The Great Sheffield Flood Peter Machan 5th August 2013

It was the 11th March 1864 when the Dale Dyke dam burst on a dark and stormy night and the res­ults still remain as the “Worst British Dam Burst Disaster” in his­tory.


Originally inten­ded to provide water for the many mills in the Loxley valley, rather than drink­ing water, it was built at the same time as the Agden which lies in the valley to the north of the Loxley valley.The destruc­tion caused, as the huge tor­rent of water rushed down towards Malin Bridge, was com­plete and any­thing in its way was totally des­troyed.

The dam wall burst around mid­night so many people were in bed but some – as young as 11 – were still at work in the many mills in the valley.

Peter’s enthu­si­asm for local his­tory shone through and his deliv­ery cre­ated the air of drama that comes from years of being a primary teacher. Beautifully illus­trated with slides and pic­tures taken at the time for pho­to­graphy was just coming in to being. Interestingly and rather macab­rely, the scenes of dev­ast­a­tion became an attrac­tion for vis­it­ors and trans­port was organ­ised to see the site of the dis­aster and people had their pic­tures taken as memen­tos.

So why did the dam burst for the design is one still used today – well no one is really sure though it appears that poor work­man­ship in build­ing the core of the dam wall on land which was unstable may well have been the cause.

Whilst most know of the Tay bridge dis­aster, Dale Dyke remains almost unknown by those out­side the local area largely because the death toll in Sheffield was mainly con­fined to work­ing class folk who had no vote.

The cur­rent dam was built some hun­dred yards down­stream and the area is a fine place for lovely walks.

For more inform­a­tion see —