A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 23


The mournful task of interring the bodies of the victims of the flood as conducted with all due decency, but without any unusual publicity. The bodies, as they arrived at the Workhouse, were washed and laid out on beds of straw. When identified they were given up to the relatives or friends of the deceased, if they were able to defray the funeral expenses, and wishful to have the rites of burial performed at their own cost. The bodies of the poor, and those which were not identified, were interred by the Board of Guardians, at the expense of the Union, in the Sheffield General Cemetery. The bodies were not all interred in one particular part of the Cemetery, but in separate graves, according to circumstances, with all the decencies and solemnities of private burials. There was no public procession in any instance, nor was there any large concourse of people at any of the interments.

It may not here be out of place to suggest the propriety of a monument to the memory of the victims of the flood, to be erected in some prominent part of the Cemetery. The funds obtained for the relief of the distressed are more than sufficient, and it cannot be supposed that any of the subscribers would object to the appropriation of a small part of the surplus to so legitimate a purpose as the erection of a suitable Monument of the Great Flood at Sheffield.

It is due to the Board of Guardians to express the public satisfaction at their efforts and labours in this extraordinary emergency. All that was necessary for the reception and interment of the bodies, as well as for the relief of the sufferers, they performed without delay and in the most efficient manner. Mr. Alderman Saunders, the Chairman of the Board of Guardians, especially deserves notice for the great amount of time and personal attention which he devoted to the emergencies of the occasion, along with Mr. Hallam, and some other members of the Board.


A long and thrilling chapter might be written to describe the miseries and sufferings of those who sustained the shock and yet survived the ravages of the flood. We cannot enter into detail on this part of the subject. A good deal must be left to the imagination of the reader. Hundreds, if not thousands, of families lost the whole contents of their lower rooms. In many instances, children had been undressed in the lower rooms, had left their clothing there, and the whole of it was lost. In some cases, every article of day clothing the children possessed was swept away, and garments with which to cover them had to be begged or borrowed. In many instances the whole stock of provisions of families was destroyed, and they were left destitute. Numbers of small shopkeepers lost all they possessed, and the means by which they were obtaining a livelihood. The aggregate losses in these various ways must amount to thousands of pounds. The condition of the flooded houses was most deplorable some of them having a deposit of mud nearly a foot in thickness. One of the severest sources of suffering was the inability to provide fires in the houses that were left standing. The cellars were filled with mud, which rendered the stock of coals inaccessible. Many of the sufferers were deprived of their houses, and had no where to go, nor had they clothing left sufficient to cover themselves. Under these circumstances they had to remain for some hours in the corners of dilapidated dwellings, without food, without fire, and altogether in a plight the most wretched and pitiable. Help was indeed on its way, but there were so many to be relieved and assisted that some were necessarily left a comparatively long time without the needed succour. When it is considered that no less than 4,000 houses were flooded, it will be apparent that in some cases a long, time must have elapsed before relief could be afforded.

One great cause of suffering, arose from the stoppage of works and manufactories, and the destruction of tools of workmen. Many hands were thus thrown out of employment, and the aggregate damage in this respect was enormous.


The exertions of the police in connection with the flood were most arduous and praiseworthy. Especially was the conduct of Mr. Jackson, the chief constable. in the highest degree commendable. As soon as information of the calamity reached him he mounted his horse, and rode into the inundated districts at great personal risk to render assistance, and to give directions to the police and others. The exertions of the county policemen stationed in the district between Owlerton and Bradfield, also deserve warm commendation. Under the active leadership of Mr. Inspector Smalley, and of Mr. Superintendent Gillott, they exerted themselves strenuously, and rescued many per sons from the partly submerged houses. Inspector Smalley has since fallen a victim to his exertions. His house at Hillsbro' was flooded, and this, together with his extraordinary labours in the flood, brought on fever, from which he died about two months afterwards.

The military authorities at the barracks also rendered important aid, by furnishing two companies of the 8th regiment, who were detailed as sentries around the principal scene of the devastation for some days after the flood, where their services were of great use.

We have already referred to the gallant exploits of policeman John Thorpe, and which so exhausted him, that, but for the timely assistance of Sergeant Day, he would have lost his own life. His efforts brought on a serious illness. Police constable Hogan also saved a large number of lives in the neighbourhood of Cotton Mill Row. The labours which the flood threw upon the police were very heavy, and all the members of the force deserve praise for their great and successful exertions.


The number of visitors to the various scenes which we have mentioned was perfectly enormous. All day on Saturday, and again all day on Sunday, a continuous stream of people poured in the direction of Hillsbro' and Malin Bridge. Many came by railway from great distances. Probably not less than 150,000 of the inhabitants of Sheffield visited the scene within a few days of the flood, and perhaps an equal number came in from the adjacent villages and towns and from more distant parts. Vehicles of every description thronged the roads, rendering them almost impassable. It was some weeks before the excitement and interest died away. The visitors all expressed their astonishment at the effects of the flood. The points of greatest interest were Brick Row, Hillsbro', where Dyson saved himself by getting through the roof; the remains of the Malin Bridge Inn; and the ruins of Trickett's farm house. A large number of persons went as far as the reservoir to see the gap in the embankment. The photographers were busy at all the most picturesque parts, and have produced faithful representations of many objects of interest.

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