Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Great Flood at Sheffield.

A hundred and fifty years ago today, Sheffield was devastated by a flood that would take around 250 lives. All brought about by the collapse of a newly constructed dam. It is a very moving account that captures the essence of the people of Sheffield.
ON MARCH 11 & 12, 1864
At the time of the major air raid on Sheffield in 1941, there were jokes around which rather shocked some people about it being “the only exciting thing which had happened in Sheffield since The Flood”. It is not really at all unnatural to find a disaster exciting; and indeed the combination of stunned horror and counteracting frenzy of activity were alike at both times. Certain it is that “The Flood” (which was the most destructive event of its nature in England) has always remained in the collective consciousness of the people of Sheffield as a matter of interest and almost of pride. The Sheffield Telegraph, established as the town’s first daily paper in 1856, and his use of the electric telegraph, and of bands of reporters sent out like a military expedition in the middle of the night, ensured that the people were able to read at their breakfast tables a lengthy and reasonably accurate report of the event much as we do now. Frequent editions throughout the day completed the tale and the newspapers of other towns had the story with surprising speed.
The Sheffield Times, being a weekly appearing on Friday, was already set up, but even so Harrison got a half-a-column of late news conveying the gist of the tale to his readers; and a full supplement was included with the following Friday’s issue. It is also typical of the two men that it was the quietly industrious Harrison and not the brilliant Leng who followed up all the reporters’ tales, appearing at intervals as the stories of distress, relief, enquiry and compensation unrolled, and checked, corrected, expanded and completed them to form a narrative of events from the building of the embankment to the passing of the Act, on 29th July 1864, which enabled the Water Company to raise money for the payment of compensation. The result was a book which has held the attention of Sheffield for more than a hundred and fifty years. Copies have been cherished in households where it was kept because the family had endured the hardships related in it. It has been sought for eagerly by people moving into the areas most affected, where even now there are places where the narrative can be checked and the scenes of the time easily recreated in imagination. It has a good claim to be Sheffield’s favourite book; and indeed in its way it is a classic.
Click Here to download the full text in PDF format.

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