Exhibitions and guided walks remember victims of the Great Sheffield Floods of 1864

Exhibitions have been set up around Sheffield to remember the March floods of 1864 that devastated areas in and around the River Loxley and took over 240 lives.

A cascade of 700,000,000 gallons of water flooded into the valley after torrential rain filled the nearly-completed Dale Dyke Dam on 11 March. In places like Wicker, water levels reached six feet above street level.

To mark the 159th anniversary, volunteers have shared the stories of the victims and given accounts of their lives – their occupations, hobbies and relationships.

Albert Jackson, the organiser of the Burngreave exhibition, stressed how “everyone in Sheffield has a relation to someone in the cemetery”.

The Waterworks Company set up a claim fund to pay compensation for families who lost loved ones, but the tragedy still echoes into the community to this day.

Dale Dyke Dam

Author Karen Lightowler, who has been researching the Great Sheffield Floods for over 20 years and released her findings as part of her book Sheffield Flood the Aftermath in 2007, has helped assist the exhibition in gathering their archive of information.

In Burngreave Cemetery alone there are 48 victims of the floods, becoming an important site for the education and history of the events that unfolded 159 years ago.

Burngreave Cemetery

Names of all those lost to the floods were listed in the hall, along with images and paintings of areas in the aftermath, including Loxley Chapel.

Together with organisers, Mr Jackson put on marches on five dates in March, with the end goal of getting people to “come away wanting to know more”.

Information booth on the disaster

In cooperation with izi.travel, a storytelling platform, attendees have been able to follow The Great Sheffield Flood Trail via an audio tour that one reviewer commented as being “very soothing and calm”.

In relation to current concerns over the environment, Mr Jackson noted how there’s “always comparisons” between the recent and historical natural disasters that have affected Sheffield, referencing the 2007 flood that caused £6.5 billion in property damage.

Hand-drawn illustration of areas hit by the flood

Natural disasters are becoming a more topical point of conversation as climate change and environmental issues have become a global issue.

The upcoming 160th anniversary of the floods will mark a key milestone for the organisers of exhibitions across Sheffield, with bigger events planned to take place next year with the backing of Sheffield City Council and the National Trust Community and Heritage Funds.

Visitor card giving key points on the trail

For more information email chris.burngreave@blueyonder.co.uk.

Written by Adam Thomas

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