Dale Dyke Reservoir earlier today
Another bright blue sky day so off I go to the moors west of Sheffield and park up just past the hamlet of Strines. My mission today was to walk around Dale Dyke Reservoir. You may never have heard of it and there are many Sheffielders who have neither seen it or heard of it either which is terribly sad. Why? Well you have to go back to 1864.
A hundred years earlier, Sheffield was an insignificant little town but by 1864, its population, along with its metal industry, had burgeoned. There was a desperate need for reliable water supplies and The Sheffield Water Company were busily constructing dams, pump houses and associated piping works and overflow channels in the Loxley Valley. Three major reservoirs were planned and the first one, nearing completion was the Dale Dyke Reservoir, fronted by a massive earthen embankment.
In the early evening of March 11th 1864, an employee of the company noticed a crack in the embankment wall. The weather was foul and the reservoir behind the dam was just about full to capacity with wind-whipped spray coming over the top. The crack was reported and the chief engineer was summoned from the centre of Sheffield. Futile efforts were made to deal with the growing emergency but just before midnight the dam burst, allowing an estimated 650 million gallons of water to surge down the valley through riverside settlements and farms towards the city itself.
That night over 245 people were killed by the flood, including the entire Bisby family - George (44 yrs), his wife Sarah (43) and their five children - Teresa (14), Elizabeth (12), Thomas (9), Hannah (6) and Hugh (4). They were sleeping in their beds when the water came to this long forgotten family, turning their dreams into a nightmare.
The Great Sheffield Flood is one of the nineteenth centuries forgotten disasters. No doubt if it had happened in London or the south east, it would still figure in the national consciousness. For many years, there wasn't even a proper memorial to the flood victims in Sheffield and the cut-price one that was belatedly erected during the last decade is in the middle of a riverside apartment complex looks impermanent and unimpressive. Equally ordinary is the little plaque I discovered on a stone stump in the pine forest above the reservoir...