A Complete History of The Great Flood at Sheffield
by Samuel Harrison
Web Page 8


The Loxley Old Wheel is situated amid a scene of romantic beauty, the hill sides being crowned with trees, and several rivulets flowing down to join the Loxley. The Old Wheel and the adjoining buildings are the property of Samuel Newbould, Esq., and are, or were, occupied by Messrs. H. and E. R. Denton, and also by Mr. Higginbottom. Messrs. Denton's tilt and forge was greatly damaged; the goit was knocked down, the water wheel smashed, and the machinery displaced and injured. A waggon, which contained three tons of coal, was broken. The stable was knocked down, and two horses were drowned; a third horse escaped by swimming.

The grinding wheel here occupied by Mr. Joseph Higginbotton was greatly damaged, and a good deal of machinery spoiled.

Two rows of stone houses were considerably injured. The inmates were placed in great peril, as the flood reached to the chambers in which they were sleeping,. They all got up, and were in great distress till the morning light enabled them to ascertain that there was no further danger


At the Loxley Old Wheel one life was lost, and several others were placed in imminent peril. When the flood reached this place, at three minutes to twelve, Joseph Denton, aged 14, son of Thomas Denton, one of the occupiers of the forge, and also his brother John Denton, aged 11, together with a man named Robert Banner, were working at the tilt, where it was usual for work to be kept up all night. The flood came upon them without the slightest warning, and only making a noise like a rushing wind; it burst open the doors, and knocked them all down. Banner managed to climb up the chimney, thence he got on to the beams, and made his way to a skylight, through which he escaped on to the roof. John Denton got up the shuttle pole, and stuck to it till the flood subsided a little, and then he escaped on to the roof of the building. Joseph Denton was not so fortunate; he was carried down the stream and drowned.

A wooden bridge which here crossed the river, was swept away. A haystack belonging to Mr. William Bancroft, was brought down from the Stacey Wheel, a distance of one mile, and deposited in the dam of the Loxley Old Wheel. The stack was entire and unbroken, as though it had been built in the centre of the dam. A pony in a stable here had a narrow escape. The stable was nearly full of water, but the pony managed to stand or swim with its head above the water. On the other side of the stream the fire brick works of Mr. Thomas Wragg were washed away, with all the stock of bricks, sheds, kilns, and other appurtenances.


The next place in the course of the flood was Rowell Bridge, which is situated at the foot of a steep hill, and where the water seems to have swept along with great fury. The grinding wheel of Messrs. Darwin and Oates was completely swept away, not one stone being left upon another to mark its position. The grinding wheel of Messrs. Elliott and Pitchford shared a similar fate, except one portion which is left standing in a ruinous condition. About sixty persons were employed at these grinding wheels; all their tools were carried away, and they themselves thrown out of work.

The bridge over the river was completely washed away, the bed of the stream torn up, and large stones were scattered about in the utmost confusion.


At Rowell Bridge Wheel was employed a grinder named Wm. Bradbury, who, being anxious to make a good wage on Saturday night, had stopped behind his companions, and was working all night. The last man, except Bradbury, had left the wheel at half past eleven, only half an hour before the flood came, and another had left at half past ten. No one saw what became of Bradbury, but he has not since been heard of, and there is no doubt he was carried away by the flood. His body has not been recovered, or at least it has not been identified.


At Rowell Bridge is the Inn which takes its name from the place, and which is kept by Mr. John Waters. Part of the building is also used as a flour mill. Mrs. Waters, in the middle of the night, was awoke by the roar of the advancing flood, which, she says, sounded like a clap of thunder. She awoke her husband, and the inmates of the house. The water had burst through the doors and windows, and filled the house up to a considerable height. There was no time to dress, and, just as they were, the inmates all escaped through a door which leads from the house to the flour mill thence they proceeded to a hayloft, and got on to the roof. The buildings being situated at the foot of a steep hill, they easily escaped from the roof to the hill side, ran up the hill, and sought shelter at a neighbours house. There they dressed themselves, as best they could, got some refreshment, and went back to see what was the condition of their own habitation. This was about one o'clock, and as they were going, down the hill, they were met by a grinder named John Stanley, who asked them for a light, and said he was going to work at the wheel where he had left Billy Bradbury. Poor Billy Bradbury had been swept away, and had John Stanley been one hour sooner, he would probably have met a similar fate. Mine host of the Rowell Bridge Inn had three twenty four gallon barrels of beer washed away, beside which the house and mill were much damaged. In the stable were two pigs; one of them was drowned in the place, and the other was carried down the stream a mile into a wood, where it managed to swim to shore, and was afterwards discovered by its lawful owner not much worse for the adventures of the night.


The next point is the Olive Paper Mill, the property of Mr. Woodward. The mill is considerably damaged, some of the machinery spoiled, and a vast quantity of paper swept entirely away. For miles below, after the flood, the banks of the river were strewn with paper which had been washed out of this mill. Mr. Woodward's house and garden adjoin. The house, though situated at some little height on the hill, was entered by the water, and flooded to a considerable extent. The garden and grounds were greatly damaged, and many choice plants in the conservatories were destroyed.

Here also were Kenyon and Hibberd's grinding wheels, which were swept away. Nothing remains to mark the spot, except the water wheels, which are embedded in sand. About thirty men were employed here; their tools were destroyed, and they are thrown out of work. No one was working here at the time when the flood occurred.


We now reach Little Matlock, one of the most romantic and picturesque scenes in the neighbourhood of Sheffield, a place to which, it is said, Robin Hood and Little John used frequently to resort. At the bottom of the valley, near the bed of the river, were the tilts and forges of Messrs. Chapman, and of Mrs. Denton, and also a row of strongly built and good looking stone houses inhabited by the Chapmans. The grounds of Little Matlock, and the Rock Inn, lie above, on the precipitous and finely wooded declivity of a steep hill, a scene of beauty unsurpassed in the neighbourhood, and which in summer attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy the sequestered walks, to ramble among the rocks, or to descend into the beautiful valley where the river Loxley ripples and foams along in its rocky and shady bed.

It was at this point that the flood came down in all its fury, sweeping everything before it, and spreading out into the valley opposite to the Matlock crags. The bridges were washed completely away, trees were torn up by their roots, walls knocked down, and fields submerged beneath water and mud. Here the tilt and rolling mills of Messrs. Thomas and Daniel Chapman, and of Mrs. Denton, were completely destroyed; heavy masses of iron and machinery were torn from their places, broken into fragments, and scattered about in confusion. Very little remains to mark the spot where these works stood.


In the middle of the valley stood a row of five good stone houses, and here unhappily occurred one of the most thrilling and melancholy incidents of the flood. The first of these houses was entirely washed away, not one stone being left upon another, except the top part of a chimney stack, which adhered to the wall of the next house. This first house was fortunately uninhabited at the time. Twenty loads of potatoes had been placed in it, and these of course were entirely swept away. The next house was occupied by Daniel Chapman, aged about 29, his wife, his young child, two apprentices, a child of his brother Henry, and a servant girl named Alathea Hague. The whole of the inmates of this house were swept away and drowned. In all probability they were carried off while asleep, and without knowing what was the nature of the catastrophe by which they were overwhelmed. All accounts agree that the flood came in full force all at once, that there was no gradual rise of the river; but that a mighty cataract and avalanche swept down the gorge of the valley in one tremendous billow of mountainous height, which nothing could resist, and which passed away almost as rapidly as it came.

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