Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Fire At Atkinson's Mill

In my attempt to visit as many pubs as possible before they all close down, I today went to the Beaumont Arms in Kirkheaton. In my attempt to drink as many excellent pints of beer as possible before I die, I had a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord. If you want to find out about the pub or the pint take a look at my Great Yorkshire Pubs blog. But if you want to cross the lane from the pub and step back nearly two hundred years, stay where you are.
In the churchyard opposite the pub there is a monument to "the dreadful fate of seventeen children who fell unhappy victims to a raging fire at Mr. Atkinson's Factory" in February 1818. The monument is a stark stone column pointing towards the grey sky.
One of the panels contains a poem telling of "a parent's anguish for a suffering child". Perhaps it caused a tear or two when it was first erected but the poem somehow left me cold and unmoved.
Another panel states "Near this place lie what remained of the bodies of seventeen children, a striking and awful instance of the uncertainty of life and the vanity of human attainments". Uncertainty of life! Vanity of human attainments! I want to scream out loud. I have read the story of the fire at Atkinson's Mill. The fire started when a boy accidentally ignited some cotton with a candle. The mill doors had been locked by the overseer had gone home to bed, locking the children inside to get on with their work. This story - the truth about what happened in the mill - has not been carved into the fine stone panels. This murder is as unrecorded now as it was on that dreadful night in 1818. Read the names of those eighteen children and then shed a tear.


  1. You're right. The poem didn't give me the warm fuzzies. Mary and Martha Hey must have been twins. Hey, do you know "Hey" (Hay) is a surname in my paternal line? Of course you don't. Just think. I might be distant cousins with these little girls. :^)

  2. Just think - you might be. That's what I love about old graveyards and old sources of information : those "just think" moments.

  3. The owner locked them inside to work while he went home to sleep. Child sad. I wonder if that place is haunted with their ghosts.

    On a brighter note...your goal of drinking as many wonderful pints as possible is a fun one! :)

  4. The poem started well but then lost me halfway through.
    Oo what a sad story though. My imagination is way too vivid!

  5. So sad, Alan. I was a victim of fire but thank God I could run away from it with my life. Those poor children had no chance. I hope the man who locked them in rotted in hellfire.

  6. They Say Many Young Children Lie Buried in unmarked Graves All Over The Pennine Tops.[From The Pre-and Early Industrial Revolution....]On such landmarks was The Empire Built.

  7. That is more than sad--I like Tony's comment, & needless to say the same goes on this side of the pond.

  8. Not to take anything from the tragedy, but I am fascinated by the pattern of names...

    5 Marys, 4 Elizabeths, 2 Ellens, and 2 Sarahs.

    Probably commonplace back then, I guess. That would never happen today, though.

  9. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I would be ever so grateful if some one would tell me please exactly where the mill used to stand.Thankyou,

    1. Anonymous8:41 PM

      the mill is still there we have taken the floor ther for our new auction room opening in april its bradley cntact me on


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