A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 7


This village is situated on low ground, where several valleys meet, and it experienced the full force of the flood. The bridge, a good stone structure, connecting the two sides of the valley, and over which there was a large amount of traffic, was entirely swept away. The Barrel Inn, occupied by Mr. Jonathan Ibbotson; a cottage behind, occupied by Mr. Joseph Walton; the house of Thomas Kirk, and that of Henry Horsfield, were entirely destroyed, and scarcely a vestige remains to mark the spot where once they stood. The river here has shifted its bed a considerable distance, and the stream now flows over the site of some of the houses destroyed. Huge stones are scattered about, having been torn off from the rock on the banks of the stream, and carried down by the force of the flood. Some of the stones would weigh eight or ten tons at the least.


The circumstances under which the inhabitants of Damflask were warned of the approaching danger have already been mentioned. Young Stephenson Fountain, when on his way to fetch Mr. Gunson broke the saddle girth of his horse, and stopped at Damflask to have it repaired. He was asked the nature of his errand, and he replied that there was a slight crack in the embankment, and he was going to Sheffield to fetch Mr. Gunson. Upon this Jonathan Ibbotson, the landlord of the Inn, went round to the neighbours and warned them. He also sent word to Shaw's mill, a little lower down the valley. Afterwards Jonathan Ibbotson sent two men up to the dam on purpose to inquire as to its condition, and they came running back saying that it was sure to burst.


One of the houses swept away at Damflask was that of Mr. Joseph Walton, which was situated just behind the public house. His wife had a very narrow and extraordinary escape. She had two children, the eldest not being two years old, and the youngest having been born only four or five days before the flood. Mrs. Walton was of course confined to her bed in a very weakly condition. Her husband received notice between seven and eight o'clock that the flood was coming, and he went for a cart and horse to take his wife away. The neighbours said it would kill her to take her away in a cart, and she herself was unwilling to go, and said, "You might as well let me go down in the flood as kill me in taking me away." The cart, however, was fetched, and at about twelve o'clock Mrs. Walton and her children were put in it on a bed, and conveyed to a place of safety. They had not been gone more than ten minutes, when the flood came, and swept the house away entirely.


In the house of Thomas Kirk, at Damflask, lived Henry Burkinshaw, better known as "Sheffield Harry." He was a labourer employed at the Agden reservoir of the Sheffield Water Works company, and he had lived at Damflask about three weeks. He had that day been working at the Agden dam, and when he was told that the Bradfield reservoir was going to burst, he laughed at the idea, and did not believe it. He went to bed at his usual hour. Just before the flood came he was aroused by the other inmates of the house, but he said he believed it to be all false, and he would not get up for anything. In a few minutes the water poured down the valley in a mighty volume, and "Sheffield Harry" was again called to escape for his life. The men shouted, and the women screamed, but "Sheffield Harry" said he did not care. He got out of bed, however, and had just put one stocking on, when the flood came, and swept the house and all it contained completely away. The body of "Sheffield Harry" was found next morning, about half a mile below, in a frightfully mutilated state. The river has here changed its bed, and now flows over the very spot on which "Sheffield Harry" lived.


Mrs. Kirk, with whom "Sheffield Harry" lodged, had a very narrow escape. She had also gone to bed, but got up at once when the warning was given, and hurried out of the house and across the bridge, with nothing on but her night dress. At this moment she recollected that her cat and dog, both favourite animals, were in the house. She ventured back to fetch them, and returned across the bridge with the cat under one arm and the dog under the other. She had not been out of the house more than a minute or two when the house and bridge were swept away.


At Damflask lived Mr. Joseph Hobson, the village miller. His mill was situated close to the river, and his house some thirty or forty yards on one side. He heard that a young man had gone for Mr. Gunson and Mr. Craven, and he also saw those gentlemen when they were on their way to the dam. Mr. Hobson took the alarm, and made the best use of the time from ten till twelve o'clock at night in preparing for the expected flood. He first went down to his mill, and drew up all the sacks of corn and flour from the ground floor on to the chamber, thinking that the flood could not possibly reach so high as the second story. He then went home, and took his wife away to a place of safety higher up the hill, and also drove his horse and two cows to a place where they would be out of danger. When the flood came, it washed the mill and all its contents entirely away, so that the miller did not save his corn although he had raised it to the upper room. His cows and horses, and his wife, were, however, saved, through his timely precautions. The house was flooded to the height of six feet, and was considerably damaged. A drain which led from the house to the river was torn up with great violence, and in an extraordinary manner. A pig, weighing twenty seven stones, was drowned in its sty, and a large flitch of bacon was carried out of the cellar along the drain and washed away. The garden was swept off, and a large hole, many yards in diameter, and about twelve feet deep was formed in the ground by the action of the water. Many similar holes were to be seen in the course of the river, and it could hardly be believed that they had been formed by the flood, though that such was the case was beyond all doubt. Probably the action of the water was like that of a whirlpool, and was caused by some obstruction, or by the water working its way underneath the soil.


A little below Damflask is the wire mill, occupied by Messrs. Shaw and Co., and the property of Mr. Tasker, of Sheffield. Here it was usual to keep up work all night, and at the time of the flood three men, named John King, Charles Platts, and William Longden, and a boy named John Ibbotson, were engaged in the mill at their ordinary occupation. Part of the mill was swept away, and all four were drowned. As there was no one beside themselves at the mill that night, no particulars as to how they met their fate can be ascertained; but there is little doubt that they were at work in an upper room, which was partly destroyed. Had they had the presence of mind to run to the other end of the room, they would probably have escaped, as that part of the building did not sustain much damage. Most likely they were taken quite on a sudden, and had not time even to think what was the course most proper to be adopted.

Mr. Shaw's house is situated on the hill, and sustained no damage. On the evening before the flood came, a man went to Mr. Shaw's, and said that the news had been received at Damflask, that the dam was going to burst. Mr. Shaw then went to Damflask, and saw "Sheffield Harry," who said he had been to the dam, and it was all safe. Mr. Shaw then went home, and went to bed, believing that there was no danger.

About a quarter of a mile below the mill might be seen the large boiler, about eighteen feet long, in the middle of the stream, where it had been deposited, after being carried down by the flood.

A little lower down was the Stacey Grinding Wheel. It was completely swept away, and no trace of it was to be seen, except the foundation stones and the water wheel. No one was working there at the time of the flood.


We next reach Storrs Bridge, where was a forge for making and rolling steel, about half a dozen houses, and a brick kiln. The latter belonged to Mr. William Crapper, and consisted of kilns, a large shed, in which was a boiler of considerable size, a large stock of bricks, and various appurtenances. Part of the buildings were in course of construction, and were not quite finished when they were washed away by the flood. The whole place was completely carried away, and all that could be seen after the disaster was the large boiler, which had been carried some distance down by the force of the water.

On this side the stream was Storrs Bridge Forge, the property of Mr. Benjamin Tingle, of Grenoside, and occupied by Messrs. George and John Dixon. These works are extensive, and the machinery very costly. The damage here was smaller than at any similar place on the river. Nevertheless, the goit was ripped up and filled with rubbish, and the machinery injured. The dam itself was not destroyed. The works were stopped for about three weeks in which time all necessary repairs were executed, and operations were then resumed.

The half dozen houses which are situated here were flooded and the furniture damaged, but not seriously. One of the inmates described to us the approach of the flood. When it came he thought it was a storm. It came suddenly and quickly, and the water subsided rapidly. It had settled down in about twenty minutes.

The scene here after the flood was one of great desolation and ruin. Huge stones were scattered about, and trees torn up by their roots lay in and near the stream, some embedded in the mud, and others covered with hay and rubbish of every description.

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