A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 21


The family who lived upon Messrs. Naylor, Vickers, and Co's premises in Millsands had a narrow escape. They lived on a floor below the level of the ground. The man had great difficulty in getting his wife and children to an upper room; but at length he succeeded in doing so. The servant girl, however, was left behind. She got on to the top of a chest of drawers, which was floating about, and after remaining in that position for some time, she was rescued.

When the flood came a considerable number of men were at work at Messrs. Naylor, Vickers, and Co.'s. Some of them climbed up a wall at the top end of the works, and got away. Others got on to the roof of the rolling mill, and rung a large time bell with all their might. The inhabitants on the opposite side of the river were aroused by the sound, and rows of lights were soon visible in the bedroom windows. The people thought there was an explosion or fire at the works.

The watchmen employed at the premises of Messrs. W. E. Laycock and Sons were nearly carried away by the flood, which swept through the works with great fury.


On the opposite side of the river, from the Iron Bridge to the Lady's Bridge, and including a large level plain nearly to the railway, the whole neighbourhood was submerged, and the houses flooded, almost without exception. Along the river side in Nursery street were strong iron railings, fastened with large coping stones. These were all torn down, broken up, or scattered to a distance. Large masses of railings and stones were carried across the street, a distance of eight or ten yards. The works of Messrs. Hawksworth, Eyre, and Co., silver platers, were flooded, various walls knocked down, and the goods greatly injured. The Manchester Railway Hotel had its entire front broken down. At the Nursery Corn Mill, the large stock of grain and flour was rendered worthless. The horses in the stable near the mill, saved themselves by swimming. Several small buildings at the end of Nursery street, near the river, were demolished. All the houses in Nursery street and adjoining streets were flooded to the height of five or six feet, and filled with a layer of thick mud and slime. All the cellars were filled, and many of the inhabitants were held prisoners by the water during the greater part of Saturday. The strong wall and palisadings surrounding Trinity Church, in Nursery street, were knocked down and twisted in a very curious manner. One door of the church was burst open, and the water rushed into the sacred edifice, tearing up some of the pews, and soaking the books, cushions, and hassocks. Of course no service could be held in the church for some time afterwards. Bethseda Chapel, Stanley street, also sustained considerable injury. To enter into detail of the various items of damage in this district would occupy many pages, and would perhaps be tedious. When it is known that at midnight all the houses in this thickly populated part were suddenly surrounded by the flood, and submerged to a height of five, six, and in some cases, eight feet, the rest can be imagined--not completely, indeed, but in its general outlines.


It is somewhat surprising that no more than two lives should have been lost in this large and low lying district. The explanation is that there was more time to warn the inhabitants, and that nearly all of them slept in upstairs rooms, to which the flood did not reach. There were many narrow escapes, but not sufficiently striking to require a detailed notice.

A young man named Jonathan Turner, aged 17, lost his life in Nursery lane. He lodged with a Mrs. Davis, in a small cottage, and occupied as his sleeping apartment a little back room on the ground floor. The water broke a hole in the wall of the house, and poured into the room where Turner was sleeping. The door was shut, and escape was impossible. The water rose nearly up to the ceiling, and the poor young man was drowned.

The other loss of life in this district occurred in Joiner lane, Stanley street. An old man, who got his living by dealing in coals, named Richard Haslehurst, but better known as "Old Dickie," lived here in a low shed, which he turned to the double use of a coal store and a dwelling house. The part devoted to the latter purpose was merely a corner of the room, where the old man slept on the top of a large box, which served him as a bed. When the flood came the old man managed to get out of his little domicile, and was heard to scream for assistance. The water, however, washed him away, and his dead body was found next day in the Wicker.


When the flood was at its height the scene on the Lady's Bridge at the top of the Wicker was most extraordinary. The water came rushing down between the buildings on each side with a force that made the Lady's Bridge quake and tremble. Against the bridge were piled up trees, logs of timber, broken furniture, and debris of every description. The light from street gas lamps revealed to spectators, of whom they were a good many, some of the horrors of the scene. The arches of the bridge were nearly choked by the accumulation of rubbish, and the impeded waters rose to a fearful height, breaking over the parapets of the bridge, and rushing across Mr. White's slate yard over the broad thoroughfare of the Wicker. Here might be discerned a man in a state of nudity, and who had been swept down by the flood, clinging to a lamp post in order to avoid being carried away, and there he perished, as much from the benumbing influence of the cold as from the effects of the water. In the Wicker the shutters of many of the shops were washed down, the doors burst open, and the contents of the shops carried away or destroyed. The losses sustained by many tradesmen here were very serious. In Blonk Street the flood deposited several dead bodies, as well as a vast heap of timber and broken rubbish. The wall at one end of Blonk Bridge was knocked down, together with a portion of the enclosed Cattle Market. The Wicker Tilt was submerged to a great height, and the Killing Shambles across the river were filled with water. Much injury was done at the Tower Wheel, and also at the Hartford Steel Works. Willey Street was submerged, and the inmates of the houses had many of them to escape by getting on to the roofs. In the yard of Mr. Hiller the water rose to the height of about five feet, drowning eleven pigs in their styes. A pony which was in an adjoining stable had a very narrow escape, the water being within a few inches of its head when rescued. Two pigs in an outhouse effected their escape up a flight of stairs into a hay loft when the waters surprised them, and there they were afterwards found alive and well.

In the Wicker Station of the Midland Railway, the water rose to the height of four feet, and prevented the despatch of the trains at the proper time. The warehouses for goods were flooded, and the large doors at the entrance of the coal yard were carried away. Two dead bodies were found in the railway station--one that of a woman in a state of nudity, and the other that of a man partly dressed. A man named Peacock, who slept in one of the coal offices near the Midland Station, was drowned. His body was found in the office of Mr. Bishop, coal merchant, by whom he was employed as a clerk.


Leaving the Wicker Station, down Saville Street the flood poured with great impetuosity, doing more or less damage to all the large works in this locality. The Attercliffe Tollgate house was flooded to the height of four or five feet. Great damage was done at the new works of Messrs. Naylor, Vickers, and Co., at Brightside. The body of an old man who was employed at these works was found afterwards in a garden opposite Newhall. Another watchman upon these premises had a narrow escape. Then the flood came he had only just time to get on to the roof, which he did by breaking a hole through the slates. The meadows, gardens, and houses on the banks of the river in the neighbourhood of Brightside and on to Rotherham, were of course all flooded. The residents in the "Shuttle House," at the head of Sanderson's Dam, slept on although the flood surrounded their house; but they knew nothing of it till they got up at their usual time in the morning. The watchman on duty near Brightside Bridge had a very narrow escape. When passing the bridge he was startled by a singular sound as though the steam from a distant engine had suddenly been let off, and immediately after the flood came rushing down. The water rose rapidly over the bridge and the road. To escape he mounted the wall, intending to walk along it to some place of safety; but in another moment he felt the wall tremble beneath him. He then jumped off it, and rushed through the waters nearly breast high towards the Midland railway, which he succeeded in reaching, and down which he walked to Sheffield.

At Mr. Hornby's chemical works, near Brightside Lane, a man named Thomas Gill was on duty. The torrent knocked down the fence wall, and carried Gill away. His screams for help were heard; but it was impossible for any one to breast the waves by which the poor fellow was surrounded. His cries soon ceased, and were heard no more; for he had perished in the waters, the last victim of the flood.

At Messrs. Jessop's works the damage was very considerable. The works occupy both sides of the river, and the stream rose four feet deep in the yard and about two feet in the shops. Seven steel furnaces had just been charged with twenty four pots each, and the fires lighted. These were all put out, and the steel spoiled. In the stables seven horses were rescued. Mr. John Hanson, manager of the furnaces, occupied a house on the premises. His nephew had a narrow escape, and was only saved by clinging to a wall. Some sheds that had been just erected by the corner of Brightside Bridge are entirely thrown down and partially carried away. The damage at these works is roughly estimated at £2,000.


When the flood had reached two or three miles below Sheffield, it had lost a good deal of its violence and velocity. Between Brightside and Rotherham there are also but few houses or works on the banks of the river, and the damage was therefore not so serious as in the earlier part of the career of the water. The first intimation at Rotherham was given by the driver of the mail cart to Police sergeant Ireland, who was crossing Masbro' Bridge about half past two o'clock. On looking over the bridge he noticed that the water was rapidly rising, and rushing with unusual impetuosity under the bridge. In a few minutes huge trees, every description of household furniture, pigs, massive beams and iron work, carts, &c., came floating past. He immediately aroused the occupiers of the houses in Bridgegate, but before some of them could get down stairs the river had overflowed and several of the cellars were inundated. Immense quantities of wreck were brought down by the current.


Between Rotherham and Doncaster an extraordinary rise in the river was noticed; but the inundation was not such as to excite serious alarm. The authorities at Sheffield telegraphed to the authorities at Doncaster that a large flood might be anticipated. Acting on this the police gave notice to the inhabitants of Marshgate, a district adjacent to the Don and usually affected by floods, and speedily they were preparing for any emergency. However, the force of the flood had expended itself before it reached Doncaster, and although there was an immense volume of water, the damage was very slight, so far as Doncaster itself is concerned. The highest point reached was between nine and ten o'clock on Saturday morning, when an extensive tract of land known as Crimpsall, adjacent to the Great Northern Railway Station, was under water. In the space of a quarter of an hour, at about half past ten, the water had fallen two feet. About eleven o'clock the body of a woman was found in Crimpsall. The body was in a night dress, and was that of a middle aged woman. She had rings on her fingers and ear rings. It was immediately removed to the New River Tavern. Pigs, timber, bed posts, feather beds, chests of drawers, and innumerable other articles came down the stream.


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