History of landslides

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Baker Fold

Halifax

The recent landslip above New Bank, Halifax, which has resulted in a second closure of Prospect Street in a few months, is a reminder of the instability of several of the hillsides to the north and north-east of the Town.

For instance, in 1855 there was a minor landslide in a wood on the hilltop above Brow Lane in the upper Shibden valley, which left a crevice ten feet deep; in the light of events the following year, it is considered that this may have caused serious instability.

Early December 1856 saw a heavy snowfall, followed by a rapid thaw.

About midnight on the 6th, the residents of Stump Cross were suddenly aware of a strange rumbling sound. Those who went to investigate, could vaguely make out that the upper part of the steep hillside up the valley beginning to slide downwards.

As it descended, this mass of earth and sludge brought with it many trees and rocks, although the detail would not be fully realised until morning. At that time it was discovered that the whole of the wood on the upper part of the hillside had entirely disappeared, all the trees having been uprooted and carried down under the pressure of the slipping soil to the road at the bottom. Twenty yards of Brow Lane were forced about ten yards from position; fences and walls had been destroyed, and the locality was described as appearing as though it had “been the scene of an earthquake.” The lower slopes of the hillside were littered with uprooted trees and blocks of stone. A stream of sludge was oozing down Brow Lane and Kell Lane, accumulating near the Stump Cross Inn, where the landlord had to lay a plank across this to reach his back entrance. Up on the hillside that midnight when the landslip started, were three young men, one of whom was the son of the Stump Cross toll-bar keeper.

As the ground gave way under them, they sank up to their thighs in the wet soil and sludge; it was a challenge to extricate themselves from the sliding mass, but they succeeded. A man who had walking along one of the lanes at the time of the slip, told a reporter that he had to run for his life to escape from the descending mass. These were narrow escapes, but fortunately there was no loss of life.

David C Glover