The Great Sheffield Flood  -  Photo Gallery

-  The Trail of Destruction  -



'A short distance below the Limerick Wheel, on the same side of the river, is Hill Bridge [where the bottom end of Walkley Lane joins Holme Lane - near Hillsborough Corner], where were a good stone bridge across the river, and more than twenty small houses. The bridge was swept away entirely, four or five houses were totally destroyed, and about twenty more or less damaged. Most of these would have been swept away had it not been for the protection afforded by a barricade formed of the accumulation of trees, chairs, sofas, and other articles brought down by the flood. In several of these houses the water rose nearly to the ceilings, and as two of them, occupied by persons named Steward and Crapper, were white-washed outside, a mark was left showing the height to which the water had risen. The water line was nearly on a level with the top of the second storeys, and was looked upon with much interest by visitors [see in the background of the picture below], who could not imagine how the flood had risen to such an elevation. In one of the houses nearby, George Mills and his wife were drowned, and in another house George Snape, a table blade grinder, and his wife, met the same fate.' (GFAS)

More of 'Hill Bridge' later. We will now go back a little way along Holme Lane:

Brick Row - Holme Lane - HillsboroughBRICK ROW - HILLSBOROUGH
(Holme Lane)

Holme Lane runs parallel to- and directly at the far side of this building; Hillsborough being to the left. The right-hand end of the building is close to what is today the Haddon Street junction with Holme Lane; and the left-hand end covers the site of the current Tramway Medical Centre (which, in turn, was built on the site of the old 'Tramway Sheds').

[From Malin Bridge travelling towards Hillsborough] 'There were no houses on the left bank for a considerable distance from the river. The first houses were a row of three storied buildings, of modern construction and respectable external appearance. They were called Brick Row. Down the back and front of these houses the flood poured with great impetuosity. They were submerged to the top of the ceilings in the bedrooms, and the mud upon them showed that the water had risen from sixteen to eighteen feet above the roadway. The first house was partially destroyed. Its remains presented a very extraordinary appearance, and greatly attracted the notice of visitors. A portion of both the end and the side wall was swept away, leaving the interior exposed. The next house was similarly damaged, though not so seriously, and all the houses in the row suffered greatly. The doors and windows were burst open, partition walls knocked down, and the cellars filled with water and mud. In one of these houses it was noticed that a clock had stopped at twenty seven minutes past twelve, so that the flood had been rather more than half an hour in travelling from the reservoir to this point. The partial destruction of these houses disclosed the mode of their construction. They had evidently been run up, by contract, on the cheapest scale, and in the slightest manner. What with five inch walls, and floor-joists to match, the wonder is that the whole row did not fall to pieces. Lower down several houses were wholly or partially destroyed.' (GFAS)

Geoffrey Amey writes:

'The end house of Brick Row, Hillsborough, a terraced line of three storey back to backs, was battered as if by a giant sledgehammer. At the back of the house crowded the Dyson family. Joseph Dyson was reliable and industrious, and he also held down a £200 a year job as head man at a wireworks factory. His home was neat and well furnished and, like the others in the row, had been built in 1853-4 at a cost of £70. The owner, William Haden, considered Brick Row to be a 'better class' of cottages and let to 'good tenants'. On that tragic night, the house was occupied by Dyson, who was thirty four, his wife, Mary, their two sons and three daughters (their eldest child, Selina, was staying with her grandmother on the other side of Sheffield), his brother, Vincent, and two apprentices. With the exception of Vincent Dyson, all lost their lives. In the other half of the end pair of houses lived William and Margaret Styron, their three children and Styron's brother in law, Joe Hyde, who was jerked from his sleep by a noise like a 'hundred engines letting off steam'. Lighting a candle, he went to investigate, believing the house to be on fire. He quickly revised that opinion, however, for he was not half way down the stairs when a torrent ripped off part of the gable of the house. Then the party wall, which separated the Styrons from the Dysons, collapsed and Hyde nearly fell into the turbulence below. The candle blew out and Hyde, who had fractured a finger saving himself from tumbling, returned to the other occupants, who were extremely afraid and kneeling in prayer. He joined them for a while but, perhaps thinking the Almighty helped those who were prepared to contribute something themselves, he hit upon an idea. Tearing off a bedpost and, calling upon the others to follow him, Hyde climbed to the garret of the shuddering house and smashed a hole in the wall between them and the adjoining house. Scrambling through this escape hatch, the family were soon joined by equally frightened neighbours. They managed to keep their feet as the building wobbled and, looking back, Styron saw that his own house had almost disappeared. Fearing a fatal chain reaction, the Styrons and neighbours, led by the enterprising Joe Hyde, broke through another intervening wall, and another, collecting more families as they went. They were also met by Vincent Dyson who, having forced his way through the top of his brother's ill-fated house, had crawled along the windswept roof. Hyde and his companions crashed through no fewer than five walls and, by the time the dramatic journey ended, 'their number had accumulated to thirty four, of both sexes and all ages'. Dressed only in their scanty night clothes, they remained beyond the reach of the flood until the water diminished. A few yards away, seven Atkinsons drowned. Pitiful screams and sobs penetrated the cold night air.' (CDDD)


'There were several other narrow escapes in Brick Row, and also great loss of life. In one of the next houses to Dyson's, the inmates, named Cooper, saved themselves by escaping to the garret, above the reach of the flood. Mr. Cooper himself, after the flood had subsided, seeing some of the neighbours out in the street, asked them how they had got out. They replied that they had got down the stairs. Upon this Cooper attempted to go down stairs, his wife following him, with a little girl in her arms. When Cooper had got down a few steps he fell right into the cellar, the staircase having been swept away, which he did not discover, it being still dark. He was covered with water and mud, but managed to get out. When his wife saw her husband fall, she screamed out, and ran back into the garret, where she remained until help arrived.' (GFAS)

Site of 'Hill Bridge' (bottom of Walkley Lane), and Masons Arms pub (viewed from Hillsborough Corner) The same view today (almost) (the 'Masons Arms' is now the 'Freemasons Arms')

ABOVE: The old photograph was taken from Hillsborough Bridge (Hillsborough Corner) and shows the much damaged 'Masons Arms' public house, which stood on the site of the current 'Freemason's Arms'. Walkley Lane can be seen descending from the left, and terminating abruptly at the point where, several days earlier, the old 'Hill Bridge' had spanned the River Loxley to join Holme Lane - just of to the right in the photograph. The modern photograph shows the same view (though taken from a little closer) today.

A closer view of the 'Masons Arms', and the site of 'Hill Bridge', is shown below (the actual bridge that was washed away from this location is shown a little further down the page). The dark mark on the white houses indicates the height the flood water rose to.

Site of Hill Bridge (bottom of Walkley Lane), and the Masons Arms pub


'Very near to the house of Henry Whittles [see photo above, and text later] at Hill Bridge, was the Masons' Arms public house, kept by William Pickering. The house was almost destroyed, the interior exposed, and all the furniture swept away. In the house at the time of the flood, besides Pickering himself, were his wife, his sister, a lodger, and a little girl, a niece, eight years of age. All were drowned, except the little girl. She slept by herself in a bed in a chamber on the top storey of the house, higher than the line to which the water rose. When the neighbours went to the house on the morning after the flood, they found that nearly everything had been swept away, but on going to the upper chamber they were astonished to find the little girl in bed and fast asleep. They awoke her, and took her to a place of safety. The house was swept away except a little corner on which the girl's bed stood. Upon being questioned she said-- "I heard a noise in the middle of the night. I thought the gas was blowing up down stairs. I heard my uncle go down stairs, and thought he was going to see if the gas had blown up. I then heard my aunt go down, and call out for help. Her sister went to her, and I then heard them both cry out for help. I heard nothing more, and went to sleep soon afterwards."' (GFAS)


'In another house at Hill Bridge, lived Thomas Booth, his wife and four or five children, and in the next house lived a man named Proctor. Being sensible of the peril to which the Booths were exposed, Proctor broke a hole through his own bedroom into the bedroom of the Booths, and rescued Mr. Booth and all his family.' (GFAS)


'At Bower's Row, Hill Bridge, on somewhat higher ground than that occupied by the houses whose destruction has been described, lived a man named William Crookes. When the flood came, he heard the roar of the water, and the screams of the neighbours. He was so alarmed that he thought his own house was going to be swept away; and so to save himself, as he thought, he jumped out of his bedroom window on to the road. His wife tried to prevent him from adopting such a course, but he was so frightened that he could not be persuaded to stay in the house. The water flooded the chamber, but not to such an extent as to imperil the lives of those who were in it. When Crookes jumped out of the window, he of course fell into the water and a quantity of it got into his mouth and down his throat. The water was thick with mud and dirt brought down from the embankment. Crookes was soon got out of the water, and taken into the house again; but he died next morning from the bruises he had received, and from mud getting into the organs of digestion.' (GFAS)


This ancient sketch shows the original 'Hill Bridge' which was totally washed away by the flood. It is viewed here from Hillsborough Bridge - looking in the direction of Malin Bridge: The Mason's Arms is behind the trees on the left (if, indeed, it existed at the time this sketch was produced!). By comparing this picture with the three previous photographs, it can be seen that the weir was also washed away by the flood - but was re-built afterwards, and remains today.

The original 'Hill Bridge' that was swept away by the flood (viewed from Hillsborough Corner)


Henry Whittles house - Hill Bridge - HillsboroughThe rear of Henry Whittles House at Hill Bridge (for exact location - see photograph above)

'One of the most extraordinary cases of narrow escape was that of the family of Henry Whittles, of Hill Bridge. The gable of his house was swept away, exposing the interior. In one of the bedrooms, which rested only upon a corner of the building, two of the walls having been washed down, was a stump bedstead. On that bed Whittles placed his wife and five children, and held them firmly upon it, while he supported himself with one hand against the wall. The following is the account given by Whittles himself of this extraordinary escape. He says :-- I was awoke by the flood breaking open the doors and windows. I thought at first it was some one breaking in to rob the house. I jumped out of bed, and set off to go down stairs. The first step I took I was in the water. I ran back, took my wife out of bed, and also the two children who were in the same bed. One of the children was only nine days old. When I had taken them out of bed, the outside walls of the house went directly, and the bed on which my wife and children had been lying was swept away. Another little boy, two years old, I snatched from the bed, just as it was going down, and flung him over my head into another corner of the chamber, which hung by a piece of the wall, and where was a mattress. The whole house was then swept away, except the corner on which I had placed my wife and five children, on the little bed. The corner stood, and I held them there a long time. They were covered with water, and of course were quite undressed. The water tore my shirt off my back, and left me naked. I held my wife and children on the mattress in the corner for more than an hour. While I was holding them, I saw two persons float past in the water, so near to me that I could have touched them both; but if I had attempted to do so I should have lost my wife and children, as they were only kept where they were by my holding them on. The water smelt awful, like a grave that had been newly opened. In about an hour and a quarter George Allen, of Hillsbro', saw grinder, came to see what was the matter. When he saw the house had been destroyed he cried out to his companions that we were all lost. When I heard him say that, I cried out, "No, we are safe in the corner." I reached the children down one by one, and they were all taken out of the house, and conveyed, just as they were, to a place of safety. The water ran clean over the bed, and they had all to stand up on the bed to keep their heads out of the water. We were all very much exhausted, but we all recovered, even the baby which was only nine days old.' (GFAS)


'In another house at Hill Bridge lived Robert Graham, his wife, and six children. They were awoke by the water breaking into their bedroom. They got up as soon as possible, but in a few minutes a brick wall of the house fell upon them, and knocked them down into the water. Robert Graham, by very extraordinary exertions, managed to get his wife and children out of the water, and place them all upon a bed which was in the room. The water raised the bed off the floor, and floated it about. Graham had great difficulty in preventing his wife and children from tumbling out, but he begged them to keep quiet, and not to try to escape. They remained where they were, in the bed, floating about, till the flood subsided, and the bed again rested upon the chamber floor. Graham himself was partially covered with water, but he maintained his self possession. At length assistance came, and all the family were rescued.' (GFAS)

LOST, in the Flood, from Hill Bridge, a MAN, aged 33 years, Bald, with thin
Light Whiskers round the Face. Height about 5ft. 5in., and with a Scar on his
Right Thigh caused by an abscess being cut. -- Information will be thankfully
received by CHARLES PICKERING, Red Lion Inn, Trippet lane, Sheffield.


Hillsborough Corner - viewed from Hill Bridge (near Freemason's Arms) The same view today (almost)

Hillsborough Bridge and 'Corner' - viewed from what is today, the bottom of Walkley Lane (beside Hill Bridge and the Freemasons Arms Pub). The 'Shakespeare Inn' (standing on Bradfield Road) remains today, and is indicated in both photographs. Also remaining is the building that was then the 'Hillsbro' Inn' (also indicated in the photographs).

'The Hillsbro' Inn, a strong stone building, was damaged, the water rushing into its lower stories, forcing up the flooring, and bursting out at the doors and windows. Much of the furniture was ruined. Across the road, the premises of Mr. Woodcock, maltster, were flooded and injured. Next door is the Shakespeare Inn, in which the cellars were filled with water, and the lower rooms were covered with mud. The Flood swept large trees and stones across the Wadsley and Langsett turnpike road [now Langsett Road/Middlewood Road], and piled them up in front of the national school [situated on what is today Middlewood Road - almost directly opposite the Taplin Road junction] and by the side of the police station. Mr. John C. Appleby, who kept a shop near to Mr. Woodcock's, was drowned, along with his mother and sister. The house was a good stone building, but it was partially destroyed. The strong stone bridge at Hillsbro' [seen photos above and below] was greatly damaged the walls and parapets being swept away, and part of the structure itself being destroyed. The force of the water was shown by the distance to which the immense stones on this bridge were carried down the stream. It is stated, on good authority, that an entire brick house, with its walls, roof, and flooring all complete, was carried down as far as the bridge, and that it held together for some hours.' (GFAS)

Geoffrey Amy writes of this area:

'The Hillsborough Inn suffered when water cascaded into the cellars and 'blew up the flooring and burst out of the doors and windows'. Nearby, the Shakespeare Inn was also damaged, as was the surgery of Dr Roberts and, to a great degree, the grocery shops of Cockhill Woodcock. Subsequently, Woodcock claimed compensation not only for the material injury to his premises but also for loss of trade brought about by the 'departure' of so many of his customers. John Cowton Appleby, a widower of thirty-six, also a prospering grocer in the district, lost not only his stock but also his life. Appleby, together with his sixty-three year old mother, Mary, and her granddaughter of the same name, fought vainly to get out of their crumbling home. Mrs Appleby's body was recovered from the river at Rotherham. . . . The cries for help were heart rending and, in most cases, nothing could be done. Peering into the gloom, it was sometimes possible to distinguish a figure bobbing in the flood but there was no chance, for instance, of saving a man who went by 'sitting bolt upright in the water'. William Watson, an anvil maker by trade, broke the surface with his wife, Sarah Ann, two youngsters and his father-in law, John Oakley, all clinging to each other. The group was split by the surging flood, but Watson managed to hold on to his wife and little son, George. Then, as they were dashed against a wall, Watson alone survived and floated close to a bedroom window through which he was dragged by a man called Widdowson. . . .

The Great Flood had its share of what would have otherwise have been comical incidents as well as a number of bizarre episodes. When the water bounded into the modest home of a Hillsborough tailor called Joseph Chapman, he promptly clambered into a wooden box and pulled the lid over himself. Thus enclosed, he floated around for a while until some neighbours hauled him clear of danger and Chapman, used to creating items of sartorial elegance, stepped out triumphantly--in a state of near nudity. Then there was the story of a domestic row which saved two others from drowning. A man, frustrated by his wife's nagging about his drinking habits, decided to return to a late night concert hall to submerge his sorrows in ale. The wife, not to be outdone, followed him and kept up her carping commentary. When they finally returned to their home, only half of it was still standing. Stranger still was the case of a man who, earlier that day, had attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river. He was fished out and locked in a cell at Hillsborough police station, pending an appearance in court. When the flood rushed into the building and began to rise alarmingly he no longer relished the idea of sudden departure by immersion and shouted to be let out. Inspector Thomas Smalley and his wife, Victoria, sleeping in a room above the lock up, were aroused by the commotion and, by the time the policeman got to the screaming prisoner, the water was up to his armpits. With difficulty, Smalley rescued the man who by now was trembling and appeared to have abandoned all thoughts of a self inflicted demise. The inspector, who spent the remainder of that night and the following few days assisting the many sufferers in the area, caught a chill. He confided to his wife and his doctor: 'I got my death on the night of the flood and shall never get better.' His premonition was sadly accurate. He also contracted typhus (probably through swallowing dirty water) and died two months after saving a man who, for a time at least, had not wanted to live.

Destiny dealt more kindly with John Corbett, an unmarried steel tilter of twenty-one, who lived just beyond the reach of the flood as it sped down the Loxley Valley. For a young man, he had a strongly developed sense of duty and self discipline. He was on night shift that week and would normally have been walking through Malin Bridge on his way to work at the time of the disaster. He awoke and started to dress when, for some unexplained reason, he changed his mind and got back into bed. It was the only time in his life he was late for work and, to his dying day, some sixty years later, he declared he never knew what prevented him from following his customary routine. Being a devoutly religious man, he doubtless attributed his good fortune to the Almighty. His workmates, at least, had given him up for lost.' (CDDD)

Hillsborough Bridge - Hillsborough Corner The same view today (almost)

A similar view to the one shown above - but from a little closer. Once again, the 'Shakespeare Inn' is indicated. The 'Old Blue Ball Inn' - which remains today (see below), appears here closer than it actually is due to the powerful 'zoom lens' that was used in taking the photograph. Buildings on the far side of Langsett Road obscure the view of it in the modern photo!

FOUND, a Rough White TERRIER BITCH, with Black Patch
on the Side of her Head. If not owned within seven days, will
be Sold. -- Apply at the Crown Brewery, Langsett road.

Copyright © 2001 Michael Armitage

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