A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 35

(120 contd.)

Mr. B. SMITH: That is merely a theory. I understand you to suggest that springs from the bared rock may have gone into the puddle trench and worked mischief.

Mr. RAWLINSON: It may have done so ...... You say you have no evidence that it has done so ? ...... I have no such evidence ........ Then we are yet in the dark as to the real cause of the accident, except that we have some opinions about it ?. . . You are. You have the great fact of destruction, swift and terrible. As men capable of reasoning we must use our own judgement to the best of our ability, and come to some conclusion. I, as a practical man, with some reputation, feel bound fearlessly to express my opinion. The rupture of the embankment is not over the line of the outlet pipes. The pipes are laid diagonally, and the rupture is straight through the bank ?--That is so; I think I can account for it. Unquestionably the deepest part of the fracture is the upper end of the pipes. When the water got in the middle of the embankment it would not follow the line of the pipes, but rush straight through the embankment at right angles with the pipe ...... Mr. Jackson told us that the rupture took place outside the puddle wall. That is his opinion ? ..... But I suppose it is not yours ?..... I do not know. I have no opinion about it. If the Water Company should have the pipes examined, and it should turn out that they have not moved at all, I dare say you will not be much surprised?........ I shall be glad to have the evidence; but the condition in which the pipes are found, whatever it may be, will not be evidence which a scientific witness would accept, because, after the enormous rupture there has been, I could not give any decided opinion as to what has injured them, if they are injured.

Mr. B. SMITH: Any examination shall be made that Mr. Rawlinson may direct.

Mr. A. SMITH: Within any reasonable expense; we must speak as poor people now.

Mr. B. SMITH: I am informed the by wash was calculated to take away double the quantity of any known flood that has come down the valley. Mr. Rawlinson. If so, it was then sufficient. You have not measured it, I dare say ?. . . I have measured it, but not worked the calculation. But there are certain things one can tell by the eye; and I must say that I would not try a by wash with that opening to carry the amount of water away that would descend that valley. Indeed, I would not make a sloping by wash at all. What sort of a weir or by wash would you recommend ?...... No mischief has been caused in this instance by the by wash, and therefore it is perhaps useless to discuss it, but I should make a by wash with steps. I repeat, however, that in this instance the by wash has had nothing whatever to do with the accident.


Nathaniel Beardmore, civil engineer, London, said: I was requested by Sir George Grey to come down and assist Mr. Rawlinson in examining the reservoir, with the object of making a report. I have examined both the Bradfield and Agden reservoirs. I have heard the evidence of Mr. Rawlinson, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Leather, and Mr. GUNSON. I agree substantially with the evidence of Mr. Rawlinson. I do not think the Agden embankment is being made in the secure manner such a work requires. In dealing with water, security should be taken against the remotest contingency of accidents. It would be very difficult to get everybody to agree as to the immediate cause of the bursting of the reservoir. The disruption being so great it will be difficult to discover the difference between causes and effects. My impression is that the puddle is a most excellent work. I think that the immense depth excavated must have removed danger from the springs, and the probabilities must point to the pipes being the source if not the cause of the accident. The disruption itself implies an immense volume of water blowing up the material of the embankment. To my mind the most natural conclusion is that the pipes led the water to do that mischief. Telfourd, the great engineer, never, I believe, put pipes through the embankment of a dam. I agree generally with Mr. Rawlinson and Mr. Jackson as to the dangers arising from putting pipes under embankments.

Examined by Mr. B. SMITH: You say you prefer culverts through embankments to pipes?--Yes. We have been told that there are objections to culverts, that they require to be built with extraordinary solidity of masonry ? - --- They must be made as solid as cast iron. Then you think there may be objections to culverts ? -- Culverts have no doubt given way; it is necessary to take care that they are made secure ....... You mean a culvert under the embankment ? ---- Culverts, whether under the embankments or through the side rocks, should be made very strong....... You said that Telfourd did not adopt precisely the present system of laying pipes ? -- He did not; the fact is that Telfourd was a little before this sort of pipes were either made or used, though he tried cast iron a good deal in his day ....... Mr. Rawlinson has described to us the appliances at Dublin, where a culvert has been made through the solid rock away from the embankment. Have you seen such a culvert.-- I don't think I have ...... Then the making of culverts is a new invention -- a mere theory as yet ? -- Every work must be dealt with according to the circumstances. What is a good plan in one class of circumstances is not practicable in other circumstances ....... You would not say that these side tunnels are practicable under all circumstances ?-- No. The great point is to get as strong an embankment as possible, and as good a foundation as possible...... You are aware, no doubt, that the rupture of the embankment has not taken the line of the pipes ?--That remains to be discovered. It appeared to me, from the description given yesterday, that the pipes burst out very nearly where they might have been expected to do -- that they burst out somewhere about the line of the greatest pressure. It is a concatenation of circumstances that makes one great accident; there may have been several remote causes at work to produce the calamity... May not a landslip have started it ? --- Yes; a slip may have taken place, and brought it down at once.

The CORONER: DO YOU call any witnesses, Mr. Smith.

Mr. B. SMITH: I assume from what has been said, that the jury entertain no idea of holding anybody criminally responsible In that case, I do not know that there is any good in pursuing the inquiry any further at present. The evidence we could produce must of course be theoretical.

The CORONER: Like that we have had on the other side.

Mr. B. SMITH: And of equal value, no doubt. I may say, on behalf of the Water Company, that every inquiry shall be made as to the cause of the accident, and made more maturely than we have had time to make them hitherto. The jury heard what passed as to Mr. Rawlinson's examination. So far as our means will reasonably go, we will place ourselves in his hands to make any examination he may wish. The suggestions that have been made as to the Agden reservoir shall have the attention of our engineers. Our object, of course, is to make a secure reservoir; not to spend £50,000 or £60,000 in an embankment only to have it washed away. If the Jury have made up their minds that no criminal charge will be made, it would be needlessly occupying them to prolong the investigation.

Mr. PAWSON said the jury wished to consult with the Coroner privately on the question of criminality.

The Jury were absent about twenty minutes, and on their return.

The CORONER said: Mr. Rawlinson and Mr. Smith,--The jury have come to a verdict in this matter, so that it will be altogether unnecessary for me to sum up. I am rather glad it is so, because if I had summed up, I might perhaps have spoken more strongly than people would like, and have expressed my opinion in language that would not have pleased some people, and which they might have said was not such as could fairly come from this bench, but which in my opinion the case fully justified.


The Jury then delivered the following verdict:--

We find that Thomas Elston came to his death by drowning in the inundation caused by the bursting of the Bradfield dam on the morning of the 12th instant.

That in our opinion there has not been that engineering skill and attention in the construction of the works, which their magnitude and importance demanded.

That in our opinion the Legislature ought to take such action as will result in governmental inspection of all works of this character, and that such inspections should be frequent, and sufficient, and regular.

That we cannot separate without expressing our deep regret at the fearful loss of life which has occurred from the disruption of the Bradfield Reservoir.

The proceedings then terminated.



We now come to the most pleasing part of this sad narrative -- to the silver lining of this dark cloud of calamity and suffering. Sympathy for those who had lost their property, and for those who had sustained the far severer bereavement of losing those whom they loved and upon whom they were dependent, was a feeling at once evoked from all quarters, and which soon displayed itself in active efforts for the alleviation of the wide spread misery which prevailed amongst those who had been so suddenly deprived of their friends or of their homes. Men of all parties, of all sects, and of all classes, at once came forward with open handed liberality, and with well directed zeal. Political differences, religious animosities, and the distinctions of caste, were at least for a time forgotten; and no rivalry seemed to remain, except that of who should be the most prompt and self denying in carrying out those measures of relief which were so urgently called for in this great local emergency.

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