The Return of the King

Saturday, 4th November 2000, West Yorkshire
kingfisher A KINGFISHER perches on the edge of the towpath, then darts across the canal to perch in a willow. Kingfishers were a regular sight on this stretch of the canal last year but we've seen them only on rare occasions this year.

Perhaps the rising levels of brown muddy waters have driven this bird from a regular riverside beat.

From Luddites to Landslips

My sister rings and mentions that she's just read on the Ceefax travel news that the Huddersfield Road is down to a single lane at Horbury Bridge because of a landslide caused by the flooding. Barbara and I walk out to take a look.

landslip The landslide is on an embanked section of the road well out of the reach of the floodwaters, over 50 yards from the river. The clay of the banking has failed, taking part of an access track and a retaining wall with it. Luckily it appears no-one was standing nearby when it went.

An arc of a crack has opened up within a few yards of the main road which indicates where the next landslide could occur if there is any more movement.

This kind of landslide or landslip is sometimes referred to as a Listric (literally 'spoon-shaped') Fault by geologists. There is an eroded remnant of a much larger example in quarry waste on the slope of nearby Storrs Hill.

The exceptionally wet weather (yesterday York faced the highest flood levels since 1625) may have triggered the landslide, not only by soaking into the slope and increasing the weight of the clay but also by lubricating the curved fault plane that developed as the unconsolidated material in the embankment came under stress.

For a hundred years a stoutly built mill acted as a support for the slope. This was demolished about eight or nine years ago and work has recently started on developing the site as a builders' merchants supplies yard.

Luddites The stone-built woollen mill that stood here was targetted by the Luddites in April 1812. The lane that joins the main road adjacent to the landslip is known as Engine Lane because the town's first stationary steam engine was installed in a mill here. Henry Clarkson, writing in Memories of Merry Wakefield (1887), recalled the attack on Foster's Mill, which took place around about 1810;
Mr Foster, the owner of a mill at Horbury bridge, had been threatened, and as a precaution, two of his sons were placed in the mill, to watch during the night. The Luddites came; broke into the mill, bound the two young men, hand and foot; broke the machinery, and set fire to the mill. I perfectly recollect walking over the next morning, with my brothers, to see the wreck; and we spoke with the two young Fosters, who had been rescued.

Horbury Bridge has continued to have an eventful history. When Sabine Baring-Gould wrote a book inspired by the time he spent at the 'Brigg' he called it Through Flood and Flame (1868).next page


Clarkson quote in full.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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