Flooding in Bailiff Bridge

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I AM sure watcing the recent news film of the floods in the Calder Valley makes you think how lucky many at this end of Calderdale have been.

Many years ago our washer door burst open and we had about 40 gallons of water spill out on to the kitchen floor. Yes, that was bad enough and after shouting and turning the air a bit blue we spent a few hours mopping up and getting on with life again.

But I just cannot imagine what it would be like to have hundreds of gallons of water pouring through your home as many of the residents in the Calder Valley have had. Describing it as heart breaking just does not seem the right words somehow, nor does shouting and turning the air blue. To sit there and cry does seem to be the only thing to do.

But the folks of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden are the kind of folks that cry and then get on with trying to salvage their possessions and again the news reports show they had really got on with it. To ensure that yes, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden areas are open for business.

In this week’s featured photograph goes back to that strange July day in 1968 when at mid-day it was as dark as it would have been at midnight. I was working in Wade Street, Halifax, on that day and do recall people walking through Halifax town centre shouting out that the world was coming to an end.

This photograph shows the results of the flash flood on that July day when the water level was well above the axels of both wagons and buses in the centre of Bailiff Bridge. Many properties were flooded-out as well as the low lying departments at T.F. Firth’s.

The shop in the row of properties is Mr Godfrey’s barber’s shop – as a bus driver decided to drive at speed through the flood waters his actions caused a wave which resulted in the barber’s shop window being pushed through. I am sure Mr Godfrey’s insurance claim would have made interesting reading when he tried to explain how the damage was caused – ‘a wave….in Bailiff Bridge…’ ’Oh, yeah…’

This particular flood was the last when it was as bad as this, but floods in Bailiff Bridge have been recorded on fairly regular intervals from as early as 1753. On that particular occasion the flood washed away the wooden bridge itself.

Deciding who should pay for its replacement went on for some time. Should the residents of either side of the bridge pay – those of Hipperholme come Brighouse and Hartshead come Clifton should chip-in the £15 or the Turnpike Commissioners pay for it from the tolls users of the Wakefield Road which had been made into a turnpike road in 1741. In the end the commissioners agreed to pay it. I have details of at least a further ten occasions when the village flooded since that one.

Let us hope that the work in the 1980s when the whole of Bradford Road was dug up and new pipes were laid has solved the problem once and for all.