Tragic loss of life as floods swept people and bridges away . . .
LAST week we related the start of the Middleton Flood, in which it was reported would go down in history. We must not forget the three Middleton people who lost their lives as a consequence of the flood.
Two bridges were destroyed by the force of the flood waters, one at Hanson Street, the other at Corporation Street. It was at this bridge that one person lost their life.
At 76, Joseph Stansfield was the oldest victim of the flood. On the night that the terror came to town, Mr Stansfield, who lived at Gilmore Street with his son, decided to leave his home and ‘see if things were going down at all’. These were the last words spoken to his son, Wilfred.
Albert Wolstencroft, a potato dealer, of 289a Oldham Road, Middleton, was one of the last people to see Mr Stansfield alive. He told the Coroner: “On the evening of Monday last I was standing near the bridge over the river Irk in Corporation Street, and saw a man standing on the right hand corner of the bridge, facing Market Place. I stood on the deceased left side, the bridge went into the water and the deceased went down with it. There were plenty of people about, someone stood behind the deceased saw him going down and made a grab for him.”
The Coroner related that the deceased was not actually on the bridge, but standing on a paving stone next to it. Water began to cover the surface of the bridge, which then became washed away, followed immediately by the collapse of the gas works wall.
Charles Parr of 27 Hannah Street, a labourer, said: “Shortly after 9.55pm on Monday, July 11. I was standing on Gas Works Brow, watching the flood, when I saw a man holding onto the railings of the Corporation Street bridge. A minute later the bridge collapsed and the gable end of the gas office came down on the man.”
One of Joseph Stansfield’s sons, Vincent of Crow Hill, Chadderton, along with his nephew, Vincent Taylor, went out in search of his father on Saturday July 16, 1927. At 5.15pm that afternoon they found the body of Joseph on the banks of the river Irk at Rhodes, near the lodge owned by the Calico Printers Association.
At once the police were informed. The location was the section of the Irk which was aligned with Kings Drive. Mr Stansfield was a retired coal miner who was employed by McDonald’s up to him being 71 years of age. It was stated that he was a very healthy man for his age.
HERO OF MIDDLETON FLOOD
At the height of the flood twenty one year old Rowland Roach from King Street, Middleton, was in a boat rescuing people from their flooded homes at the Little Park area along with 16 year old Fred Hall from Boarshaw Road.
Disaster struck when, following a successful rescue of Ernest Fitton from the bedroom window of his home at 14 Park Street, the three men were mak- ing their way towards Manchester New Road in the boat. As they made their way along Park Street the current of water took them to Allinson Street towards the river Irk, which once ran alongside Allinson Street. Fitton knew this area very well and could see the danger of entering the river Irk,
He told the Coroner: “I shouted out “Jump,” which Roach and I did, but Fred Hall remained in the boat, I shouted to him to jump and at the same time grabbed hold of the boat, but owing to the strong current I could not hold it. When the boat entered the river he jumped out and tried to swim against the current. There was a rope in the water fastened to a clothes prop near-by. It was out in the water going across, and the deceased tried to grab it. He missed the rope and disappeared. I did not see him alive again.”
PC Halliday told the Coroner: “After the flood had subsided I searched part of the flooded area and at 4.30am on Tuesday morning found the deceased in a quantity of debris on Booth’s Field. This was 300 yards from where he was last seen in the boat. ROLL OF HEROES On the November 5, 1927 a ceremony took place in the inspectors office at Middleton Police Station. This ceremony was to present a memorial certificate of heroism to the parents of Fred Hall.
Prior to this ceremony, Mr and Mrs hall had received a letter from the secretary of the Carnegie Hero Funds Trust. It stated: ”The Trustees of this fund have recently had under consideration, the regrettable circumstances in which your son Fred lost his life on the 11 July, 1927 and at their monthly meeting today, they instructed me to express their deep sympathy with you and the members of your household.
“The trustees decided to have your son’s name inscribed on their roll of heroes and to award you a memorial certificate framed in oak, together with the sum of 20 pounds.”
The certificate bore an inscription which said; “He serves God best, who most nobly serves humanity.” It also bore the inscription, “The Carnegie Hero Funds Trust. In recognition of the heroism of Fred Hall, who died on the 11 July, 1927, as the result of an endeavour to save human life.” FRED HALL At the Coroner’s Court it was stated of Fred Hall that this was a very sad business, because he was doing his best to get people out of their houses in order to save their lives,and in doing so he had lost his own life. The fact that he was a swimmer would not account for very much in a current as the speaker understood there was running at that particular night.” Mr Hall was swept away under Park Bridge.
FLOOD’S THIRD VICTIM
Ernest Wilcock, who was in charge of 2 Heap Street, a lodging house told the Coroner: “Around 11pm on the 11 July 1927 I was in Park Street when Charles Heaton (aged 57 years) came to me. At this
After the flood at Little park
Flood damage to the Gas Works at Corporation Street
A cutting from the Middleton Guardian