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History Society Report

Seven Centuries of Recorded Floods in the Calder Valley

Speaker: Nick Wilding

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Thirty people struggled through snow and blizzards to attend a talk on the subject of floods. Nick Wilding, local filmmaker, spoke about ‘Seven Centuries of Floods in the Calder Valley’ at a meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. After two years of research and illustrating his material with photos, newspaper articles and film, Nick set about comparing recent 21st Century floods with others in the past.  He showed the way storms in the Calder Valley have affected not only our valley but others in Yorkshire, Lancashire and beyond. He then shared with everyone his own exploration up some of the Calder Valley’s tributaries responsible for past inundations.


Nick accepted that global warming might have exacerbated frequency in recent years, but outlined other contributory factors and diagnosed the Calder Valley’s 114 floods within seven hundred years and its vulnerability to flooding as being symptomatic of human interference.

He assessed the impact upon roads, railways, culverts, quarries, drains, reservoirs and the canal. Boxing Day 2015 is now confirmed by meteorologists as the climax of several hundred years of inundation, but Nick revealed that it could have been worse. He praised the current community flood prevention work and also some of the flood prevention schemes proposed in the past and abandoned at the start of the Second World War, but expressed concern about the choice of current engineering schemes.

He concluded by saying none of this work will be effective, unless Governments of all colours consider the long-term future and change their attitude to regular maintenance. They consider the cost is too great, but they need to look at the destructive cost of the floods themselves, currently approaching £5 billion and rising.

“The Environment Agency” Nick said, “will spend their £60 million on capital high profile projects and then return to their base in Bristol and I fear that future generations will look back the money spent in this period of history as a terrible wasted opportunity”.

This was such an important and relevant subject that it was a shame that so many people were prevented from attending by the weather. The intention is that the talk will be repeated at the end of the current season, some time in April. The society will inform everyone when the date is arranged.

In the meantime you can see the research undertaken by Nick Wilding and others in a Local History Society exhibition currently at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. This will run until the end of March. Drop in and have a look. 

The next Hebden Bridge Local History talk will be in Hebden Royd Methodist Church on Wednesday 14th March at 7.30 pm, when Dr Paul Dalton from Canterbury Christ Church University will talk about ‘The Norman conquest of Yorkshire’, the nature of the resistance to it and the brutal measures William the Conqueror used to overcome it, including his infamous ‘harrying of the North’, a truly fascinating subject and everyone is welcome.

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Details of all the Society’s activities can be found on the website and you can also follow them on their Facebook page.

See also

Hebden Bridge History Website

HebWeb History section