Sheffield Flood      Claims Archive




By JEAN CASS, Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, Volume 15 (1989), pp. 29-37.

Reprinted by kind permission of The Hunter Archaeological Society


At their Annual Meeting on 20th April 1863 the directors of the privately owned Sheffield Waterworks Company were informed by their engineer, Mr Leather, that ‘notwithstanding the more than ordinary difficulties which had been encountered’ the Dale Dike reservoir was now ready for the reception of water.1 In the Annual Report of 1864 the directors had to lament the ‘occurrence of such a deplorable nature as the recent accident to the Dale Dike reservoir.’ 2 The embankment had collapsed, inundating all the Loxley and part of the Don Valley, and causing death and destruction to all the surrounding property, both industrial and domestic.3

The directors were aware that they could not escape paying compensation because the enabling Act of 1853 had contained a protective clause instigated by the local millowners who were mindful of the collapse in 1852 of the Bilberry dam at Holmfirth. This clause guaranteed recompense to all owners of property ‘in consequence of the Failure or giving away of the Reservoirs...or other Works of the Company’. The directors decided to negotiate for a special Act to be rushed through Parliament authorising the raising of the extra capital required and for the creation of a Commission which would investigate the claims ‘in a manner more expeditious than the ordinary operation of the law would allow’. The Act came into force on 29th July 1864; it empowered a ‘moderate’ addition to the water rate – 25% – and gave the three Commissioners the necessary authority to approve, negotiate or dismiss all the claims which were to be officially numbered and registered.

The Commissioners held their first meeting on 4th October where they settled matters of ‘practice and principle’ and arranged for future hearings.4 They became progressively aware of various malpractices: claimants holding back in order to ascertain the most beneficial method of registration, duplicated claims, and claims inflated by a solicitor interested in his percentage on the awards granted to his clients. The last meeting was held on 13th April 1865. The 6619 claims for destroyed or damaged property had been settled and registered; deaths and injuries (not covered in this report) were treated separately. The entries were recorded in 12 large volumes, now in the City Archives in Sheffield City Libraries.5 These books are the source of this report. The prime intention of the investigation is to demonstrate the wealth of information which can be gleaned from the flood claims. Obviously only a few examples could be selected and none of them have been quoted in full.6 The aim has been to select items which were either characteristic or unusual. To facilitate further investigation the claims have been grouped into suitable categories with some reference to additional claims, although these are only a fraction of the whole. The financial aspect could form a separate study: taking a very rough average, most claimants received about two thirds of the sum they had optimistically submitted.

On the fateful night the area along the rivers was briefly flooded to a depth ranging from 26 feet on the upper Loxley to six feet around the Don at Lady’s Bridge, in the centre of Sheffield; although only a section of country and town were affected by the flood the claims do throw considerable light on mid-Victorian Sheffield and its industrial development.


The most important claims are those submitted by the owners and workmen involved in the iron and steel trades. Often the workshops are described and the employees’ names, occupations and rates of pay are given. Here is evidence of riparian sites on the rivers Loxley and Don demonstrating the involvement of Sheffield in the machine age. Selected examples are given below with a further brief list of some of the manufacturers named in the claims registers.

In many cases professional valuers were employed, moving through the different, named workshops. However, final totals for Claims or subsequent Assessments do not reflect comparative values because ownership was often shared. The claims sometimes included the cost of cleaning and rebuilding or there were other premises on the site. For example, at Butcher’s a treacle boiling shed is featured, and both the Marshall and Peace proprietors claimed for the expense of temporarily removing their families to more salubrious neighbourhoods. (2962*, 2693*; 3252*; 6397*)

Messrs. W. & S. Butcher were tilters, forgers and rollers at Philadelphia steel works, Bacon Island. Property damaged included a stable, the filecutters’ shop, a saw pit and saw mill, rolling, rod and sheet mills, the ‘Elve’ (sic) house, the boiler shed, the dust mill, and the forges, tilts and furnaces. The office had contained French wire gauges and weighing scales, also a Chadburn water gauge for the boiler. The multitubular boiler was lost, two more boilers had to be ‘got out of the river’. Three large pickling tubs were washed away. The stock lost included: manganese, borax, tallow, whale oil, neck grease, tools (described), wiping yarn, 27 ash helves, coke, steel scrap, four types of clay, good gannister, a cart load of ling for besoms and about 100 bushels of charcoal. The water spoilt 20 tons of ‘B I at £16’ and a further ‘20 tons of I for shear at £29’ which were in the furnace; there was also a steel casing ‘hot in the pit burst by the water’. Over 1000 melting pots, some with lids and stands, had to be replaced. The processes were all costed but unfortunately there is no list of employees. These must have made individual claims and cannot be identified. (2692*, 2693*)

Messrs. Crowley & Sons were iron founders at Kelham Island. Seventeen of their eighteen furnaces were working; there were workshops for mechanics, glazers and dry grinders, the potmakers’ cellar had supplies of clay, charcoal and coke dust; a ‘scouring barrel room’ is named; mould boxes lost had been ‘got up in a superior manner’. The dressing shop floor was dried out by running hot metal over it! About 300 employees are listed with their occupations: moulders, cupola tenters and one ‘Baretter’. (4823)

The nearby firm of J. Charles & Sons had single, double and triple furnaces; the trains of rollers had underground gearing which was difficult to clean; the water penetrated the Milnes patent safe in the office. The names and rates of pay of over 200 workmen are given; their occupations are listed in Volume 1 where the original claims were withdrawn to be submitted afresh by their employers. (4525*, scattered between 755-879 and in Volumes 2 and 3)

Steel & Garland were stove grate and range makers whose losses included drawings, lithographs, five hundredweights of emery paper, reams of tissue paper, finished ormulu, ‘inside cheeks’ , and a lime box which had contained bright stove bars; they suffered damage to the black leading and the bronzeing shop. (4312)

A further list of firms with some individual details is given below:


These outnumber all other craftsmen, their claims are scattered throughout every volume, being particularly plentiful in Volumes 3, 6 and 8. Work sites and rates of pay are usually stated. Some of the larger wheels listed their men in blocks; at other wheels the men seem to have registered in small groups but there are also isolated entries. Various types of specialisation are named, chiefly the grinding of table, spring knife and pocket blades, but also razors, scythes, forks, scissors, files and fenders and a few ivory, bone and scale cutters.

A cutler at Owlerton who was probably a ‘little mester’ had a stock which included pressed buffalo horn, different types of blades, scales, files, springs, and tools – tongs, glazers, shears, hammers, a scale press and a glue pot. (4574)

Generally short-term claims for loss of wages were favourably considered but claims for loss of stock were treated with scepticism – G. Loy ground razors at Rowell Bridge; he claimed 27 days’ employment lost, worth £6.15.0. and four dozen blades washed away, worth 4s; he was awarded £5.10.0. (5035 Similarly a pocket blade grinder at Olive Wheel was not recompensed for the £2.12.6 he lost in labour on 23 dozen knives. (6542) With careful research it would be possible to calculate rates of pay and output for men and apprentices. (Others: 417; 886; 1403; 1411; 3118; 4534; 4574; 5012; 5120; 5310; 5646; 6571. Claims for grinders at named firms are roughly concentrated between the following numbers: Chadburn’s 1722-2354; Globe 2410-2562, 2813-3318, 5139, 6424-6522; Marsden Bros. 1655-1781, 2456-2599; Rowell Bridge 2372-2405, 6386-6394, 6395*-6401*, 6561-6581; Soho 1944-1994, 2151-2483, 5499*; Union 1602-2272, 3868*, 6459-6559. Horn, bone, button and scale grinders: 2423, 2449, 2454, 3220, 5856. Ivory grinders: 2544-2561, 6469. This list is not exhaustive.)


The detailed claims to the following deserve individual mention.

Brickmakers and the Refractory Industry

In 1864 brickmaking was already established at two sites on the south bank of the upper Loxley, facing the water wheels at Storrs Bridge and Old Wheel. Clay pits are marked on the 1855 O.S. map; the flood claims prove that the owners had progressed from the extraction of ‘pot clay’ to the manufacture of finished bricks. At Storrs Bridge, T. Marshall and W. Crapper obtained just over £1600 in recompense for stores of pot clay, punch wood and ‘other woods used in the trade’. There were also brick moulds and tram rails washed away. The loss in output was calculated at 30,000 bricks a week. (4802)

T. Wragg was a clay merchant and fire brick maker with a smaller output; he lost bricks spoiled in the making and wooden and brass brick moulds. (1478)

Two other local firms suffered transport problems, requiring three horses instead of two for the longer, steeper journey into Sheffield whilst Malin Bridge was down. (5990; 6390)

Hair Seat Manufacture

Laycock & Sons received over £1000 for stock which included ‘cow tails off the skin’ , hemp, hogs’ hair, cocoa fibre and ‘Fuzzreys Hacklings’. (3256*)

Paper Makers

The two manufactories each occupied the former sites of cutlers’ water wheels; Olive Wheel at Loxley was owned by J. Woodward; Marshall’s was at Owlerton. Both also feature as gardeners. The tools of the trade were riddles, pressing blocks, moulds, agitators, a glazing calendar, a beating stool for felts, cutting knives and pulp rakes. The stock consisted of many different types of paper, ropes, felts and alum. R. W. Marshall employed Mr. Powell to draw up a detailed contract for the necessary rebuilding. (5417; 3252*, 3253*)


Neepsend must have been a salubrious district with three tanneries and a brewery. The designees of the late W. Cooper received £8340 for damage to the tannery which had been in full operation, with valuable stock in trade. The 120 wooden tan pits were filled with ‘Liquor Bark and Valonia in active use’. The skins, stained with the mud and iron in the flood water, were sold off with an itemised loss of profit. The claim included 7 tons of valonia, 292 tons of oak bark and the cost of replacing the ruined pits. (6391*).

G. Mills, fellmonger, had a washing frame in the river which was swept away. His lost stock comprised pelts in hand, salted batwing linings, 20 casks of dog manure, tons of lime, carboys of vitriol, bags of shumac and 640 wool skins which came in the day after the flood and could not be used. (3168**)

T.C. Fawley estimated that he had lost 2000 skins, ‘salted grains’ , ‘Chamose leather’ , ‘Spetches’ , also stocks of dog manure, packing cases and salt. There was damage to the fleshing and splitting shops and the salting shed and the lime pits were ruined. A final blow was the damage to 194 wool skins ‘left at the Station until 17 March’. (4675)

Timber Merchants

Bellamy & Jepson had premises in Corporation St. which were flooded to a depth of four feet. Both they and Batty Langley’s had deal and mahogany spoiled with water. (3200; 2662. See also a remarkably detailed and costed list of many types of wood, spoiled in the flood, but the owner’s name is lacking, so no positive identification is possible. M.D. 697b)


If it were not a well-known fact, the number of drinking establishments would have been astonishing. In addition to some spirits, beer, ale and porter, peppermint cordial and ginger wine were all popular; quite a few places had bagatelle boards and other forms of amusement.

The most remarkable claim was submitted by two ladies and their husbands who had an intimate knowledge of the contents of the Stag Inn at Malin Bridge. In addition to glasses, measures and a washing tub in the cellar, there were upstairs French, feather and four poster beds, damask hangings, a night commode and the silver lever watch and chain which had belonged to the late owner, Mrs. Armitage, drowned in the flood. (5977)

The Free Masons’ Arms had hair seating, 6 metal spittoons and gas chandeliers in the best room, whilst the tap room had rush bottom chairs and 10 spittoons; the Bar had a ‘Pull Beer machine’ ; the stock included ham, bacon and a cheese chest; the owner lost ‘money in the house to pay the brewer’. (4385) B. Hague registered a claim consequent on the effects of the water pressure ‘the taps were forced from the Barrels and the contents lost’. (2763. Other public houses: 1482; 1580; 1874; 1877; 3363; 3520; 3888; 4631, losses through customers leaving the neighbourhood and unsettled debts; 5117, costed items; 5142; 5966; 6124. There are many more claims. Each brewery owned several establishments, examples include: Neepsend 1694; Greaves’ 4381; Rawsons’ 5445*; Soho 5469*)


Items listed in the registered claims suggest there were a number of corner shops selling everything from tea to stay laces; there is very little mention of bread (obviously home-made in the panshions), and fresh meat must have been bought in the market. Some of the proprietors had a remarkably clear recollection of what was on their shelves and costed the goods in great detail. A typical selection of shops is listed below.


W. Sneesby lost live sheep and killed meat from his premises in the Killing Shambles; another butcher living in Gibralter St. claimed for 20 tongues partially destroyed and further damage to tongues and dirty linen stored in the cellar. (5841; 4531. Others: 5149; 5707).


G. Hirst was a wholesaler who received over £1000 compensation for over 800 commodities carefully listed. J. Elliott of Gibralter St. also had a considerable stock, some of which could not be valued because swollen drawers could not be opened. They both had a store of ochres and colours: raw sienna, chinese yellow, celestial blue and many more. Other items were oils, acids, gingers, barks, Icelandic and Irish moss, Glauber’s salts, Vesta, drawing room and paraffin matches, ‘Dragon’s Blood’ , cockle pills, beetle poison and vermin killer. (5409; 396. Others: 2711; 3599; 5166; 6380*).


J. Walsh of the Wicker had a varied stock. Amongst the sweets were London Mixtures, Prince of Wales’ and Prince Albert’s Medals, Jujubs, Common Allsorts, large and small Nelson Balls, ‘Everton Toffy’ and biscuits and cakes (unusual). He also lost various named types of tobacco, pipes and snuff. In his house he had owned a Brussels carpet and a coffee percolator. (1211. Others: 241; 1196).

Drapers, Hosiers and Milliners

The stock of these small shops included linen, moleskin, serge, Regatta shirts, paper collars, crinolines, stays, straw Tuscan hats, velvet and crepe bonnets, hat shapes, hair knots, ‘Malta Falls’ , and artificial flowers. (5924; 5160; 1566).


Fortunately the original draft for T. Woodcock’s claim for £12.14s has survived; in the registered claim he has added overhead expenses (perhaps so advised?) bringing the total up to £26; his Agreed Assessment for £15. listed rabbits, fish, fowls, a barrel of crabs and 500 oysters valued at 3s. a hundred. (M.D. 697A and C.A. 7/4929. Others: 2237; 4228).

Furniture Broker

A. Dawson of Harvest Lane submitted priced lists of personal and saleable goods, including a gold framed chimney glass, a box of stuffed birds, two rosewood writing desks worth 8s., musical boxes and a violin and ‘box’ ; the gallon of naptha oil was presumably for household use, a frequently named commodity. (2269)

Grocers and General Dealers

The most comprehensive list was that of J. Tindall of Neepsend; it comprised over 300 priced goods, including: soluble cocoa, black, green, best and Gunpowder teas, various sugars and colours, stay laces, bird seed, dip candles and ‘Decimals’ , pickles, German yeast, a pig in salt and Infants’ Mixture; the final item in this confusing list being Mrs. Tindall’s silk mantle. (6135*)

Amongst W. Pattinson’s goods were Lemon Kali, Aniseed balls, polony and black pudding. One grocer dried out his tea in his neighbour’s engine house. (1687; 163. Others: 1038; 2709; 2715 [Malin Bridge Co-operative Society]; 3479; 3673; 4001; 4033 [Burgon’s]; 4591; 4821).


Robinson & Law were manufacturers who were paid £1690 for their stocks of tobacco, snuff and cigars of named makes, and for the packing barrels which were damaged by flood water. (146. Others: 1888; 3669)

Tripe and Trotter Dealers

J. Beckitt, late of Neepsend, lost his stock of tripe, sheep’s and beasts’ feet, trotters and neats’ foot oil. Another tripe dresser lost beasts’ and pigs’ tripe, tallow and neats’ foot oil. (6362; 3654).


Claims submitted by farmers chiefly concern the loss of top soil and potential crops, and some machinery.

At Mill Lee, Low Bradfield, the farmer lost turnip and oat seed, manure, bones and dressings some of which had already been applied; his implements included riddles, flails, a turnip drill, a scuffler, straw choppers and straw, a pig scraper and a long swingle tree. Down stream, at Dam Flask, J. Hobson was a farmer and miller. His claim listed turnips, potatoes, a milking stool and a cow chair, a slaughtering bench and six closes of land which were denuded of potential crops and ‘eddish’. The mill had contained stocks of wheat, oats, beans, meal and ten bags of dust and customers sacks which had been washed away. (4951; 4318. Others: 1473; 3680; 4679; 4801 [included scrap cake and horn dust]; 5914. See also Tillage Maker in Interesting Oddities.)

The Bradfield mill was completely destroyed; the claim included the ‘pyramid over the kiln fire’. The Russell mill in town was owned by the Shallcross family who were also bakers. Apart from types of flour they also lost sharps, which were only useful as manure; and split beans carted to the ashpit; 24 lbs. of German barm were ruined in the muddy cellar and a valuable retriever dog, worth £1, was drowned. (5722; 32. Others: 152; 4067 and 4074 Philadelphia steam corn mill; 5694*, 5695*; 6379)


The Sheffield Local Register listed the death by drowning of 50 horses, 38 cows and 258 pigs. Many of the small claims made by householders and some by the publicans refer to a pig lost, obviously kept in the back yard, and they were nearly always fat pigs. A fat pig dealer had 11 pigs drowned in his yard in the Wicker and was fully recompensed; two more claims were for single pigs weighing around 25 stones. (108; 4574; 3645. Others: 1398; 1412; 1874; 3541; 3793; 3884; 3991; 3994; 5709).

The most dramatic loss of horses occurred at the Midland Station where W. Walker and R. Sharpe, coal merchants, paid three men £1 each for services and as a gratuity for risking their lives to save four horses. Some of their other horses lost value as a result of being immersed in water, and the business suffered because horses had to be brought from London; meanwhile 48 wagons had been at a standstill. (5150. Others: 1597; 1694; 3665. Cows: 3730; 3974. Fowls: 3654; 3984; 4000).


There are many small claims, very plentiful in the early part of Vol. 6. The commonest possessions seem to have been a maiden, a panshion, oilcloth, some clothing and quite frequently, gas fittings.

A filesmith at Malin Bridge lost cocoa matting, petticoats, stays, bacon and potatoes, a Bible and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also his garden plants and tools, a pigeon cote and seven pairs of pigeons. (5752). The Bradfield school master mentioned a boa tippet, a ‘satin turk visette’ , and his razors and strop. (3811). A former occupant of Green Lane listed wellington boots, men’s flannel shirts, some drawers and linen fronts, a ‘Bakery of Bread’ ’ ; he included the cost of having an engine to pump out the cellar, the cleansing of the gas meter, and finally a ‘quantity of Pickle spoilt’. (5126) Another claimant listed not only wellington boots but also ‘Blucher Boots’. (4959) Dr. Roberts of Malin Bridge had lived in a more refined establishment, amongst his possessions destroyed had been anti-macassers, jelly moulds, singing (sic) apparatus, 24 pairs of socks in the wash, as well as his amputating and transfusion cases. (5726. Others: 1413; 1480; 1573; 2632; 2646; 4144; 4440; 4934; 5056; 5634; 5687; 5792 and many more).

There were a few mangle women and laundresses; collars and shirts had to be re-washed and ‘got up’ at 6d. per shirt. (5679. Others: 1894; 4457; 6500).

Musical instruments are rarely mentioned; one claimant lost a pianoforte and music books. (1416. Others: 3778; 3807; 3883).

The two finest gardens belonged to the paper makers: Woodward’s at Olive Wheel and Marshall’s at Owlerton. Mr. Woodward’s elegant house had pleasure gardens with many named flowers, bedding plants, apricot trees in pots, spring greens and five tons of manure. At Owlerton there was an asparagus bed, lilac and fruit trees and an ivy trimmed trellis around the water closet. (5417; 3252*). A seedsman and innkeeper at Owlerton had two ‘Harbours’ (sic) covered with climbers; there were fruit trees and bushes in a bearing state and raspberry canes and strawberry plants ready for sale. The Neepsend tavern had no named plants in the garden but was decorated with carved figures of Atlas, Bacchus and an eagle and also a flagpole. (1874; 6382).

Small allotments near Neepsend – shown on early O.S. maps – had tenants who were fairly recompensed. (3359-3364. Others: 5090-5106).

Many common varieties of flowers and vegetables are named, less common are: American cowslips, Double green tops, Double white rockets, Negro wallflowers and White Gillies. (Other gardens: 346; 680; 1386; 1387; 1592; 2247; 3487; 3603; 3665; 3851; 6251; 6252).


The flood did not inundate a cultured part of the town, apart from a few religious establishments. (See Favourable Assessments.) The Bible and Uncle Tom’s Cabin were the only books which recur; but there are two interesting exceptions.

J. Appleton had a stationer’s shop in Blonk St. but kept his books at home in Attercliffe, from whence they were swept out of the kitchen window. They included: Cassell’s History of England, Edith the Captive, Vice and its Victim, The Wandering Jew, White Slave, Paul Jones and many more, finishing with 300 crotchet patterns and The New Roman Missal. (86).

A powder flask maker, G. Sykes submitted a list of around 300 books; a few examples are: Abbott’s Young Christian, Blackstone’s Laws, Bibles with concordances, works by Burns, Byron, Lord Brougham, Erskine and Hogarth; English and Latin classics, dictionaries, Journals including Punch and the Spectator, and, of course, the works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. Then followed his trade list with many items priced, buckles, chains, moulds, German silver and 76 lbs of Wortles! (5989*. Others: 3597; 3635; 3937; 3988; 4009; 4027; 4035).


The most informative lists were submitted by landlords owning collections of houses. Mr. Haden had 18 hours at Hillsborough; he intended to make the most of his award. Over 700 entries, all costed, cover work done by brickmakers, glazers, plumbers, etc. Each house was to be papered with ‘room paper at 6d. per piece’ , the new wood was to have three coats of paint, Norfolk or Suffolk handles were to be fitted as required. (5694*. Others: Houses: 1395; 1417; 2246; 2264; 3605; 3698; 5364. Barracks 4262*. Forge and Rolling Mill 5428. Limbrick wire and crinoline wire mill 4526*, 5041, 5042. Paper Mill 3252*, 3253*. Public Houses: 5469, 6136, 6382*. See also Breweries. Many entries in Volume 11 cover the larger claims.)


The following occupations are in a minority but nevertheless interesting.

Basket maker. Lost eight tons of brown willows at £8 a ton. (3471)

Billposter and neat’s foot oil maker. The raw materials lost included pigs’ , sheep’s and calves’ feet, 200 beasts’ hooves and four gallons of the oil, also the copper had to be rebuilt. (3632)

Chimney sweep. He registered the loss of eight bags of soot in the soot house and soot on order to be despatched to Newark. (3555)

Hawkers. J. Green had possessed a weighing machine, a basket of pots, a donkey and cart and a Sunday and a working suit. His health was impaired through searching for his goods in the water to an extent that ‘Dr. Smith of Sheffield Dispensary expresses a weak opinion of recovery’. (342) A storekeeper claimed for ten cwt. of rags, 18 cwt. of bones, 14 lbs. or horse horn and 12 lbs. of brass dust. (6596). Other hawkers lost rags and bones, rabbit and hare skins, and one had a basket of watercress. (2006; 3793; 4682)

Photographer. Listed few items of interest but recorded a steel engraving of the Prince of Wales’ favourite greyhound. (3650)

Tillage manufacturer. R. Nichols had a remarkable stock: soot, bones, bark and ashes, two tons of pig manure, ammonical charcoal, shoddy manure, vitriol, brown and white hair and 30 tons of dissolved bones. (5110)

Treacle boilers. One lost his working premises and a sugar refiner lost ‘six puncheons (sic) of treacle’ , ten filter and settling tubs, barrels and the stock for hooping. (3516; 5153)

Vermin destroyer. Two dogs and five ferrets were drowned; nets and other articles used in the business were lost. However the assessment of £6 was less than half the sum claimed. (561)


A comparison between the total for each claim and the subsequent accepted assessment does not form an integral part of this report. However, one category must be recorded, those who received all or nearly all of the sum submitted. Large concerns who provided valuer’s or builder’s estimates fared reasonably well, but certain official and religious bodies were usually granted the amount in full. Amongst their number are the Surveyors of Highways and Bridges. (3191; 3919; 4814; 5392; 4082).

The Army received full recompense for the carefully listed repairs required at Hillsborough Barracks, as did Hallamshire Rifle Volunteers for the expense of cleaning the uniforms; similarly served were the Police for repairs to Owlerton police station. (4262*; 2268; 3920)

The Stanley St. Sunday School and the Trinity Church School (the latter included matting from Mudford’s and a blackboard from the National Society) and the Wesleyan Reform Chapel were all paid in full for Bibles and books lost. (3641; 4575; 3653. Others: Princess St. Primitive school room 3973; the Midland station for cleaning the first class waiting room 3771.)


The final sum of £276,821 awarded was considerably less than the first forecast of £455,164; the payment was one of the largest insurance awards of its time.7 The vast amount of primary information, only sampled in this report, has great potential for further historical work. Comparison with maps seems to suggest that foundations were not destroyed and only at Limbrick Wheel were there radical alterations. Did the firms modernise their equipment? Did their rates increase? Certainly on the Loxley river the value of a guaranteed supply of compensation water outweighed the advantage of steam power; the water wheels were rebuilt and the weirs must have been repaired. It would also be interesting to know for how long some of the vernacular terms for household items and the types of clothing described remained in use. A careful analysis of all the claims would certainly throw light on the wages structure and the value of household goods and the commodities sold in the shops. Newspaper reports on the immediate catastrophe and on the public hearings provide a background to many of the claims.

This investigation has been interesting, entertaining and addictive; it would not have been possible without the help of the staff of Sheffield City Libraries; I must express my sincere thanks to the Archives Department – including those who frequently brought up the heavy volumes; and to the Local Studies, especially Mr. M. Olive for unflagging interest and support. I must also thank Mrs. A. A. Bates who assisted in the research.


  1. C.A. 6(1) (see note 5).
  2. ibid.
  3. See S. Harrison. Complete History of the Great Flood at Sheffield 1864 (1864)
    G. Amey. The Collapse of the Dale Dyke Dam, 1864 (1974)
    G. M. Binnie. “The Collapse of the Dale Dam in retrospect.” Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology Vol. 11 pp. 305-324. (1978).
  4. Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, very full reports of all meetings, date for next meeting given each time.
  5. City Archives, (C.A.). See handlist; this gives the enclosing numbers for each volume. C.A. 7/1A is a Summary list, in numerical order, of all claims not withdrawn or dismissed. C.A. 7/1-8 are eight volumes of claims in numerical order giving name, occupation, address, often place of employment, details of claim and final agreed assessment. C.A. 7/9 Deaths and injuries. C.A. 7/10, 11 appendices to some of the larger claims, denoted by * for vol. 11 and ** for vol. 10.
  6. See D. Crossley ed. Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers (1989). This gives details of all the water powered sites affected.
  7. A. W. B. Simpson. “Legal Liability for Bursting Reservoirs”. The Journal of Legal Studies Vol. 13 No. 2 (1984) The University of Chicago. (Available in the Archives department.)


A further resource was discovered as this went to press. Amongst the Merryweather Collection in Rotherham Library Archives Department is a series of valuers’ record books, c. 1840-1870. Volumes 63, 67 and 72 include flood claims, some of them easily identifiable. Comparisons in costing would probably be worthwhile.


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