DEATH and devastation were brought to Ilkley when a great flood tore through its streets 120 years ago.

One man lost his life and many others came perilously close to losing theirs as torrents wreacked havoc on the town.

Newspapers reports described the “sad scenes of ruin” left by the storm and flood on July 14, 1900 - with one stating “The damage done in Ilkley requires to be seen to be believed.”

The Leeds Mercury reported how normally peaceful becks became raging torrents, rushing down from the moor with “astounding force and volume”.

The report, supplied by Ilkley local historian Alex Cockshott, said:”For hours some of the streets were veritable streams strewn with boulders, bushes and masses of asphelt, torn from the side-paths.”

The most devastating damage, and a fatality, happened with the collapse of a coach-builder’s premises on Bolton Bridge Road, owned by Mr Brogden.

The newspaper said:” Just before this happened three of Mr Brogden’s sons, together with the blacksmith, were at work, one of them (Alfred Brogden) being engaged in an upper room. The first to foresee the calamity, Alfred gave the alarm to his companions in the lower room, who escaped only a few second before the whole structure collapsed. Ultimately, after some two or three hours search, the dead body of the young man was discovered, buried beneath the remains of one of the carriages at the rear of the premises.

“Mr Brogden, the father, was absent from home at the time on an excursion with the choir of St Margaret’s Church to Patterdale, and he did not hear of the sad news and blow to his fortunes until he arrived at Shipley on his return and was met by one of his sons, who had gone to break the tidings to him.”

Nearby cottages in Chapel Lane were left covered in mud and sand three or four feet deep and were uninhabitable. A culvert running under Brook Street burst and the surface of the road was thrown up in several place.

The newspaper reported: “Queen’s Road presents a strange spectacle. The Parish Ghyll beck has brought down huge stones in its course, and these have been hurled far upon the road, breaking lamp-posts and sweeping away such fences as came into contact with them.

It described how nature “shows herself in one of her malignant moods”, with boulders weighing nearly a ton being hurled down the bed of the beck.

It said:”The culvert at the head of Heber’s Ghyll is gone, and with it has been demolished nearly all of the many rustic bridges that were erected for the convenience of pedestrians following the course of the beck. In several places too, the path has been washed away, and at one point where the bank has collapsed and a huge hole been torn in the path a new Valley of Desolation presents itself to the gaze.”

A booklet showing pictures of the damage was produced in 1901and went on sale for one shilling. Some of the images from the Shuttleworth publication are reproduced here with permission from Sally Gunton.

The booklet said:”A thunderstorm of extraordinary severity was the first indication of coming disaster, accompanied by a two hours’ heavy and persistent downpour of rain, which in a very short time converted the four streams flowing through the township from the Moor in fierce, raging torrents, causing loss of life and the destruction of much valuable property of all kinds, from the demolition of business premises, houses and bridges, downwards. The damage is variously estimated at figures ranging from £50,000 to £70,000. In its destructive effects the flood is believed to be unparalleled in the history of the Valley.”