WE may be getting more used to extremes of weather in this country, but the phenomenon is certainly nothing new.

It is now 120 years ago that freak conditions turned what was normally a gentle beck into a raging torrent, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society has marked the anniversary of the often-forgotten Morton Beck event, spotlighting it in the latest edition of its newsletter – Clogs & Gansey.

At the time of the disaster, the beck was a feeder for the canal.

The Keighley News reported what happened on that fateful day – Thursday July 12, 1900.

“On the uplands of Rombalds Moor – above the village of Morton – there seems to have been what is popularly regarded as a cloud-burst,” it said.

“No other explanation can be given which could account for the sudden turning of the Morton Beck, usually an innocent little stream, into a resistless, devastating torrent, wreaking damage all along its course of two miles to the point where it joins the River Aire.”

The impact on mills and houses located alongside the beck was immense.

In those days, the village was home to a number of paper mills.

Many were affected, but none more so than that of Messrs H & JW Wright.

In our edition published two days after the storm, we reported: “A portion of this mill is built across the stream, from the bed of which rose supporting pillars. The pillars were washed away, and a portion of the masonry on the village side of the stream also gave way. Shorn of this support, the ‘lofts’ – as this part of the establishment is termed – began to give way on Thursday night immediately over the bed of the beck.

“Yesterday morning men were at work propping the building, but a further subsidence took place. One corner of the machine-room was also carried away, and into this room the water had streamed in large quantities.”

Homes were also damaged beyond repair, with part of one property being washed away.

“Rushing down Morton Beck the current dashed into what was then a narrow place,” said the reporter.

“Such was the fury of the waters that they carried away the gable end of the house, furniture and the whole belongings of the family ­– a similar fate befalling the next house, though to a lesser degree.”

A subsequent hand-written report from the engineers department of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company assessed the incident’s impact on the canal.

It stated: “The result was to block the canal at Micklethwaite Bridge. The bridge was completely filled-up.

“We commenced the same night to dredge it out, which was not complete until this morning (worked night and day) when the full loaded boats were able to get away.

“All the feeders on to Stockbridge have brought a considerable quantity of debris into the canal, but not so as to interfere with traffic.

“The weir and dam at Morton feeder is all cleared away to where the water enters the conduit. The beck course is lowered 8ft at that point as a temporary arrangement so as to get the feeder into the canal, instead fixing a wooden trough to convey the water into the feeder mouth. To replace the weir in stonework etc will be a costly job.

“The culvert under the canal has stood alright. However the watercourse before reaching the culvert has completely changed and damaged the bye wash which runs from the canal. This should have attention.

“All the way to Morton, the mills and other buildings have suffered considerable damage.”

Morton Beck continued for a while as a feeder for the canal, supplied through a concrete pipe. The beck runs in a culvert under the canal, directly to the River Aire.