Tragic loss of life as floods swept peo­ple and bridges away . . .

Middleton Guardian - - BYGONE DAYS - HAROLD CUN­LIFFE

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.


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.


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

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