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Farfield Inn - and foundations of the Hillfoot Bridge (destroyed by flood)

View across Hillfoot Bridge to The Farfield Inn (one time 'The Owl')

ABOVE: The view across Hillfoot Bridge to the Farfield Inn (though for a while, this pub was known as 'The Owl' - as seen above) on Neepsend Lane.
OPPOSITE: The same view in March 1864 - showing where the original bridge had spanned the Don a few days earlier.

The old 'Hillfoot Bridge' - destroyed by flood - Farfield Inn on right The view 'up' the Don (northwards) to Hillfoot Bridge in 1842 - showing the wooden bridge that was swept away by the flood. The Farfield Inn is on the extreme right.


'Slithering swiftly along Neepsend Lane, which runs close to the River Don for half a mile or so, the flood caused some of the worst havoc. The fronts of some houses were torn away, revealing people gasping and threshing about; in a number of single storey dwellings, said to be scarcely larger than pig sties, entire families floundered and drowned. Between the river and the embankment of the Sheffield Manchester railway line about 800 acres were laid out as gardens [known as 'Victoria Gardens'], 'cultivated in small plots by industrious artisans residing in adjacent parts'. On those allotments (for that is what they would now be called) were some whitewashed cottages, a number being used as tool sheds but others lived in by modest working men who rented the plots. The gardens were swamped and homes smashed. Thomas Petty, who was employed by a firm manufacturing stove grates, met his death along with his wife, Margaret, and their three children. The same was reported of four Websters, five Midwoods and Alfred and Sarah Hukin and their twelve year old niece, Alice Jackson. The story of the Midwoods was recounted fifty years later by Mrs Harriet Nicholson, when she was sixty-nine. Joel Midwood, an apprentice to a master builder, lived with his parents, John and Phoebe Midwood, his two younger brothers, Dawson and George, and his little sister, Fanny. After the flood hit their home, Joel Midwood got on to the roof and pulled up his mother, father and sister. He saw nothing more of his brothers. Sitting astride the roof, the four were swept along by the current and 'heard the voices of stricken people pleading for mercy, imploring the Almighty for aid, praying and singing'. After a while, Midwood's parents and sister 'slid from the roof and perished before his eyes'. Joel Midwood was also shot into the water, but managed to keep afloat and became caught in debris piled against a bridge. Although 'numbed and exhausted, he groped his way over the wreckage, got on to the parapet of the bridge and stumbled along to a house where the light was shining'. He was put to bed and the following day went to hospital to have a large metal nail removed from his foot. That injury soon healed, but there was nothing to mend the horror of his memory. Such experiences were all too common. Terrified souls snatched at anything projecting above the waterline to save themselves or thrust out an often unavailing hand to rescue others being pulled along by the racing tide. Thomas Peters, a leather dresser, was working at Lincoln when the flood came and returned home to find his wife had managed to save only one of their four children. Thomas Albert, a skinner, threw his eldest son on to his shoulders and waded to safety but, before he was able to get back to the house, his wife and their two children had been overcome. Another skinner, William Needham, and his wife, each carrying a child, got away from their flooded cottage and reached a neighbour's house. They hauled themselves up the stairs only to find the bedroom door stuck by the pressure of water. Eventually the door panels were smashed from inside and Mrs Needham dragged through; by then, however, her infant had been drowned and carried away. Her husband also lost hold of their other child and only saved his own life by dog paddling to a window where helping hands plucked him from the water. The bodies of John and Martha Needham, aged four and two respectively, were later found nearby. John and Sarah Ann Glover, a married couple, both twenty-five years old, stumbled and half swam to a house on higher ground, but the effort was too much for them; they were clawing their way up a staircase towards safety when weakness and water overcame them. Thomas Wilkinson had 'been in a flood before' and, when water drove him from his bedroom, he climbed on to the roof. A light cart floated close and Wilkinson clambered into it and held on to an edge of his house, from which vantage point he persuaded neighbours to remain in their garrets and on no account to attempt to 'make a dash for it'. Thomas Wilkinson knew about such things and a number of people survived, thanks to his cool thinking and comforting advice. Four members of the Bright family, together with Edward Cross aged fifteen were trapped and slowly drowned, while two other occupants effected a getaway by wriggling up the chimney.' (CDDD)

Of this neighbourhood, Samuel Harrison writes:

'Opposite Hillfoot, and between the river and the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, about 900 acres of land are laid out as gardens . . . These gardens, which in the summer months presented a scene of great beauty to the traveller as he entered Sheffield from the direction of Manchester, were completely submerged, laid waste, devastated, and covered with mud, hay, stones, furniture, and debris of every description. The trees and shrubs were many of them torn up, the hedges carried away, or scattered over with hay, and the whole scene was one of extraordinary desolation and ruin. A great many dead bodies were found in this neighbourhood.' (GFAS)

FOUND, at Hillfoot, a Little STORE PIG. The owner may have the
same by applying to Isaac Clark, Wellington Inn, Langsett road.

A little way along Neepsend Lane from Hillfoot Bridge, and close to the gardens mentioned above, was the Victoria Gardens Public House . . .

Neepsend Lane (towards Hillsborough) (Victoria Gardens on right) Same view today

These two photographs show the same view - that being along Neepsend Lane in the direction of Hillsborough. In the centre of the old photograph can be seen the Victoria Gardens Pub - its name can be (vaguely) observed written across a board near the top of the building. The Pub was eventually replaced by the Victoria Hotel 2 - seen in the modern photograph: though, at the time of writing, this building has been taken over by the hydraulics company, La-Pla & Co. Ltd.

'Thomas Elston was only thirty-four, but illness threatened to bring his job as a blade grinder to a premature end. He was a victim of inflamed lungs and his doctor had prescribed a period of rest in the clean air of the countryside. Elston lived modestly in one of the Neepsend garden houses and, like so many of his colleagues suffering from 'grinder's disease', was reluctant to give up his work, even for a short time. He could not afford it and was resigned to the fact that respiratory troubles were an accepted hazard of the trade. He was ill, however, and finally convinced himself there was no real alternative to the physician's advice. He sent his crippled son, William, aged six, to stay with his grandmother in another part of Sheffield and Elston himself was due to depart for his 'cure' on the day before the flood. Only twelve days previously his wife, Elizabeth, had given birth to a son, who was called Thomas after his father. Perhaps mother and child were going to travel with Elston; possibly he postponed his trip until they had gained in strength. At all events, he put off his 'holiday' for forty-eight hours. It proved a fateful decision. The flood covered the cottage by the river and the three Elstons inside never stood a chance.' (CDDD)

Depth of flood water at NeepsendNEEPSEND LANE / BARDWELL ROAD, JUNCTION

The author - pointing up to the small brass plaque which marks the height reached by the flood water at this location.3 The location being on the corner of Neepsend Lane and Bardwell Road - the lane that leads up to the Sheffield Ski Village.


Below Hillfoot Bridge, the river runs directly beside Penistone Road (then known as the 'Low Road'): about 500 yards below the bridge, it makes a sudden sweep away from the road, and across towards Neepsend Lane; however, at this point, in years pasts, the water was channelled along a goit - still close to the 'Low Road' (that site is currently occupied by Osborne's works) and into a Mill Dam a little further along. The effect was to isolate a section of land between the goit/mill dam, and the river; which was known as Bacon Island (this effect is repeated about a half mile further down the river thus creating 'Kelham Island'). At the lower end of Bacon Island - approaching Rutland Road, the area was known as Philadelphia.

'On the South side of Bacon Island were two houses, which stood crosswise to a row of buildings previously referred to, in which lived George Shaw, and others. One of these houses was occupied by Geo. Wright, a furnace man, employed at Messrs. Butchers', and the other by a family named Mappin. Wright was awoke in the middle of the night by the rush of the waters. He at once got up, and knocked at the partition wall to alarm his neighbours. Mrs. Mappin replied by knocking again, and in a moment afterwards she heard a loud shriek. Then all again was still, except the noise of the wind and the roar of the flood. When the water had subsided, it was discovered that the gable wall of Wright's house had been carried away. At first it was not known exactly what loss of life there had been in this house. Mr. Wright had been to a funeral the day before the flood, and the neighbours were not aware whether he had returned or not. There is, however, no doubt that Wright was in the house at the time of the flood, and that he perished in its waters. There were also in the house Mrs. Wright, her young child, and an older child, a visitor, the daughter of Mr. Johnson, pork butcher, Sheffield Moor, with whom Mrs. Wright had formerly lived as servant. Mrs. Wright was drowned, and so was the visitor, the child of Mr. Johnson. Mrs. Wright's child had a most extraordinary escape. After the subsidence of the waters, a young man climbed on a pole through the bedroom window, and there he found the little child asleep in its bed, unconscious of the danger it had escaped, and the terrible bereavement it had sustained. Even the candle which its parents had lighted in their terror when the flood came, was burning near the child, disclosing on its features the soft and peaceful slumbers of infancy. The young man took the child up, and said to it, "Where are your dada and mamma?" "They have gone out of the window," replied the little innocent. The child was taken out of the ruins of its father's house and conveyed to a place of safety. Afterwards the Johnsons applied for the child, thinking that it was their child that had escaped. Their distress on finding that their child was the lost one may be imagined. We understand, however, that Wright's child which escaped has been handed over to Mr. Johnson, and that he has undertaken the care of it in place of his own. Johnson's child was not found till more than two months afterwards, when it was got out of the river Don at Kilnhurst. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and the features were unrecognisable. One of the fingers of the left hand had been taken off a few years ago, which led to the identification.' (GFAS)

'The gasworks at Neepsend were extensively damaged; retorts, boilers and engines were wrested from their fixtures and the water carried away a thousand tons of coke and a large quantity of timber. More bridges broke up, houses staggered and fell and a tall chimney folded, showering hundreds of bricks into the vast stream. At the end of one row of cottages lived John Gannon who, on his small wage as a labourer, provided for his wife, Sarah, and six children. They shouted desperately for help when the waters came, but in vain. As Joel Midwood had done, Gannon smashed through the slates and hauled his family up after him on to the roof. There they sat and shivered, clinging to each other for comfort and safety and, perhaps, blessing their luck that they had got beyond the reach of the flood. However, the top part of their home was detached from the remainder and whisked along like so much balsa wood. The Gannons held on grimly as what was left of their cottage pitched along like a storm tossed ship. Soon it fell apart and all eight were drowned. It was the biggest family loss from one house in Sheffield: John Gannon was listed as being thirty-six years old, Sarah (thirty), Henry (eleven), John (nine), Peter (five), William (four), Sarah Ann (two) and Margaret (four months).' (CDDD)


'In the cellar portion of an adjacent house lived a labourer named Coggan, his wife, and three children. Coggan and his wife had gone to Wakefield to attend the funeral of a relative, and they had left their three children in the house by themselves, a neighbour named Mrs. Smith having promised to attend to them. They were sleeping by themselves in a low cellar, as already mentioned, when the flood came in upon them, reaching far above the ceiling of their room, and of course they were drowned without the possibility of rescue. The eldest child was about eleven years of age. They were all three found in bed next morning, as though they had never awoke from their slumbers, but had passed quietly away to a sleep more lasting and more profound.' (GFAS)


'In one of the houses at Neepsend, which was partially destroyed, lived a butcher, named John Mayor, his wife, a daughter, and one or two other persons. Mayor's wife was an invalid, and they therefore slept in a bed on the ground floor. She had been from home some weeks for the benefit of her health, and only returned a few days before the flood. Mayor, his wife, and daughter, were all drowned, not being able to escape from the low room, which was completely filled with water. In the same building, but in the upper portion of it, lived a family named Clayton. Mr. Clayton was awoke by the roar of the water, and the screaming of the neighbours. With great difficulty he and his daughter and the other inmates of that part of the house, escaped to the garret, where they were safe.' (GFAS)

'In another of these houses lived Thomas Albert, a skinner, who works at Mr. Mills's tannery. When Albert was awoke by the uproar, he found the water rising in the rooms on the ground floor, and he immediately called up all the members of his family. His little boy, three years of age, clung round his neck, and his wife caught hold of the back of his shirt to follow him out. The water then burst open the doors, and rushed in, upon which he said to his wife, "I believe we are all going to be drowned in this hole." Just as he said that another large wave burst upon them, and knocked Mrs. Albert down. She had hold of her husband's shirt collar, but as she fell down she tore it completely off his back, leaving him without a rag of clothing. The little boy still clung to his father's neck, and was carried on to some steps out of the reach of the water, where he was safe. Albert then went back to try to rescue his wife, and his other two children; but he was knocked down by falling bricks and floating pieces of timber. Mrs. Albert and the two elder children were drowned, and the house was nearly destroyed.' (GFAS)

Damaged houses - probably at Neepsend/PhiladelphiaLEFT: These houses are believed to have been in the Neepsend/Bacon Island area - though probably a little lower down at Philadelphia (the southern end of Bacon Island - approaching Rutland Road). It is possible that this was the building from which 'Rollo' the dog was saved (see later on 'Flood Related Artefacts and Survivors' page). Are the two men in the upper right-hand room engaged in a fight?

Samuel Harrison continues:

'A little lower than Bacon Island is a district called Philadelphia, which is occupied by mills, large manufactories, and other buildings, which were nearly all flooded to a greater or less extent. From the mill of Mr. Joseph Rodgers the torrent swept away sixteen pigs, and their sties, but five of the animals were recovered near the Infirmary, lower down the stream. The water filled the mill up to the second floor, and four horses were drowned in their stable. . . . From 'the yard of Messrs. Butchers' works, below, . . . much valuable timber was carried away, including an oak log of two tons weight, which was deposited near the New Inn, Shales Moor.' [see picture - next page] (GFAS)


Waterloo Houses - Rutland Road Waterloo Houses - Rutland Road

On the left is an artist's sketch of Waterloo Houses as seen within a few days after the flood. Sheffield centre lies behind the artist, and Rutland Road runs parallel to, and directly behind this row of houses. The Rutland Road Bridge (then more commonly known as 'Neepsend Bridge') - spanning the River Don - lies just beyond the right-hand end of this building (also see below). On the right is a photograph of the row taken a few days later - when the downstairs rooms had been boarded up for safety. Once again, do we have two men fighting in one of the upper rooms? Below is a similar sketch of the houses, but this one clearly shows the Rutland Road Bridge just beyond, and to the right of, the houses.

Waterloo Houses and Rutland Road BridgeSurprisingly there was only one death from these houses - that of an eighty-seven year old woman, Ann Cooke, believed to be the flood's oldest victim.


'Near to the river at this point were two rows of houses, nearly at right angles, the property of W. F. Dixon, Esq., and called Waterloo Houses. Here a very extraordinary spectacle was presented after the flood. The entire front walls of the row which stands in the gable end towards the river, were knocked down; the interiors exposed, and the flooring of the bedrooms hung down aslant from its hold on the side which remained uninjured. It was curious, on visiting the scene next morning, to notice bird cages hanging on the walls, with their little inmates trilling their songs as merrily as on any other more auspicious morning. Much of the furniture was washed away or destroyed, and the houses themselves were filled with water and mud. The inmates were all in great peril, and the wonder is that any of them escaped. The flood came rushing down upon them, and the water rose up to the bedrooms. In a few minutes the front wall fell down with a tremendous crash, which startled both those who were asleep and those who were awake, by its loudness and suddenness. Most of the inmates retreated into their back bedrooms, where they were safe from peril of death, although they were flooded and exposed to the cold night wind. It is singular that, although all these houses were occupied, only one life was lost in this row. An old woman named Mrs. Whittington,4  82 years of age, was sleeping in a low room at the house of her daughter. The flood washed away both the old woman and the bed on which she slept. The body of the old woman was found some weeks afterwards, at a distance of many miles from the place where she was drowned.' (GFAS)

Copyright © 2001 Michael Armitage

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