A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 18


A little lower than Bacon Island is a district called Philadelphia, which is occupied by mills, large manufactories, and other buildings, which were nearly all flooded to a greater or less extent.

From the mill of Mr. Joseph Rodgers the torrent swept away sixteen pigs, and their sties, but five of the animals were recovered near the Infirmary, lower down the stream. The water filled the mill up to the second floor, and four horses were drowned in their stable. Some men had been at work in the mill all day and all night filling bags with flour, and were just about beginning to draw them to the upper story when the rush of water burst into the room. They had just time to get up the stairs before the flood reached them, and were saved. The flour floated about the mill, and for all practical purposes was destroyed. A wagon and some carts were floated away -- the wagon being left in the yard of Messrs. Butchers' works below, and the carts resting on the low outbuildings in the neighbourhood. Much valuable timber was carried away, including an oak log of two tons weight, which was deposited near the New Inn, Shales Moor. The partition wall between the stable and shed was broken, and a newly erected tilt -- Mr. Rodgers being a manufacturer of steel as well as flour -- was carried away bodily with the exception of one gable end. A number of cottages near the mill yard were flooded to such an extent that the bedrooms were some depth in water. The window of Aaron Dearden, flour dealer, was burst in, and he and his family had a narrow escape. The occupants of all the adjacent houses were in a perilous position, but fortunately the walls withstood the violence of the flood except those of one unoccupied house.

The works of Messrs. W. and S. Butcher, a little lower down, were greatly damaged. Walls and gates were swept quite away; a crinoline mill and workshops entirely disappeared, and along with them a boiler, forge, and tilt, the chimney, which stood in the middle, being alone left to mark their site. The heavy bridge which crossed the goit running through the works is destroyed. Part of the rolling mill, beyond the bridge, was carried away, and the blacksmith's and other shops were greatly damaged. The machinery, buildings, and the stock of steel have been seriously damaged. In Messrs. Butchers' works the body of a woman, perfectly naked, was found after the flood. On the premises of Messrs. Butcher lived Mr. Henry Walker, manager, and his family, consisting of a wife, four daughters, a son, and a nephew. The water dashed with such fury against the house that a kitchen and front wall of the building were entirely swept away, much damage being also done to the inner walls. When the flood came the members of the family hastily assembled in a front and back bedroom. The house rocked, and in a few moments the whole wall fell down. The nephew was standing at the front bedroom window when the wall fell, and only escaped by throwing back his hand and catching hold of one of the bed posts. Very fortunately the main portion of the house stood, and none of the inmates perished. The house was handsomely furnished; but scarcely a wreck of the valuable contents of the lower rooms remained. An expensive pianoforte and the other costly furniture, totally disappeared. Two pigs, two goats, and twenty five fowls were drowned. The dog was saved. Two valuable horses belonging to Mr. William Butcher were destroyed.

The works of Mr. William Butcher, jun., were damaged, but not so seriously. Several other large manufactories in this district suffered; but it is not within the scope of this narrative to enter largely into a mere enumeration of property or buildings destroyed.


The following incident is related by the Rev. Mr. Wright, of Philadelphia House, curate of St. Philip's Church. Mr. Wright's garden is separated from the road by a wall about eight feet high. The flood rose some eighteen inches higher than the wall, but not high enough to extinguish the street lamp by the road side. Inexplicable sounds were heard from the garden during the night, and when day dawned the garden was found to be covered over with a deep bed of mud, in which was a horse in a half erect position. It had been carried on the crest of the wave over the wall. It was found to be alive, though in a greatly exhausted state. Some food was given to it, and after a time it recovered. The animal had on his halter, which was attached to a stone of some 16 lbs. weight. The stone had evidently been dragged from the wall of the stable, and the wonder is that it did not insure the drowning of the horse. The owner of the animal has not been ascertained.


Near to the river at this point were two rows of houses, nearly at right angles, the property of W. F. Dixon, Esq., and called Waterloo Houses. Here a very extraordinary spectacle was presented after the flood. The entire front walls of the row which stands in the gable end towards the river, were knocked down; the interiors exposed, and the flooring of the bedrooms hung down aslant from its hold on the side which remained uninjured. It was curios, on visiting the scene next morning, to notice bird cages hanging on the walls, with their little inmates trilling their songs as merrily as on any other more auspicious morning. Much of the furniture was washed away or destroyed, and the houses themselves were filled with water and mud. The inmates were all in great peril, and the wonder is that any of them escaped. The flood came rushing down upon them, and the water rose up to the bedrooms. In a few minutes the front wall fell down with a tremendous crash, which startled both those who were asleep and those who were awake, by its loudness and suddenness. Most of the inmates retreated into their back bedrooms, where they were safe from peril of death, although they were flooded and exposed to the cold night wind. It is singular that, although all these houses were occupied, only one life was lost in this row. An old woman named Mrs. Whittington, 82 years of age, was sleeping in a low room at the house of her daughter. The flood washed away both the old woman and the bed on which she slept. The body of the old woman was found some weeks afterwards, at a distance of many miles from the place where she was drowned.


Cornish Works, the property of Messrs. James Dixon and Sons, were flooded, and the dies and stamps in the lower rooms were injured. The boundary wall of Cornish Lane was knocked down for some distance. The works of Messrs. Steel and Garland, stove grate manufacturers, were flooded, and so were the Globe Works, but not seriously. The Don Brewery, the property of Messrs. Smith and Redfern, was flooded, and some of the goods were damaged. The works of Messrs. Beckett and Slater, steel, saw, and file manufacturers, were injured to a serious extent. The boundary wall was carried away, and a large steam engine boiler was torn from its bed, and washed down some hundreds of yards into the works of Messrs. Wheatman and Smith. A quantity of machinery was broken to pieces, furnaces were extinguished, and various finished goods were spoiled. The Green Lane Works, the property of Messrs. H. E. Hoole and Co., were damaged considerably. A large room, filled with stoves, fenders, and so forth, was flooded to a depth of four feet. Trunks of trees were washed into the grinding wheel, the engine and boiler were covered with debris, and a great quantity of miscellaneous property was destroyed. The flood came out into Shales Moor, which is some distance from the river, flooded the houses, and tore up the street lamp posts. A photographic apparatus near St. Philip's church was floated away, and could not be found by the owner for some time afterwards. All the cross streets from the river to Shales Moor were flooded to a most serious extent. Ebenezer Wesleyan chapel is at a considerable distance from the river, yet the strong stone wall and iron railings were laid prostrate and torn up in an extraordinary manner. The Globe Steel Works, the property of Messrs. Ibbotson, were much damaged. An underground hot air flue exploded with a loud report in consequence of the influx of water generating steam with great rapidity.

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