Ward's Book of Days.
Pages of interesting anniversaries.
What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1864, took place The Great Sheffield Flood.
The Great Sheffield Flood was a man-made disaster, which caused devastation throughout Yorkshire.
In the mid Nineteenth Century, the city of Sheffield was the British centre of steel-making, the focal point of the Industrial Revolution. The industry was continually expanding, creating an insatiable demand for water. In response to the pressure, the Sheffield Waterworks Company formulated an ambitious scheme to construct The Dale Dyke Dam, in the Loxley Valley, north of the city. Work started in 1859 and early in 1864, the dam and its reservoir were complete.
On 11th March 1864, just as the reservoir was a few feet short of being filled and ready to start business, a workman noticed a small crack running along the reservoir wall, ‘just wide enough to enter a finger’. He immediately alerted the foreman who sent for the chief engineer, John Gunson, who was in the city centre, eight miles away. As Gunson set off in a carriage, a storm started up, and by the time he arrived at the scene, water was lapping over the top of the reservoir. Gunson instructed the workmen to reduce the level of the reservoir by causing an explosion in the overflow compartment, but the severity of the storm, prevented the gunpowder from igniting. Gunson and his men could only watch in horror as the crack expanded and the dam burst with a violent force that shook the ground like an earthquake.
700 million gallons of water flooded down the valley into Sheffield, causing death and devastation on a colossal dimension. 270 people were killed and bodies were swept by the flood as far away as Mexborough. The youngest victim was two days old and the oldest 87. A family of 10 were completely wiped out. 800 buildings were destroyed and every bridge in the city was wrecked. One man put his wife and five children on a bed, on which they floated until the waters subsided. A subsequent enquiry revealed that the construction of the dam was defective and that a small leak had widened until the wall could no longer retain the force of the water. Many of the victims are buried in Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield. [Burngreave Cemetery, Scott Road, Sheffield, S4 7BE]
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