A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 12


In another house at Hill Bridge lived Robert Graham, his wife, and six children. They were awoke by the water breaking into their bedroom. They got up as soon as possible, but in a few minutes a brick wall of the house fell upon them, and knocked them down into the water. Robert Graham, by very extraordinary exertions, managed to get his wife and children out of the water, and place them all upon a bed which was in the room. The water raised the bed off the floor, and floated it about. Graham had great difficulty in preventing his wife and children from tumbling out, but he begged them to keep quiet, and not to try to escape. They remained where they were, in the bed, floating about, till the flood subsided, and the bed again rested upon the chamber floor. Graham himself was partially covered with water, but he maintained his self possession. At length assistance came, and all the family were rescued.


Very near to the house of Henry Whittles at Hill Bridge, was the Masons' Arms public house, kept by William Pickering. The house was almost destroyed, the interior exposed, and all the furniture swept away. In the house at the time of the flood, besides Pickering himself, were his wife, his sister, a lodger, and a little girl, a niece, eight years of age. All were drowned, except the little girl. She slept by herself in a bed in a chamber on the top storey of the house, higher than the line to which the water rose. When the neighbours went to the house on the morning after the flood, they found that nearly everything had been swept away, but on going to the upper chamber they were astonished to find the little girl in bed and fast asleep. They awoke her, and took her to a place of safety. The house was swept away except a little corner on which the girl's bed stood. Upon being questioned she said-- "I heard a noise in the middle of the night. I thought the gas was blowing up down stairs. I heard my uncle go down stairs, and thought he was going to see if the gas had blown up. I then heard my aunt go down, and call out for help. Her sister went to her, and I then heard them both cry out for help. I heard nothing more, and went to sleep soon afterwards."


In another house at Hill Bridge, lived Thomas Booth, his wife and four or five children, and in the next house lived a man named Proctor. Being sensible of the peril to which the Booths were exposed, Proctor broke a hole through his own bedroom into the bedroom of the Booths, and rescued Mr. Booth and all his family.


At Bower's Row, Hill Bridge, on somewhat higher ground than that occupied by the houses whose destruction has been described, lived a man named William Crookes. When the flood came, he heard the roar of the water, and the screams of the neighbours. He was so alarmed that he thought his own house was going to be swept away; and so to save himself, as he thought, he jumped out of his bedroom window on to the road. His wife tried to prevent him from adopting such a course, but he was so frightened that he could not be persuaded to stay in the house. The water flooded the chamber, but not to such an extent as to imperil the lives of those who were in it. When Crookes jumped out of the window, he of course fell into the water and a quantity of it got into his mouth and down his throat. The water was thick with mud and dirt brought down from the embankment. Crookes was soon got out of the water, and taken into the house again; but he died next morning from the bruises he had received, and from mud getting into the organs of digestion.


The scenes just described took place on the right bank of the river, coming down the valley. We must now resume the narrative on the other side of the stream a little higher up. Between Malin Bridge and Hillsbro' the flood made a clean sweep across the fields and road, obliterating the landmarks, knocking down and carrying away the walls, tearing up the trees by their roots, and covering a large tract of land with a thick layer of mud, embedded in which were fragments of houses, pieces of furniture, bedding, machinery, rolls of wire, casks, fire irons, boots, shoes, and articles of almost every description. There were no houses on the left bank for a considerable distance from the river. The first houses were a row of three storied buildings, of modern construction and respectable external appearance. They were called Brick Row. Down the back and front of these houses the flood poured with great impetuosity. They were submerged to the top of the ceilings in the bedrooms, and the mud upon them showed that the water had risen from sixteen to eighteen feet above the roadway. The first house was partially destroyed. Its remains presented a very extraordinary appearance, and greatly attracted the notice of visitors. A portion of both the end and the side wall was swept away, leaving the interior exposed. The next house was similarly damaged, though not so seriously, and all the houses in the row suffered greatly. The doors and windows were burst open, partition walls knocked down, and the cellars filled with water and mud. In one of these houses it was noticed that a clock had stopped at twenty seven minutes past twelve, so that the flood had been rather more than half an hour in travelling from the reservoir to this point. The partial destruction of these houses disclosed the mode of their construction. They had evidently been run up, by contract, on the cheapest scale, and in the slightest manner. What with five inch walls, and floor-joists to match, the wonder is that the whole row did not fall to pieces. Lower down several houses were wholly or partially destroyed. The Hillsbro' Inn, a strong stone building, was damaged, the water rushing into its lower stories, forcing up the flooring, and bursting out at the doors and windows. Much of the furniture was ruined. Across the road, the premises of Mr. Woodcock, maltster, were flooded and injured. Next door is the Shakespeare Inn, in which the cellars were filled with water, and the lower rooms were covered with mud. The Flood swept large trees and stones across the Wadsley and Langsett turnpike road, and piled them up in front of the national school and by the side of the police station.

The strong stone bridge at Hillsbro' was greatly damaged the walls and parapets being swept away, and part of the structure itself being destroyed. The force of the water was shown by the distance to which the immense stones on this bridge were carried down the stream.

It is stated, on good authority, that an entire brick house, with its walls, roof, and flooring all complete, was carried down as far as the bridge, and that it held together for some hours.

We must now relate some of the more striking incidents which occurred in this locality.


The first house in Brick Row, Hillsbro', was occupied by Joseph Dyson, his wife, five children, a lodger named Samuel Senior, an apprentice named Richard Snape, and Dyson's brother. All were drowned except the last, whose escape was very extraordinary. He was sleeping in the top bedroom, and was awoke by the roar of the flood as it struck against the building. Finding that it was impossible to escape by going down stairs, he smashed a portion of the lath and plaster partition, got on to the joists beneath the roof, then broke through the slates, and got on to the roof of the building, where he remained, cold and naked, and in the dark, for two hours before assistance arrived. The hole in the ceiling and roof through which Dyson's brother escaped, was much noticed by visitors to the scene.

In Brick Row, the houses are single, and Dyson's was at the back. In the front lived a man named Joseph Hides, with his brother and sister in law. They were awoke by the noise of the approaching water. Hides lighted a candle to see what was the matter, and was going down stairs when the flood struck the gable end of the building, and cut it in two, leaving an opening into Dyson's house, which was in great part demolished. Hides had a narrow escape from falling into the foaming and raging waters below. As it was, his light was extinguished, and one of his fingers was broken. It was some moments before he recovered from the shock; but when he did so, he went up stairs to the rest of his family, who were screaming for help. The house shook dreadfully, and seemed as though it were about to fall. Seeing this, Hides wrenched off a bedpost, which he used as a battering ram against the partition wall of the next house, into which he soon effected an entrance, and was there joined by its terrified inmates, who were alarmed not only at the roaring flood, but also by the fierce bombardment to which their house had been subjected. Hides and his companions did not even then feel safe, as the houses were still rocking as though they were about to tumble. They therefore broke into the next house, and so on through the walls of four houses, taking along with them the inmates of each house through which they passed, until, when they stopped, there was an assemblage of four or five families, all in one chamber, of both sexes, and all ages, most of them having nothing on but their night clothes. A strange and motley group they were, screaming, and shrieking, and calling out for help, which did not come till some hours afterwards.


There were several other narrow escapes in Brick Row, and also great loss of life. In one of the next houses to Dyson's, the inmates, named Cooper, saved themselves by escaping to the garret, above the reach of the flood. Mr. Cooper himself, after the flood had subsided, seeing some of the neighbours out in the street, asked them how they had got out. They replied that they had got down the stairs. Upon this Cooper attempted to go down stairs, his wife following him, with a little girl in her arms. When Cooper had got down a few steps he fell right into the cellar, the staircase having been swept away, which he did not discover, it being still dark. He was covered with water and mud, but managed to get out. When his wife saw her husband fall, she screamed out, and ran back into the garret, where she remained until help arrived.

In one of the houses in Brick Row was a family named Birks. Mrs. Birks had been confined only about three hours when the flood came. Her bed floated about in the water, which was nearly four feet deep in the chamber. Her husband held the poor woman in bed while it floated about the room. Mrs. Birks, though greatly excited did not sustain any material injury.

In another house near Brick Row, two children named Atkinson were carried out of the window along with the bed on which they were lying, and were both drowned. James Atkinson, his wife, and three children, were drowned, as were also William Atkinson and his family, together with George Atkinson and his wife. Isaac Drabble, his wife, and two children, met the same fate. Two families, one named Turner, and one named Taplin, were also swept away, along with their houses.

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