A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 10


Close to Mr. Trickett's premises were three cottages, which were swept completely away. The one nearest the river was occupied by Mrs. Hannah Spooner, her sons Jonathan and Henry, her brother in law Benjamin, a little grand daughter, and a young man named Charles Wood. All were drowned except Henry Spooner and Charles Wood, who had a very narrow escape. Wood was lying awake, and heard the noise of the water coming. When it rose in the house he said, "It will blow the house up if it goes on in this fashion." Just as he uttered the words he was swept out of the window with the bed upon which he was lying, and carried across the Rivelin, which here joins the Loxley, into a field on the opposite bank. He shouted out for help, which came in a short time, and he was removed to the Anvil public house in a very exhausted condition. Henry Spooner was also carried across the Rivelin, and rescued in a similar manner. The other two cottages close by were occupied by a married couple named James and Mary Bagshawe, and a family consisting of John Hudson, his wife, and three children. All were drowned.


The populous village of Malin Bridge experienced the full fury of the flood, and suffered to an extent which is truly appalling. Within a distance of only a few hundred yards more than twenty houses were destroyed, and no less than one hundred and two lives were sacrificed. Standing near the site of Mr. Trickett's house, and looking down the stream, the spectator beheld such a scene of ruin as has seldom been equalled. A bombardment with the newest and most powerful artillery could hardly have proved so destructive, and could not possibly have been nearly so fatal to human life. The two bridges which here crossed the rivers were completely swept away; the rocks were torn up; whole rows of cottages were demolished; grinding wheels and workshops were destroyed; and the land on which houses stood was transformed into a vast quagmire of mud, interspersed with stones, trees, wrecks of houses, machinery, furniture, barrels, mattresses, and every conceivable article scattered about in the wildest confusion. Here might be seen an iron bedstead, on which had recently reposed some one who had been swept off perhaps while yet asleep. There lies a kitchen dresser, and yonder a broken perambulator, while bits of oil cloth, and fragments of crockery, tell of the way in which houses have been invaded, and the apparatus of domestic life demolished. Here in the mud lies an enormous pig, and yonder a horse which has been washed out of its stable, while not far off, half embedded in mud, is a wagon, upside down, and minus one of its wheels. The stones were mostly separated from one another, but the adhesive properties of mortar are visible in the large pieces of brick walls which have held together, notwithstanding the hydraulic pressure to which they have been subjected.

It might at first be supposed that the flood, after having travelled some four or five miles, would have expended a good deal of its force, and have lost something of its volume. The very contrary, however, was the fact. From the reservoir to Malin Bridge the ravine in which the river flows is generally very narrow, and the descent rapid. At Malin Bridge the valley widens out considerably into an extensive plain, upon which the flood poured with augmented velocity, and with volume increased by the contents of the numerous dams which, to use the expression of the Government inspector, it "licked up" in its downward career. Those who saw the flood coming say that the only description they can give of it is that it was indescribable; and that the noise resembled a thousand steam engines letting off their steam simultaneously. The flood lifted up the houses, turned them over, and then rolled across the ruins. houses were falling, trees were cracking, the wind was howling, women and children were shrieking, and all dismal sounds were commingling as though Pandemonium itself were holding its jubilee.


On the left hand side of the river, facing downwards, stood a row of twelve cottages and two shops, the whole of which were washed away so completely that no one would have imagined the site had ever been occupied by human dwellings. Among the families drowned here were Joseph Crapper, shoemaker, his wife, and a child, Mrs. Etchell, a widow, who kept a school; Joseph Goddard, his wife, and two or three children; William Sellars and wife; Henry Jevisson, his wife, and son; George Barrett, shoemaker, his wife, child, and a lodger named Ann Pearson.

Mr. Price, who lived in a house beyond the end of this row, was a general shopkeeper, and supplied the village with goods of almost every description. There was the old man and his wife; and the son and his wife, his children, and two servants, in this house. There was also a visitor from Mortomley, named Hannah Hill. She was a fine young woman, about seventeen years of age, the daughter of Jacob Hill, of Mortomley. She was a relative of the Price's, and only a day or two before the flood she had been sent for to wait upon the younger Mrs. Price. The male servant or labourer was Walter Damms. He was a grinder by trade, and came from Hampden View. Young Mrs. Price had been confined only two days before the flood came. The infant was washed out of her arms, and the mother was found dead among the ruins on the road. The water struck the foundations of this house, and it was down in an instant. All its inmates were drowned. Some days afterwards a gold watch which belonged to Charles Price was picked up in the neighbourhood. It got into honest hands, and was given up to the friends of the deceased.

Ann Mount, a small shopkeeper, lived in this row. She had not gone to bed, and the watchman on his round spoke to her at the door a few minutes before the flood came down the valley. He saw the water coming, and he said to Mrs. Mount, "What is that coming ? It must be a flood." Mrs. Mount then went into her house for safety, and shut the door. The watchman ran up the hill to the Yew Tree public house, and had a very narrow escape of losing his life. Mrs. Mount was drowned, and her house demolished entirely.


William Watson, who lived in the same row of houses, had a most extraordinary and perilous escape. His house was destroyed, and he, his wife, and two children, and his wife's father, John Oakley, were washed down by the flood. They kept near together for some little distance; but soon Watson's wife and children were separated from him, and he was carried down some hundreds of yards below to a house occupied by Mr. Widdowson and family. Against this house the flood had piled up trees and debris to a considerable height and Watson, who had all this time been holding on to a balk of timber, was floated on to the top of the heap of debris, right against a window. He called out for help and alarmed the inmates. They came to the window, but it could not be opened, as it only went on to a staircase. A bedroom window above was, however, opened, and Watson was pulled in, naked as he was, and in an almost exhausted condition. Watson's wife and children and father in law all perished.


In a detached house near the row already mentioned lived Thomas Spooner, his wife, seven children, and an old man, aged 70, named William Wolstenholme, the father of Mrs. Spooner. There were ten persons in the house, and not one survived. Mrs. Caroline Sellars was the daughter of old Wolstenholme; she and her husband were also drowned, making twelve in one family who were swept away by the flood.


The Stag public house was situated opposite the row of houses which were destroyed at Malin Bridge. The following is a list of its occupants, who were all drowned --Eliza Armitage, aged 67; William Armitage, aged 37; his wife Ann, aged 42; five children of William Armitage; a servant named Elizabeth Crownshaw, and two lodgers, named James Frith and Henry Hall. The house was swept away, and all the inmates were drowned. The body of Mrs. Armitage was found with nothing upon it except a pair of stockings. The servant, Elizabeth Crownshaw, had been there only a few days. Her brother, Joseph Crownshaw, who lives near Wisewood Works, higher up the valley, had just got home from Sheffield when he saw the flood coming. He immediately thought of his sister at the Stag Inn, and resolved to set off to her rescue. When he had proceeded only a few yards the water knocked him down, and he fell on his back. He managed to get up again, and it was all he could do to save himself.

At the back of the Stag Inn, several cottages were demolished, and in them were drowned Thomas Bates, his wife, and two children; Thomas Bullond or Bullard, and his wife; also Greaves Armitage, his wife, and two children. Greaves Armitage was brother to Mr Armitage, of the Stag Inn; so that there were twelve of this family drowned.


Nearly opposite to the Stag Inn stood the Malin Bridge Inn, better known as the Cleakum public house, occupied by George Bisby, his wife, and four or five children, who were all drowned. The ruins of this place attracted the notice of all visitors from its very picturesque and extraordinary appearance. A strong chimney stack, which formed the centre of the house, was left standing with a small portion of the walls of the building. The interior was completely exposed, the floors of the rooms were hanging down supported only at two sides, and altogether the ruins were such as to strike the mind of the visitor with wonder that the destruction should have gone so far and yet have stopped where it did.

In some of the accounts which have been published the singular ruins in question are mentioned as belonging to the Stag Inn. This is a mistake. The Stag inn was destroyed except some outbuildings. The Cleakum Inn was left standing upright to the height of three stories, so far as regards the chimney stack and a portion of the walls.

The following anecdote is related in connection with the Cleakum Inn. Some days after the flood a girl named Bisby, about seventeen years of age, the only survivor of the family, she having been from home at the time of the flood, was seen near the wreck of her father's house, apparently in great distress. "With eyes red with tears, she was searching the ruins for mementoes of her lost family, gathering together teacups and saucers and other relics which overhanging stones had preserved more or less completely from destruction. Sympathising visitors clustered round her, to console her distress offering shillings and sixpences for relics not worth a straw. Apparently the poor girl cared nothing for the money, but she allowed the visitors to have their way as regarded all but a few relics to which she clung as too precious to be parted with. Brawny men were to be seen cramming saucers, cups, &c., thus purchased, into their pockets, declaring with tremulous voices their intention to preserve them as mementoes of the sad calamity, but evidently caring more about helping the poor girl in this delicate way than about the relics themselves."

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