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The Whaley Bridge Flood Of 1872

August 4, 2019

By Paul Homewood


Whaley Bridge

Flooding is nothing new for Whaley Bridge

One of the worst floods on record took place on 19th June 1872. This account comes from the Flood Chronologies database, set up by a team at Newcastle University, sourced from newspapers reports at the time:

[1] [Widespread thunderstorms with deaths from lightning and flooding occurred in England, notably at Manchester, Oldham, Birmingham and Yorkshire. More thunderstorms occurred on 24th especially Staffordshire. [2] Place Manchester: Thunderstorm lasting from 6 pm to midnight. Lightning damage to a mill at Gaythorn was reported. A child was killed by lightning at Weaste. [3] Goyt valley: On 19th the Goyt was 12 to 14 feet above its normal level. At Whaley Bridge houses near the river were completely flooded and people were taken into the chapel and inns. At New Mills where the Goyt is joined by the Kinder, two blocks of a paper works were washed away. Two stone weirs were washed away and two bridges. At Waterside Disley a cotton mill was badly damaged. At Strines a stone bridge was partly washed away. A gasometer was lifted from its basin and tossed on the river bank. At Marple several houses were flooded. The Pineapple Inn was damaged by lightning. At Romiley a stone bridge was washed away. A bridge near Taxal church was destroyed. At Chapel en le Frith a severe landslide occurred onto the Midland Railway and a train was wrecked when it hit the debris. [4] Place Burnley: Low lying districts were flooded but there is no reference to houses. [5] Place Bury: Rain was accompanied by large hailstones, several streets were flooded and the barn brook overflowed. The Star Inn Freetown was struck and seriously damaged. Other houses and mills were also struck. [6] Oldham and Rochdale: Damage was noe by lightning but no flooding was reported. [7] A child was drowned in mid Cheshire when a house in Winsford was deeply flooded. [8] Place Northwich: A large part of the town was under water. The High Street was flooded to a depth of 3 to 4 feet with some occupants rescued by boat. The Rivers Dane and Weaver overflowed. The court room was flooded within 30 minutes of first observation and trials continued for a time with participants standing on forms and chairs before it was adjourned; the water was 3 to 4 feet deep. [9] Place Macclesfield: a woman and child were drowned when the river Bollin overflowed. Two reservoirs burst in the vicinity

Rainfall: Newton Nurseries (17th) 0.95 in 35 m; Macclesfield Thunderstorm lasting nearly 12 hours; rain for 10 hours, in which the (here) unprecedented fall of 4.27 was registered; serious damage by floods in the town and district.; Casterton, Kirkby Lonsdale. Hot, dark morning, at 9 a.m., temp. 75°, with a gentle S.S.W. wind, which gradually veered to W.; by 11.15 a.m. the clouds in the west portended a storm, which came on at 11.37; it followed the course of the Fells, which have a northerly direction, and so great was the downpour of hail and rain that in 18 min. there fell 1.34 in. being at the rate of 1 yard deep in 8 hours, or 4 ½ in. in an hour; temp, fell from 79° to 65°, and the hailstones were more than half-an-inch in diameter.

Source: Westmoreland Gazette 22 Jun; Manchester times 22 Jun; BR


British Rainfall shows that the heavy rains were widespread that day (or the day before to be precise!):




Whaley Bridge would have been directly affected by the storm at Macclesfield, as the Goyt drains the hills above Macclesfield. In contrast with that 4.27 in over 12 hours, the worst seen this week in the area was about 2 inches in 24 hours.


A couple of weeks later, there was apparently an even more remarkable rainfall event:






 The Mail has this picture of the Whaley Bridge spillway:


Footage shows plants growing between the concrete panels of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam spillway three years ago


It was taken in 2016, but is a pointed indication of how poorly maintained the dam has been in the recent past.

Have things improved in the last three years? It seems highly unlikely.

  1. August 4, 2019 11:03 am

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  2. Ariane permalink
    August 4, 2019 11:47 am

    Records, historical evidence. Excellent. However, where these ideologues are concerned, the climate has only ever changed (for the worse) because of humanity’s economic prosperity and population growth. Something abnormal in these ideologues’ state of mind? Or are they just nasty people?

    • Gamecock permalink
      August 4, 2019 12:34 pm

      Agreed. Using science, data and logic is not an effective counter for political assertions.

  3. John189 permalink
    August 4, 2019 11:49 am

    In August 1967 there were 8 consecutive days of torrential downpours in West Yorkshire, most of them accompanied by thunder. Streams poured off waterlogged hills and the heaviest of the storms, over the Bowland Hills, flooded the Dunsop, Hodder and Wray valleys with destruction and loss of life. These “exceptional” events are the result of particular meteorological conditions, in other words weather. Talk of climate change is simply absurd.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      August 4, 2019 3:06 pm

      You’d need thousands of years of homogeneous data before you could even begin to look back and determine any trends in weather i.e. climate change.

      The alarmist con-merchants know this. The weather attribution nonsense was chiefly ‘invented’ under the Obama administration. Wikileaks (Podesta) showed them discussing setting up an “extreme weather SWAT team” that would immediately seize on natural disasters and other extreme weather events to flood the media with climate change attribution stories and stress the unprecedented/historic nature.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 5, 2019 1:41 pm

        During that time we were in the ‘pause’ as they struggled to explain 18 years lack of warming that their models had missed so they had to pick on something else to keep the scam going until the big El Nino blip ended the pause. Yes, of course that was just a weather phenomenon. So along came extreme weather and pollution to use as excuses for making people poorer.

  4. swan101 permalink
    August 4, 2019 12:08 pm

    Reblogged this on ECO-ENERGY DATABASE.

  5. Pancho Plail permalink
    August 4, 2019 12:36 pm

    Obviously climate change is so powerful that it also has the ability to travel in time, reaching back into the past to cause such catastrophes. New funding is required to study this phenomenon.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 4, 2019 1:46 pm

    Meanwhile the alarmist BBC are pushing forecasts of 30-40mm of rain for today at Whalley Bridge. An area of rain that might have headed that way has safely passed well to the NW. The forecast I see here has come down from 12mm in the next 24 hours to 8mm by midnight tomorrow.

  7. August 4, 2019 2:14 pm

    Thank you for your knowledge and investigations. The Climate Change scam is rolling along aided and abetted by a corrupt mainstream media. I have been following Tony Heller in the U.S. for some time and always wished there was a similar individual in the U.K. who could debunk much of the information that is sold to us as ‘climate science’ when it is nothing of the sort. Tony Heller uses a lot of graphs to prove his arguments. Do you know if there are similar such graphs in the U.K? Keep up the good work!

    • Bertie permalink
      August 4, 2019 8:08 pm

      If you trawl through Paul’s previous posts you will find plenty of graphs to support the actual science.

    • David Kendrick permalink
      August 4, 2019 9:36 pm

      Piers Corbyn. You will know him by the Green hate posts.

    • Ariane permalink
      August 5, 2019 8:08 am

      Piers Corbyn (elder brother of Jeremy) of Weather Action fame is brilliant. You can subscribe to WA and get weather forecasts and Piers has spoken (and videoed) a lot debunking the CO2 nonsense.

  8. August 4, 2019 2:26 pm

    If we’ve had so much excess heat where’s the drought, like in 1976?

  9. John F. Hultquist permalink
    August 4, 2019 5:31 pm

    The vegetation-damaged spillway should be reason enough for supervisor termination.

    The photo of the Whaley Bridge spillway (HayfieldDroneGuy, Aug. 2016) starts near the low end of the dark panels where a small shrub or tree is growing. That is, it is a woody plant that remains year after year. Most of the vegetation elsewhere on the surface appears more like annual plants or herbaceous perennials. {I’ll bet all this is soon gone.}

    My favorite term for vegetation is relentless.
    Links to 2 images:
    Bindweed; aka Morning Glory
    Tree with buckled asphalt

    The full video suggest the operator of the drone (Hayfield ?) was not focused on the situation, but rather on her/his 2nd effort with the use of the drone. There is not really a distinguishing theme, as far as I could determine.

    Of note, the sky in the video is fully cloud covered.

  10. Jackington permalink
    August 4, 2019 5:58 pm

    In every interview with the poor people in Whaley Bridge between the media and local residents the word “unprecedented” is uttered in every sentence. It’s like the invasion of the bodysnatchers. Surely there must be at least one person who has not been brainwashed and knows the historical facts (but is too frightened to admit it?)

  11. dearieme permalink
    August 4, 2019 5:58 pm

    Hats off, Homewood. That’s quite a find.

  12. Smoke&Mirrors permalink
    August 4, 2019 6:05 pm

    The Great Absolver, aka Climate Change, cannot be used as an excuse ever and certainly never when there’s vegetation – trees even! – growing out of the construction joints of the slipway.
    What a surprise that water got under the slabs and blew them away.
    There are no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, vegetation has to be cleared and causes of vegetation have to be sorted. It’s basic maintenance – no doubt forgotten about.
    Bleat about CC (or the GA) and/or ‘really heavy rain’ as much as they like, but the Canal and River Trust is well and truly in the frame. The spillway didn’t do its job. Simple.
    Shame really, because they do great work elsewhere. Pity they’ve got such large, crap and seriously risky structures on their books, but there we go, they have and so they have to manage them properly.

    • David Kendrick permalink
      August 4, 2019 9:41 pm

      The problem is that they were very good reservoirs given over to feeding a defunct canal system, which could if repurposed filled the taps of Manchester Sheffield and daresay the london area since Manchester decided to get water from the Lake District. Sometimes heritage can go hang since the only way to maintain and replace infrastructure is by it making money.

  13. August 4, 2019 7:03 pm

    The Whaley Bridge dam crisis was caused by a badly designed retrofit. Before 1971, the Toddbrook Dam was the same as dozens of other dams around the district. Broomhead, Fernilee, Kinder, Langsett to name a few. These are all earth embankment dams, and in all cases the spillway is located to one side of the dam – such that even if it were to leak or fail, the earth embankment would not be washed-out.
    The original Toddbrook spillway (still called the “main spillway”) was alos located off to one-side. It can be seen here,-1.9912485,3a,60y,120.23h,86.95t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sT30bu82U7e9IHRCwQ1ShEg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
    However in the late 1960s, the flow capacity of the original (or “main”) spillway was re-evaluated and deemed to be inadequate.
    A way of providing extra spillway capacity had to be devised and implemented quickly. But how?
    Someone came up with the idea of creating an ‘auxiliary spillway’ over the crest of the earth embankment itself. I guess this idea was probably hailed as “brilliant” at the time (and may have even won some kind of design award). It was completed in the early 1970s.
    But with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it can now be seen as a seriously crazy and dangerous concept.
    While it is common for concrete dams to have a spillway washing over them, and there may be some rock embankment dams with spillways running over the embankment, I don’t know of any other earth embankment dam that has a spillway running over the embankment.
    The Whaley Bridge Toddbrook Dam crisis has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with bad engineering.

    • August 4, 2019 7:08 pm

      What I am trying to say is . . It is not so much a case of poor maintenance. That spillway should not have been located there at all.

    • john cooknell permalink
      August 4, 2019 8:57 pm

      The work to the Dam was probably carried out in 1978. The work shows an inner wall of stone, but as we can see the outer wall and core is earth.The reservoir has frequently leaked and required attention since its construction.

      Pictures etc here:-

    • August 4, 2019 8:59 pm

      I can see what you mean!

      I live a mile away from Langsett Dam

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        August 5, 2019 3:04 am

        Not downstream I hope.

        The refusal by the gullible believers of AGW to learn from the past is partly to blame, coupled with an arrogant belief hat they know best is responsible for a lot of disasters. The Johnstown flood disaster of 1889 was caused by inadequate spillways (choked with rubbish) so the water overlapped the earth fill wall. Poor maintenance of the face of the dam wall made disaster certain.

    • August 6, 2019 1:20 pm

      There some regulations for dams that are related to the number of homes (or people?) affected in the event of a failure. One quite low one (proper concrete dam) near me, had to raised by a few feet to comply with the regulations so that could have been the reason for the changes to the spillway. Incidentally we were told by the Chief Engineer that if someone plans to build a large number of houses downstream of the dam then the owner of the dam cannot object to the planning application which could be very expensive for them if the development does goes ahead.

  14. August 4, 2019 7:42 pm

    Annual rainfall in 1872 is the highest on record in the EWP series. The whole year was very wet. The winter 1872-73 was also very mild and wet. If 1872 happened today, we wouldn’t hear the last of it.

  15. Athelstan. permalink
    August 4, 2019 8:03 pm

    There’s a bloody tree growing in that spillway!

    If one looks to the upper right hand side where the failure has occurred, it looks as though the far upper concrete cladding is maybe lifting a tad. Some more frost expansion/contraction since 2016 and I’m willing to bet, the covering slabs – they’d be well loosened and ready to be shifted by the waters blast, soil and grass easily washed out, then water forced gravity pressured vacuum and tilting, thus lifted up and tossed – flung down the spillway.

    A disaster signalling to happen – where TF were the maintenance engineers?

    climate change my arse.

  16. Saighdear permalink
    August 4, 2019 8:58 pm

    Very very interesting indeed – looking back at the historical record, Thankyou , Paul, BUT BUT BUT the local Comics (politicians) are all too ready to spend OUR CASH on especially FLOOD PREVENTION SCHEMES where there is not much recorded info about recorded flooding – just bbc-hype and the unprecedented 1nce na hundert years scenario.

  17. john cooknell permalink
    August 4, 2019 9:02 pm

    The work to the Dam was probably carried out in 1978. The work shows an inner wall of stone, but as we can see the outer wall and core is earth.The reservoir has frequently leaked and required attention since its construction.

    Pictures etc here:-

  18. john cooknell permalink
    August 4, 2019 9:39 pm

    The reservoir required work in 2011 to repair the “pipework” and valves that control water level. Not sure why the level wasn’t controlled. Faulty Valves maybe.

    • August 5, 2019 12:18 am

      The pipes would have been used for the normal operation of the dam – i.e. for feeding water to the canal and the Goyt River – regardless of the water level in the dam. The low-level intake pipe can also be used to empty the reservoir, I doubt they were ever intended to actively “control” the water-level. That is why there is a main spillway – i.e. in wet weather the dam is allowed to fill, and when it is full, it overflows.
      Furthermore the dam operators must have quite reasonably expected the two spillways to do their job properly.

      • john cooknell permalink
        August 5, 2019 10:55 am

        In the old days the reservoir had a “sluice keeper” whose job was to control water flows and keep an eye on things, he lived in the “sluice keepers” cottage adjacent the Dam. The last sluice keeper was a man called David Frith who I think is still alive.

        The sluice keeper was replaced by CCTV etc, and a man in a van. Something has gone wrong with the operation and maintenance of the reservoir.

  19. bobn permalink
    August 4, 2019 10:42 pm

    Vegetation in cracks and joints rapidly expands and weakens a structure. Hence we use a systemic weedkiller (roundup) twice a year to prevent concrete being degraded. However the green zombie alliance is all anti weedkillers like roundup and Greenpeace (the zombies) have been trying for over % yrs to have it outlawed in the EU. Basically the incompetent and corrupt waterways and canals trust has fallen asleep at the wheel, and probably listened to the green zombies and stopped using roundup. Result = failing infrastructure. Sack the waterways Quango for negligence. Indeed take the cost of repairs from their overstuffed pensions. Burn all Quangos – all are corrupt and incompetent.

  20. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 5, 2019 7:36 am

    I watched a local TV interview with either a Canal Trust official or government one who said the dam was inspected last year. What she didn’t say was if it took a week or if it was a “yes it’s still there” inspection

    • Athelstan. permalink
      August 5, 2019 8:49 am

      Even a cursory glance at the spillway would have surely rung some alarm bells, that is, if the inspection was carried out by an engineer worth his salt.

      ah but then ‘due diligence’ is a taboo phrase and it costs – you know.

      • Smoke&Mirrors permalink
        August 5, 2019 10:01 am

        Inspecting is easy and doubtless has been taking place. Understanding what to look for is trickier. Recommending appropriate remedial action is even trickier and getting finance to do the work can be the hardest of all – especially if nobody has had the experience of a breached spillway because of low level neglect and a bit of rustic decay.
        Classic case of corporate memory loss.
        Expect prolonged bluff, fluster and running-for-cover using every spurious excuse in the book.
        ‘Out of their depth’ comes to mind…..

      • dave permalink
        August 5, 2019 10:25 am

        “…’due diligence’ is a taboo phrase…”

        I think you got that wrong. ‘It is ‘diligence’ and particularly ‘special diligence’ which are concepts not used enough. ‘Due diligence’ is everywhere.

        ‘Due diligence’ refers to the PROCESS surrounding ‘diligence.’ It is the BEGINNING of diligence. And if it degenerates into a box-ticking mentality and an automatic blame-shifting strategy, it is also the END of diligence.

        A pilot does ‘due diligence’ when he remembers to use his check-list He uses actual ‘diligence’ when he thinks about the significance of each item on the list. He uses ‘special diligence’ when he uses his special experience to go beyond the check list, and fly the plane safely.

        ‘Diligence’ is simply the opposite of ‘negligence.’ And of course it does depend on the circumstances of the person involved. If I walk by a dam and I see it breaking I will be negligent if I do not tell somebody. If I merely see that it is in poor shape I am not negligent if I keep that observation to myself. If I am paid to watch the dam, however,…

      • Athelstan. permalink
        August 5, 2019 12:24 pm

        Merriam Webster defines ‘due diligence’ as thus,

        law : the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property

        and that’s enough dictionary definition – for me.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 5, 2019 10:57 am

      I picked up from the Daily Mail article that the 2018 inspection was one of the mandatory decadal independently supervised ones. Presumably a similar inspection in 2008 motivated the draining of the reservoir in September 2009 as recorded here

      I wonder if the dam stayed empty until 2011, because it seems to be the same repair they were working on. There seems little doubt that the quality of recent inspections and the response to them has been inadequate.

  21. john cooknell permalink
    August 5, 2019 10:39 am

    After watching the Assistant Chief Constable of Derbyshire explain the “serious” situation I concluded that this must be fantasy and perhaps a pantomime, to get on nowadays you obviously need funny hair! (Trump and Boris have been upstaged! well done)

    Nothing got flooded or damaged, apart from the spillway. So this is serious?

  22. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 5, 2019 12:10 pm

    Finally the BBC starts to ask the right question.

    Whaley Bridge: How well was the dam maintained?

  23. john cooknell permalink
    August 5, 2019 1:28 pm

    The BBC are changing tack. Shukman with egg on his face again, but he doesn’t see his confirmation bias, the easiest person to fool is yourself.

  24. Kenneth Belcher permalink
    August 5, 2019 1:59 pm

    Without blaming who ever should the dam not be corrected back to full strength properly because of human safety and homes etc . Is it not time for our goverment to do something sensible for once instead off being tied down by the Brexit God and put it right .

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 5, 2019 2:43 pm

      I think Boris promised that during his visit to the dam. He seemed to have been well briefed, and showed signs that he actually understood the briefing.

  25. Jamal Munshi permalink
    August 6, 2019 12:11 pm

    Also this

    On Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 5:00 PM NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT wrote:

    > Paul Homewood posted: “By Paul Homewood Whaley Bridge Flooding is > nothing new for Whaley Bridge One of the worst floods on record took place > on 19th June 1872. This account comes from the Flood Chronologies database, > set up by a team at Newcastle University, sour” >

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