it is just possible to see that a rowing boat was the best form of transport.