The Great Sheffield Flood  -  Photo Gallery

-  The Trail of Destruction -

The ruptured embankment - viewed from inside the reservoir

The ruptured embankment viewed from inside the reservoir - a few days after the disaster.

The ruptured embankment viewed from below the dam The current Dale Dyke Dam

LEFT: The view up-valley - showing the ruptured dam. The small amount of water remaining in the reservoir can be seen beyond it. The full reservoir contained about 720 million gallons: it has been estimated that around 650 million gallons escaped through the breech - and thundered down the valley.
RIGHT: Today, the Dale Dyke reservoir looks very tranquil, nestling among the hills - no hint of the terrible devastation it caused over 135 years ago. This 'rebuilt' dam is actually located about 320 yards higher up the valley from the original. It was constructed in the early 1870s, and completed in 1874 - ten years after the flood; and as the original, by John Gunson and the Sheffield Waterworks Company, but this time under the guidance of Thomas Hawksley - who had taken over from John Towlerton Leather as designer/consulting engineer.

View across the current Dale Dyke Dam embankment

The view across the current embankment

View across the 'centre line' of the old embankment

Believe it or not, these two photographs show the same view - across the centre line of the old dam. In the modern photo, the white tipped stick identifies the location of the northern-most 'CLOB stone' (seen beside it at its base - also see below). Four of these stones span the valley, and mark the centre line of the old bank.

The same view: CLOB stones mark the 'centre line'     

CLOB stone - marking the 'Centre Line Old Bank' The northern-most 'CLOB stone' -
marking the Centre Line of the Old Bank.


The devastation at Bradfield (viewed towards Sheffield) The same (almost) view today (Smithy Bridge in foreground)

Low Bradfield - the first village down-valley from the dam - looking towards Sheffield. The dam lies about 1 mile behind the artist/camera. Both pictures show the same view, though the photograph was taken from a little further to the left (to avoid the trees from blocking the view of the village). Most of the buildings, seen on the left in both pictures, are the same. A number of buildings that were closer to the river, were totally washed away by the flood. Below is a similar view again - this one showing the damaged, but surviving 'Smithy' bridge in March 1864. This bridge spans a stream which leads into the Dale Dyke - about 100 yards to the right: at that location the 'Chapel' bridge (spanning the Dale Dyke itself) was completely washed away.

Bradfield Village - March 1864 (Smithy Bridge on left)Shortly before the flood occurred, word had spread to the village about the discovery of the crack in the embankment - and many were half expecting a tragedy. As a result, a large number of the villagers were ready to make a quick exit, and after screams came down the valley that the flood was coming, the inhabitants managed to get out of danger just in time. However there was massive destruction in the village, and many lost their homes and all their possessions: luckily there was only one fatality here - the first of what would soon become many:

'The first victim of the flood was an infant, only one day old, the child of Mr. Joseph Dawson, of Lower Bradfield, the village tailor. Mr. Dawson's house is the end one of a row at the bottom of the valley, about twenty yards from the bed of the river. Mr. Dawson was one of those who had been up to the reservoir to see the crack; but he had returned home, and gone to bed, in the belief that there was no immediate danger. The following is Mr. Dawson's own account of the loss of his child, and of the narrow escape of the rest of his family:-- We had all been in bed about half an hour, when my wife awoke me, and said, "What is that noise ? What is that shouting ?" My wife had been confined only the day before, and she was awake. I thought it was some men on the spree making a disturbance for fun, and I said so to my wife. I then jumped out of bed, and ran to the window. I heard some men shouting "It's coming ! it's coming, !" I ran into the back chamber and told my brother to take my eldest child, about four years old, to Mr. Joseph Ibbotson's on the hill, for, said I, "The dam's burst." It was the talk of the village the night before that the dam was going to burst. Of course my wife was in bed with the child, and incapable of any exertion, having, been so recently confined. I thought I could not carry my wife and child safely, so I ran for assistance. As I was going I met a man, and asked him to help me, stating the condition in which my wife was at the time. The man said, 'You must run for your life, and save yourself--I cannot assist you. I have enough to do to save my own life." I then went back to my house, and ran upstairs, and told my wife that the water was coming, and that she must take the child in her arms and I would try to carry them both away. I had not time to dress, but I had managed to slip on my trousers. My wife took the child up, and I wrapped them both in blankets, and carried them down stairs, and out of the house. Of course my wife had nothing on but her night dress, and the weather was dreadfully boisterous and cold. I had carried my wife and child about twenty yards from the door when the flood met us, and knocked us both down, when we were between Mr. Gill's and Mr. R. Ibbotson's. We were both covered by the water, and I was obliged to let my wife go. I did not see the water before it knocked us down. I managed to get up, and again seized hold of my wife and child. My wife said "Turn back again to the house." I did so, and just as I got to the door the flood caught us again, and washed the blankets and my child away, and left my wife naked in my arms. I got my wife inside the house, and pushed her a little way up the stairs. I was obliged to leave the child to its fate, or I could not have saved my wife, for the flood was in the house. Directly after I had pushed my wife upstairs, and as soon as I had got up a few stairs myself, the flood, which had gone round to the back of the house, rushed in simultaneously both at the back and front, bursting open the back door, and the water met from both ways in the house. If we had been down stairs at that time escape would have been impossible. Even upstairs I did not feel safe. I opened the back chamber window, and tried to place a mattress across to connect the window with an embankment there is at the back of the house, whence we could get on to the hill side out of danger. The mattress was too short to reach across and it fell down. I then shouted out for help. My brother, who had been to Mr. Ibbotson's, came to the window in a short time, along with Thomas Robinson. They brought a ladder, and laid it across from the window to the hillside. My wife was still undressed, but I put her out of the window, and she was carried across and taken to Mr. Joseph Ibbotson's, where she was clothed, put to bed, and carefully attended to. The body of the child was found in the coal cellar a few days after. My house was six feet deep in water and was much damaged.' (GFAS)

LOST on THURSDAY, near the Bradfield Dam, a Black French POODLE DOG
with rough Black Curly Hair - answers to the name of "Bob." Anyone restoring
him to Mr. SYDNEY JESSOP, King's Head Hotel, will have 10s. reward.

Copyright © 2001 Michael Armitage

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Mick Armitage (e-mail)