A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 11


Between the Stag Inn and the river was a row of five or six file cutters' shops, occupied by John Eyre, Thomas Howe, William Coates, Mark Fairest, Edward Harper, and J. W. Ibbotson. In these shops three file makers and eighteen file cutters formerly pursued their operations. The buildings were swept entirely away, except that two or three stocks, at which the file cutters worked, might be seen in the midst of the vast plain of mud and sand and the debris of the flood The river here has changed its course considerably, and now flows over the site of some of the file cutters' shops which were destroyed At the top of Malin Bridge, on the river bank, the grinding wheels of Messrs. Butler, Wilson, and Co., and of Mr. John Wilson, have entirely disappeared.


In some of the accounts which appeared at the time, the village of Malin Bridge was represented as having been entirely swept away This was an exaggeration in a case in which the real facts were sufficiently sensational and appalling. Besides several detached or partially detached houses which escaped, a whole row of about twenty four stone houses, called Holme Row, was left standing. They were all very much flooded, and in some cases doors and partition walls were knocked down, but the external walls were nearly uninjured, and there was no loss of life in this row. There were, however, several narrow escapes. Mrs. Howe, the wife of Thomas Howe, was lying on a sofa down stairs waiting for her husband when the flood came. The water rose to nearly the ceiling; but she managed to escape on to the stairs. An apprentice in the same house escaped in a similar manner. John Eyre, who lived in the same row, came down stairs, and the water rose up as high as his mouth. He then burst a hole through the wall into the next house, and was rescued.

The escape of this row of houses is attributable partly to the force of the water being broken by the adjacent buildings, and partly to the houses being more substantially erected. The first house in the row, occupied by Mr. Scholey, tailor, was less flooded than any other. One cause of this was that the cellar grate had been closed up, and another was that the front door had been firmly wedged up, so that the water could not burst it open. In this house there were only seven inches of water in the cellar, and four inches in the house. All the other houses were completely flooded, the doors were burst open, and some of the furniture was swept away or destroyed. Mr. Scholey is of opinion that if the water had got into his cellar and house to the same extent the whole row would have been completely demolished. In the wall at the gable end of Mr. Scholey's house a piece of wood has been forced by the water between the stones so deeply and tightly as to be immovable and so as to form part of the building. This is regarded as an extraordinary proof of the force of the current.

The inhabitants of this row were in a position to witness the full horrors of the flood. They say that the water came at once and went at once, and continued at its full height about a quarter of an hour. Most of them got up and put on their clothes, but they could not leave their houses in consequence of the water being in the lower rooms. At the windows of the houses the inmates were shrieking and crying out, not knowing the extent of the disaster, and expecting every moment that they too might be overwhelmed. A long and dreary time it seemed before the morning came.

 "Too slowly move the hours, with leaden flight
And sluggish pause, through all this dreadful night !"

And when morning did come what a scene of desolation and ruin presented itself ! Where houses and buildings stood the night before, was a sandy desert, strewed with stones and debris of every description; while the bodies of friends, relatives, and neighbours lay scattered about, without clothing, and covered with mud --

"Swept ignominious to the common mass
Of matter never dignified with life."


We now pass from Malin Bridge across the river to Limerick Wheel. Limerick wheel was occupied by Messrs. Johnson and Barker, and was a crinoline wire manufactory. The destruction of property here was very considerable. The end of a solid stone building was driven in, and the machinery damaged or destroyed. The boiler house was swept away, and two large boilers were left exposed and entirely stripped of their covering. The river banks for a considerable distance below were strewed with rolls of crinoline wire, pieces of machinery, iron castings, and the heavy tools of the workmen. stable was swept away, except one wall, which seemed tottering to its downfall. The damage to these works, including the loss of property in the course of manufacture, is estimated at more than £l0,000. One of the partners was the Mr. Barker who lodged at Mr. Trickett's, and the particulars of whose melancholy fate have already been narrated.

There was one life lost at the Limerick Wheel. Some months previously the men had been working here day and night, but on the Friday night when the flood came there was fortunately only one man in the place. His name was William Bethel or Bethney, and he came from Masbro'. He was on his way home on the night of the flood when he met the carter going to the works with a load of steel. The carter said Bethel must go back to soften the steel that night, or it would keep the other men out of work for some days. Bethel then went back, and was preparing the steel for the subsequent processes of manufacture when he was overtaken by the flood. His body was not found till some weeks afterwards, when it was discovered in the works beneath a heap of rubbish. It was frightfully disfigured and scalded. It is believed that the works were destroyed more by an explosion than by the force of the water. In one furnace there were thirty hundredweight's of steel, and a large quantity in four other furnaces, all red hot, and when the water came in steam would be at once generated to an extent that would cause a fearful explosion, the report of which was actually heard by persons who lived near.

Just above Limerick Wheel are two cottages, which were occupied by persons named Storrs and Middleton These were flooded nearly up to the roof, but the inmates escaped by going into the chambers and keeping as near the ceiling as possible till the water had subsided.


A short distance below the Limerick Wheel, on the same side of the river, is Hill Bridge, where were a good stone bridge across the river, and more than twenty small houses. The bridge was swept away entirely, four or five houses were totally destroyed, and about twenty more or less damaged. Most of these would have been swept away had it not been for the protection afforded by a barricade formed of the accumulation of trees, chairs, sofas, and other articles brought down by the flood. In several of these houses the water rose nearly to the ceilings, and as two of them, occupied by persons named Steward and Crapper, were white-washed outside, a mark was left showing the height to which the water had risen. The water line was nearly on a level with the top of the second storeys, and was looked upon with much interest by visitors, who could not imagine how the flood had risen to such an elevation.

In one of the houses nearby, George Mills and his wife were drowned, and in another house George Snape, a table blade grinder, and his wife, met the same fate.


One of the most extraordinary cases of narrow escape was that of the family of Henry Whittles, of Hill Bridge. The gable of his house was swept away, exposing the interior. In one of the bedrooms, which rested only upon a corner of the building, two of the walls having been washed down, was a stump bedstead. On that bed Whittles placed his wife and five children, and held them firmly upon it, while he supported himself with one hand against the wall. The following is the account given by Whittles himself of this extraordinary escape. He says:-- I was awoke by the flood breaking open the doors and windows. I thought at first it was some one breaking in to rob the house. I jumped out of bed, and set off to go down stairs. The first step I took I was in the water. I ran back, took my wife out of bed, and also the two children who were in the same bed. One of the children was only nine days old. When I had taken them out of bed, the outside walls of the house went directly, and the bed on which my wife and children had been lying was swept away. Another little boy, two years old, I snatched from the bed, just as it was going down, and flung him over my head into another corner of the chamber, which hung by a piece of the wall, and where was a mattress. The whole house was then swept away, except the corner on which I had placed my wife and five children, on the little bed. The corner stood, and I held them there a long time. They were covered with water, and of course were quite undressed. The water tore my shirt off my back, and left me naked. I held my wife and children on the mattress in the corner for more than an hour. While I was holding them, I saw two persons float past in the water, so near to me that I could have touched them both; but if I had attempted to do so I should have lost my wife and children, as they were only kept where they were by my holding them on. The water smelt awful, like a grave that had been newly opened. In about an hour and a quarter George Allen, of Hillsbro', saw grinder, came to see what was the matter. When he saw the house had been destroyed he cried out to his companions that we were all lost. When I heard him say that, I cried out, "No, we are safe in the corner." I reached the children down one by one, and they were all taken out of the house, and conveyed, just as they were, to a place of safety. The water ran clean over the bed, and they had all to stand up on the bed to keep their heads out of the water. We were all very much exhausted, but we all recovered, even the baby which was only nine days old.

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