Flooding is not a new phenomenon, writes Robin Longbottom, who examines some of the major storms to hit the area across the centuries

THE recent news that residents of Cononley and Sutton-in-Craven can now register with the Environment Agency and receive advance warning of imminent flooding must be a welcome development in view of the unsettled weather over the past few years.

Floods, of course, have been a sad fact of life over the centuries and are nothing new to our region.

One of the earliest records dates back to 1686 when on February 18 “the whole of England was visited by a tempest”. The district of Craven was subjected to a violent rainstorm and many houses in the villages of Kettlewell and Starbotton were swept away when the water was said to have risen to the “height of an ordinary church steeple”.

Whilst infrequent, such events have recurred every generation or two.

Heavy rain in August and September of 1768 caused severe nationwide flooding. In South Craven, a torrent of rain destroyed Glusburn bridge and Holme bridge at Sutton. Cattle and sheep were drowned, and crops destroyed. Low lying roads were under water, with the flow so powerful that they were said to be impassable even by the strongest horses.

On December 3, 1847, a rainstorm lasting five or six hours caused severe flooding along the entire upper Aire Valley, the streams along its course bursting their banks. The deluge was so strong in Keighley that it carried a steam boiler belonging to George Hattersley & Co two hundred yards downstream.

However, this event was completely overshadowed by the great storm in November 1866 when it was reported that the whole of the Aire Valley “had the appearance of one vast lake”. The Keighley side of Stockbridge was under water and Bradford Road was impassable for four hundred yards. Aireworth Mill and the immediate cottages were flooded, and Dalton Mill was surrounded by water. An old lady living in Dalton Row said she knew “varry weel that summat wod appen after all that star shooting business" (a display of shooting stars had occurred some weeks earlier). In the town itself Low Bridge Mill, Cabbage Mill (now the site of Morrisons supermarket) and houses in Greengate and Beckside were all under water. One resident of a house in Beckside “on awakening at seven o’clock, was astonished to find himself and three children swimming about in bed”. Close by in Greengate a policeman was loudly cheered as he “waded through a strong current of water up to the armpits” to rescue a woman. At Low Mill (next to Aldi supermarket) the weaving shed was partly swept away and higher up the North Beck the dams at Becks Mill and Castle Mill were overflowing and in danger of bursting. The country above and below Keighley was described as having the appearance of a vast sheet of water.

In July 1900 a violent thunderstorm was followed by torrential rain over Rombalds Moor resulting in water rushing down the hillsides and flooding parts of Ilkley, Bingley, Keighley and East Morton. A great deluge drained down Bradup Beck along Sunny Dale at East Morton. The force of water hit the cottages at Upper Mill Row in Ouzel Hole and took away the front wall of two of them. Part of Botany Mill, owned by Messrs E Merrall Ltd of Haworth, was washed away and further damage was caused to two more mills downstream.

Later in the century, in September 1947, flooding again caused damage in Stockbridge, Keighley and at Mill Hey in Haworth. In 2000 Stockbridge was once again flooded and Mill Hey has flooded in 2004 and 2015. The Aire Valley has been subjected to more frequent unseasonal flooding this century and consequently residents in Cononley and Sutton have now been invited to register with the Environment Agency.