A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 16


The premises of Messrs. Joseph Peace & Co., at Neepsend, known by the name of Merchant Works, were considerably damaged. The boundary walls of some unoccupied land near the bridge were thrown down, and four carts were washed away. The entire works were flooded to the height of nearly five feet, and the machinery and the goods in the warehouses were more or less injured. The current burst open the large doors of the works, and carried a cask of files from the top to the bottom of the yard. The stonework of the pavement and the wall into which the doors were bolted were torn up, and two hundred gallons of oil were washed away. The furnaces were put out by the water, and such was the accumulation of mud and dirt that the operations of the works were brought almost to a standstill for some days.

About twenty men who were at work all night had a narrow escape. They happened to be at supper when the flood came; and, alarmed by the roar of its approaching waters, they took refuge in the chamber of the engine house, which they all reached in safety, but not a minute too soon.

Mr. Beevor, and his wife, who live in a house upon the premises, had a narrow escape. Their bedroom was on the ground floor close to the entrance gates of the works. They were awoke in the middle of the night, and at first thought that the men were making a disturbance, and that there was a heavy shower of rain. Mr. Beevor jumped out of bed, and opened the window to see what was the matter. No sooner had he done so than the water rushed in, and filled the room, till the heavy four post bedstead, with Mrs. Beevor upon the bed, floated on the water nearly up to the ceiling, and at the same time turned round till its original position in the room was reversed. It should be mentioned that Mrs. Beevor was an invalid. Mr. Beevor tried to burst open the door, but could not do so in consequence of the pressure of the water. The unfortunate couple then made up their minds to make the best of their uncomfortable circumstances until assistance arrived. They placed the dressing table on the bed, and a box on the dressing table, and Mrs. Beevor placed herself on the box, so as to be out of the reach of the water. She had not been in this elevated position long before the bed laths fell out, and bed, mattress, table, box, and Mrs. Beevor, fell down into the water. Mr. Beevor then pulled out the top board, and placed it across the bed, to form a platform for the table and box to stand upon. In this condition they remained, without a light, and without clothing, for several hours, when some men from the works went to the door and tried to burst it open. This was a work of great difficulty; but it was at length accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. Beevor were liberated from their watery prison, but not before they were thoroughly exhausted and almost starved to death with the cold.


The premises of Mr. Mills, tanner, of Neepsend, sustained very great damage. The tan pits were filled with mud, and the skins in process of manufacture were spoilt. Wool skins, worth £3,000, which had been received from London the very day before the flood, were washed away or destroyed. The flood poured through the works, damaging the machinery, and throwing the place into such confusion that weeks elapsed before regular operations could be resumed. A wooden house was floated to a distant part of the premises, and the walls and sheds adjoining the river were washed down. The destruction of finished goods was not so large as it might have been, a great portion of them being stored in an upper room which the flood did not reach. There was no loss of life at these works, but a joiner who was doing some repairs had a narrow escape. He had just gone to supper when the flood came. The body of a young woman was found naked in one of the tan pits.

The Ball Street foot bridge, adjoining Mr. Mills's tannery, was destroyed. Although it was constructed of iron, it was torn down by the force of the water, and bent about as though it were only a piece of pasteboard. A large portion of it might be seen long afterwards lying in the river in a sloping position, and not entirely disconnected from its original position at one end.

We now come to Mowbray Street, one side of which is occupied almost entirely by large works and manufactories, nearly all of which sustained considerable damage. At the works of Messrs. Thackray brothers, near Ball Street bridge, the boundary walls were washed down, and the premises were inundated. In the adjacent works of Mr. John Bramall, file and steel manufacturer, walls were knocked down, and valuable property was injured. Mr. John Parkin's premises were also damaged, but not to such an extent. Mr. Swinscoe's wood yard was flooded, and some of the timber washed off. The Adelaide Works, belonging to Messrs. Taylor Brothers; and the manufactories of Messrs. Drury Brothers and Walker, Mr. Ashforth, and Messrs. J. and W. Nicholson, were all filled with water and mud. Eagle Works, belonging to Messrs. W. K. and C. Peace, steel and file manufacturers, were flooded to a depth of five feet, a shed was washed down, and other serious damage effected. The streets in this neighbourhood being very low, most of the houses were filled with water up to the bedroom floors.


The following letter, written by a girl, eleven years of age, to her grandmother at Leeds, describes what she saw of the flood:--


Harvest Lane, Orchard Street, and the adjacent streets were inundated to a fearful extent. Several houses were wholly or partially destroyed, and a large number rendered unfit for habitation. Mr. Clayton, grocer, had his door burst open, a large quantity of flour swept away, and two pigs drowned. Mr. W. Batty lost five pigs, Henry Frost six, and a man named Hinchcliffe the same number. Mr. F. Coggan, butter merchant, had the floor of his house let down, and a horse killed. Messrs. Faulkner and Co., carriers, had ten horses drowned. Many dead horses, pigs, and other animals were scattered about in this neighbourhood. The works of Messrs. Norton and Simmons, iron founders, opposite the end of Orchard Street, were much damaged, two horses were drowned, and a quantity of models and other property were swept away. Mr. Samuel Thorpe, Harvest Lane, had a store room carried away, with all its contents, nothing being left except the inner wall of the building.


In Harvest Lane and neighbourhood, about eight lives were lost. In the Hope and Anchor yard, Harvest Lane, lived a woman named Crump, and her son, who was of weak intellect, and was about 2 years of age. They slept on the ground floor, having no upper room. In all probability they were drowned before they had time to awake, for next morning they were both found in the house dead, one lying on the bed and the other on the sofa.

In the same yard a mangle woman named Mrs. Green occupied one low room, and was drowned in the same way as the Crumps. The water rose higher than the top of the room, and escape was impossible, Several of the neighbours were in imminent peril; but they escaped in upper rooms, from the windows of which they screamed out for assistance. Two families named Pott and Kay were rescued by being taken, one by one, through a small window, on to the roofs of the houses, and over the roofs into the street. In an adjoining house, the occupier, named Thomas Allen, tried to escape in a similar manner, but in doing so his foot slipped, and he was as nearly as possible falling headlong into the torrent. His wife screamed when she saw him fall; but happily he was enabled to climb back into the bedroom, where he remained in safety until the flood had subsided. The house withstood the force of the water, and all the family were rescued.

In Orchard Lane lived John Parkes, his wife, and two children. The following is the account given by Mr. Parkes of his own escape and of the loss of his family. He says:-- "We were awoke by cries of "escape to the tip," this being the name given to the railway embankment, which stands close to the house we occupied. The cry was instantly followed by a loud cry of "Fire, fire." Thinking the house was on fire, or that a tremendous fire raged in the neighbourhood, each seized a child and rushed down stairs. I was just about to unfasten the door, when it was burst in the water throwing us back with tremendous force. I was whirled round the house, and I heard my poor wife cry, "I cannot stand, I am going," but I saw neither wife nor children again. I remember no more, but those who saw me tell me that I was washed out of the window, and that I seized one of the shutters, drew myself up by that, and from thence to the chamber window, and to the roof of the house." The bodies of Mrs. Parkes and one of the children were found near the Harrow Inn. The body of the other child was never identified. The door of Parkes's house was burst open by the water, and a horse was floated into the room, where it remained in safety till the flood had subsided.

An aged couple named Mr. and Mrs. John Vaughan were drowned in Orchard Street. They slept down stairs, and were overwhelmed by the water; which completely filled the room. There were several lodgers in the rooms upstairs, and they all escaped.

Many poor people in this neighbourhood suffered losses which to them were very serious. A widow woman named Twigg, who supported herself and three young children by keeping cows, had five out of six cows drowned, and the sixth was greatly injured. Her donkey cart was also swept away, and her donkey nearly killed. Her whole means of livelihood were thus suddenly annihilated. William Empsall, who lived in this locality, had eleven cows and a horse drowned. Three of them were swept down a distance of more than a mile. Empsall's house was flooded to a great depth, and he and his family only escaped by ascending into the garret. A widow named Ann Knapp, who has lost one arm, had her donkey and cart swept away, and most of her furniture destroyed.

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