Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
Builth and district
The Duhonw flood of 1853
  2-A tragedy at Dolfach  

It is thought that debris washed down the river Duhonw had jammed in a narrow channel and formed a dam. This then sent the water to one side of the narrow Duhonw valley directly towards the cottage at Dolfach.
Dolfach was a smallholding and home to the Lawrence family. It was situated on the river bank where a lane came down to a ford on the Duhonw. (see Victorian map below).

  map of Dolfach in 1888 Powys County Archives

In the cottage that night night were Mrs Jane Lawrence and her daughter Matilda, two grown up grandchildren Charles and Rosa, and two maidservants. A neighbour living across the valley saw what happened. He was awoken by the sounds of his own house being flooded and saw through the window that part of Dolfach had been washed away.

  the flood at Dolfach drawing by Rob Davies

Soon after, the flood waters were pouring through the upstairs windows and then the building was hit by two trees carried along in the flood. Dolfach collapsed into the raging torrent and only the end wall was left standing. All of the poor people inside were drowned.
Mrs Lawrence was found 18 miles away down the Wye and her poor daughter Matilda was found near Llyswen a week later. The two granchildren and the maidservants were found near Builth.

In Victorian times people were used to friends and relatives dying of disease at a young age, but all around the area people were shocked that a whole family could be swept away in the darkness in this way. The tragedy was reported in the Hereford Times, so people across Mid Wales and Herefordshire knew about it.

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