The Golden Lion at Todmorden

Kay Chown shares her account of the heartening events that unfolded after this well-loved Todmorden pub on the Rochdale Canal was flooded on Boxing Day.

The Golden Lion The Golden Lion

The Golden Lion is a spacious pub and music venue next to the Rochdale Canal in Todmorden. The floor is covered in easily-cleaned flagstones for a reason – it was closed for two years after the 2012 floods and again on Boxing Day 2015. Kay Chown works behind the bar and was there for the flooding, and for the incredible community clean-up that followed.

I was staying in Hebden Bridge and I was woken up by the sound of the river bursting its banks. It sounded like a train going right past the window, a massive whooshing noise. I realised that my house and my workplace were going to be in big trouble, so I walked home across Halifax Road. It’s not a journey I ever want to repeat because I was wading through water up to my chest in places. The river and the canal had merged into one.

I got home and grabbed my dog. I put my favourite chair on top of a table, put my massage bed upstairs – because that’s half my income – grabbed a change of clothes and abandoned the house because water was coming in quite fast. I didn't even shut the front door. I went to my friend’s house up the hill.  

I could see water spewing through the windows of the Lion. The river had come over the floodwall and there was a torrent surging through the pub. It burst through the front door, through the windows, it came in at the back. There was literally a torrent of water.

Things weren’t looking great and I really was thinking the worst. The Golden Lion landlady, Gig, posted something on Facebook to the effect of 'right, when the water has died down tomorrow we’re all going to clear up'. She sounded so positive and practical. The next morning I went to the town hall – they were already really well organised – got some buckets, mops and cleaning products. When I got home there were four people, total strangers, waiting outside my house, asking if I needed any help. I went through the drill: rip the floor up, take all the furniture out, scoop all the muck up, then start mopping. Because there were five of us it took two hours instead of five.

By the time I got to the Golden Lion there was already 40 or 50 people cleaning up. Gig was here in a pair of silver hotpants. People were cleaning the silt and muck outside. We had people hosing the floor and brushing it down. We had a lovely guy who’s a head chef at a pub in Littleborough decontaminating the kitchen. It was a hive of worker ants all knowing exactly what they’re doing. We got our heads down and cracked on and we opened for New Years Eve. I went from total despair to feeling properly elated.

It refocused people about what they value. The thought of losing the Golden Lion was horrifying to people. It’s not just a bog-standard pub. We have a lot of live music, upstairs and downstairs, open mic nights and a lot of community groups meet up here.

There’s a lot going on in Todmorden, and the thought of that being lost was horrific. We’re a small community and we’re coming out of a long period of depression. So much good has come out of it, that sense of empowerment in the community. It was an authentic expression of genuine productive and resourcefulness. It was a feeling of being really blessed.

Last date edited: 4 March 2016