Beauchief Dam

During the era of the Premonstratensian monks occupying Beauchief Abbey (1180-1537), water was used from the River Sheaf to power a wheel in the vicinity of the present day Abbeydale Hamlet, probably a corn grinding mill, and there is also a record for a Walk Mill on the site of Dore and Totley Station, used for processing the wool from the Abbey’s sheep. 

 

In 1568 William Humphrey, a goldsmith living in Greenhill, acquired royal assent for the monopoly on his waterpowered ‘new engine’, built to drive the bellows being used in the lead smelting process. This replaced the previous labour intensive ‘footblast’, the method that in turn had replaced the earlier bolehill smelting on local hillsides. 

 

When he died in 1579 Humphrey was fighting 11 infringements of his patent, including one by Sir Nicholas Strelley (Beauchief Hall) and another by the Earl of Shrewsbury in Totley. Again, at this time, a wheel is mentioned in the vicinity of Abbeydale, but its purpose is not recorded. By 1650 a survey states ‘at Beachiffe is one water Corne Mill and one paper Milne and Iron Works’, indicating that lead smelting had been replaced by that of iron. 

In 1678 Sir John Bright paid for improvements to a wheel ‘with tayle goit bridges shuttle and slate’ that by 1740 was being referred to as New Wheel.

 

This is probably the one shown in Gelley’s map of 1725, positioned alongside the River Sheaf in a field called Sinder Hills, the name being derived from centuries of deposited furnace waste that had accumulated there. Poor quality local iron ore was being smelted in bloomeries and evidence of one is recorded on the site of the Beauchief Hotel, making the nearby field an easy dumping ground. 

 

When Thomas Goddard, tenant of the wheel at Abbeydale, sold the slag in 1748 its gradual removal left a low lying, boggy and contaminated area, probably unusable for farming but an ideal area on which to build a dam.

View across the dam View across the dam

The dates recorded for this are a little confusing, 1777 is mentioned with an extension in 1785. It was initially a simpler construction and the later date indicates the building of the dam walls that raised the water level needed to power the new wheels. 1785 correlates with that of the tilt hammer workshop where Thomas’s son, Martin Goddard had his initials carved into the lintel. 

 

Later variations in the recorded acreage of the dam were probably due to silting taking place…Beauchief Gardens is built on an area that once was part of the dam. 

 

An indication of the silting problem is shown when Tyzack, Sons & Turner were taken to court in 1899 under the Salmon Fishery Act 1861. The bottom shuttle was in need of repair, which had necessitated the emptying of the dam. Top and bottom shuttles were opened fully to allow the stored water out and in so doing a huge amount of foul smelling black sludge was carried down stream. 

 

In court it was estimated to be 30,000 tons, which had the effect of suffocating the trout downstream in what was one of the best fishing rivers in Sheffield. The water bailiff had first noticed the contaminated water and dead fish near Moscar Wheel a mile below Abbeydale Works, and by tracing it upstream discovered the cause. 

 

Recent surveying in Gillfield Wood has brought speculation about notched stone posts in Totley Brook, a tributary of the River Sheaf, thought to be used for flow management. There are a number of sites, set at approximately 100200 yard intervals, and placed in threes across the stream. Horizontal struts were bolted into the notched points in order to support battening. This would slow the flow of water, resulting in sed iment being deposited before it reached the dam, in this case the one serving the Rolling Mill at Totley Rise. 

 

It is known that Tyzacks had made a complaint about the volume of sediment washing into their dam. 

 

Although affecting the Rolling Mill at this point, some sediment would inevitably make its way down river when sluice gates were opened. 

Maintenance of the level of sediment in a dam was essential to ensure that enough water could be stored. Perhaps with the installation in 1855 of supplementary steam power to drive the machinery at Abbeydale, there was less need to be vigilant, resulting in the catastrophic deluge of 1899. 

 

The dam was initially built as the power for 18th century machines processing iron ore into working tools, but it had another life within the community.

The dam covered an area of approximately five acres when it was completed in 1785. It had been constructed to supply water to four new wheels at Abbey Dale Forge, powering machinery for the edge tool industry that made it the largest works in Sheffield in the early 19th century. 

 

During its lifetime the dam has variously been known as Abbey Dale Dam, Abbeydale Dam, Tyzack’s Dam and finally Beauchief Dam, quickly becoming a landmark and used as a reference point in newspapers when reporting events in the area. Inevitably such a large area of water would have its own stories to tell, some joyous but others less so. 

 

From very early days, the many dams serving Sheffield’s forges were used as trout fishing ponds. To fish a dam nor mally required a licence and wasn’t included in the agreement when renting the water to power a wheel. This was clearly illustrated at Whitely Wood Dam when William Tyzack (senior) was tenant of the wheel in the early 19th century, and was regularly reported by the water bailiff for fishing without a licence. 

 

Poaching was another problem and in 1904 Benjamin Turner (partner in Tyzack, Sons & Turner) set a trap with the local constable in order to catch a number of men known to be taking fish from their dam at Abbeydale. Having surprised them at 2am one Saturday night, the police and Turner managed to detain two poachers, who were charged and subsequently taken to court. 

 

Giving evidence, Benjamin Turner expressed surprise that although the defendants claimed to be poaching there for the first time, their baited lines were in the water at a spot where fish were known to be most plentiful! He felt this indicated the men had a wellinformed knowledge of the dam. The men, Walter Price and Ernest Piercy, stated they were out of work and only trying to catch a Sunday dinner. Each was fined 10s. 

 

Ice Skating

For a small fee, all comers could take part in iceskating when the winters of the late 19th and early 20th century were regularly much colder than those we experience nowadays. As soon as ice formed the newspapers would publish advice on which dam had the best conditions. It wasn’t just a case of how cold the weather had been, but also local conditions such as exposure to winds that could create an uneven surface. The papers also published notices to say if the ice was safe… or not. 

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13th & 14th January 1887 

SKATERS are particularly requested to Notice that the ICE now on the ABBEYDALE DAM is NOT SAFE. 

 

The events could take on the atmosphere of a fair, with vendors selling hot drinks, soup and snacks. Proceeds from the entrance fees were sent to local hospital charities, and their appreciation was published in the newspapers… 

 

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13th January 1887

The Weekly Board of Sheffield General Infirmary beg to acknowledge, with best thanks, receipt of £10 from Messrs. W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner, being part proceeds of a charge made for skating on the Abbeydale dam.” 

 

Others receiving donations in January 1887 were Sheffield Public Hospital and Dispensary (£10) and Jessop Hospital for Women (3 guineas). 

 

The craze continued for as long as the winters brought the intense cold weather… 

 

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13th January 1908 

Weekend Skating Sheffield Area 

At Tyzack’s dam, Beauchief, which on Saturday was only safe at the southern end, some hundreds of enthusiasts enjoyed the exhilarating pastime. The danger zone was during the daylight quite clear, and the result was the skaters kept a safe distance away from the northern end, which is 15ft deep, and where the water always freezes more slowly owing to the presence of a miniature whirlpool. During Saturday night however, the continued keen frost had the effect of converting the whole stretch of the dam into a splendid piece of ice, and yesterday there were crowds of people enjoying the sport. The ice is, indeed, like glass, and in one portion it is so clear that the shrubs can be plainly seen underneath. 

 

And as the picture below shows, the fun was continuing in 1936! 

Sheffield Independent Monday 17th February 1936 Sheffield Independent Monday 17th February 1936

 

Drownings 
The dam has unfortunately claimed a number of lives, both of those whose intentions were to commit suicide and others who died accidentally. Examples of the many deaths reported in the newspapers can sometimes give an insight into the social conditions and attitudes of the day. 

 

Sheffield Evening Telegraph 19th May 1890

Attempted Suicide at Tyzack’s Dam

A great amount of excitement was caused in the neighbourhood of Beauchief by rumour that a woman had thrown herself in the dam. A large crowd collected, it being just the time when people were on their way home from church. Some of the bystanders, after much exertion, succeeded in bringing the wouldbe suicide to the bank. She was in an exhausted condition and was attended by Dr Thorne, and afterwards removed to her home in Bradway. It was stated that she was temporarily insane.  

 

Until 1961 committing or attempting suicide was a crime and a verdict ‘Of unsound mind’ or similar could avoid the threat of prosecution. Dr. Thorne was the son-in-law of Joshua Tyzack (one of the three brothers running the business). He was a GP and surgeon living with his wife and family at the Glen, opposite Dore and Totley station, now a nursing home. 

 

Suicide at Abbeydale Dam 
In October 1923 a James Wilson drowned himself two weeks after losing his job at Samuel Laycock & Sons Ltd, Bradfield. His wife had also worked there and lost her job some months earlier, each having accrued over thirty years’ service. 

 

Since the 1880’s Laycock’s had been a successful company making carriage fittings for trains. After the death of its founder in 1916 it was bought by a French company but was heading for bankruptcy when an attempt to enter the car and aero manufacturing industry failed. This had probably led to the reduction in staff numbers. 

 

Mrs Wilson said her husband had been depressed, but had not talked of taking his life. On the morning of his death he had told her he was going to the Labour Exchange, but by 2pm his body had been discovered in the dam. One wonders if he did call at the Labour Exchange, only to find no work and was overcome by despair. The verdict was ‘suicide whilst of unsound mind’. 

 

Despite suicide being a criminal offence, readers of the papers were often sympathetic and on one occasion money, postal orders and even gold coins were sent to help ‘the poor wife and children of the man who drowned at Abbeydale’. 

 

The very sad story of an accidental drowning was reported in November 1876. James Naylor was a scythe grinder working at Abbeydale, living in one of the cottages on site with his parents and wife, Sarah. They already had a toddler and Sarah was about to give birth, or had just done so, when her husband drowned. 

 

It was a Saturday and James had spent the afternoon in the pub. Taking a shortcut home across the weir and dam, it was thought he slipped in the darkness and met his fate. Despite a search on Sunday, his body wasn’t found until the following day. A sad fact revealed at the inquest was that James had fallen from a path known to be dangerous and recently banned from use by Tyzack. 

 

His death and the birth of his new daughter were recorded in the same quarter of the year. Four years later, in the census of 1881, Sarah was still living with James’ parents and receiving Parish Relief. Later that year, the daughter born so close to the death of her father also died, aged four years. Sarah married again, to another scythe smith, and lived in Dore for the rest of her long life. She had a further five children. 

 

In 1933 the whole site was bought by J. G. Graves and given to Sheffield Council to preserve and develop. For many years, little happened other than the building of Beauchief Gardens. 

 

The dam was investigated in 1937/8 as a possible venue for Sheffield Model Yacht Club, because their pond in Millhouses Park was proving too small for this very popular hobby. However the alterations needed to make it suitable proved too expensive and the idea was dropped. 

 

Repairs to the retaining wall and shuttles have been needed over the years but the dam remains almost unaltered since its construction in 1785. The silt has reduced its overall size by about one acre at the southern end, where Beauchief Gardens now exist. 

 

The water has always attracted bird life and newspapers would report anything they considered unusual, as when a pair of swans took up residence. The arrival of seagulls was once considered worthy of a mention in the nature column of a newspaper! 

 

Today the dam still attracts wildfowl and presents a picturesque and peaceful oasis alongside the busy A621. Its waters still turn a wheel at Abbeydale Hamlet. 

 

Pauline Burnett

April 2017

Latest News

Our first meeting in the new year will be on Wednesday 24th January when we welcome back Chris Corker whose talk is called The Shell, Armaments and Munitions Production Crisis, 1915-1916. The wartime demand for armaments lead to the Shell Crisis of May 1915. Chris examines the effect that the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, under the guidance of David Lloyd-George, had on Sheffield's armament companies and its industry as a whole.

A recently discovered box of WWII correspondence reveals the story of how a small group of ladies from Dore and Totley recruited knitters from the west of Sheffield and how their efforts made them the country's greatest provider of Comforts for the Minesweeping crews of the Royal Navy. The story is told in Knit For Victory, a new book from Totley History Group. Written by Pauline Burnett, it has 82 pages and many illustrations. It is on sale in Totley Rise Post Office and local shops. Also available in Dore at the Village Store or direct via our website.

Since 1875 when there was only a Rolling Mill and Chemical Yard alongside the river a mile from Totley, the area has changed beyond anyone's imagination  This book by Pauline Burnett tells the story of how it was named and grew into the community we know today. The Rise of Totley Rise has 94 pages including a useful index and is profusely illustrated throughout with many previously unpublished photographs from private collections. 

The story is told in Totley War Memorial WW1 of the ten men from our village who gave their lives in the Great War. Written by Pauline Burnett, Jim Martin and Dorothy Prosser, a chapter is devoted to each of the soldiers with a family tree followed by as much information as could be discovered about the men and their families. There is also information about their military careers and the actions in which they lost their lives. The book has 64 pages and is illustrated throughout with photographs of the men, their families and the houses where they lived.

The Tyzack family are well known in our area for owning iron and steel trades at Walk Mill, Abbeydale Works, Totley Rolling Mill and Totley Forge. This article covers the history of the family from the late 18th century when William Tyzack the founder of the company was born until the early 20th century when Joshua Tyzack farmed at Avenue Farm, Dore.  

Walter Waller Marrison moved to Totley around 1897 with his wife and their two young sons. He was a house builder who constructed properties around Totley Brook and Greenoak before ill health forced him to take up less physically demanding work. In 1904 he took over the tenancy of the grocers and off licence at number 71 Baslow Road. After his death in 1908, his widow Kate and later their eldest son Jack continued to run the business until it was sold in 1934.   

Ron Wijk of Nieuw-Vennep in the Netherlands has sent us two scanned images of drawings of old cottages made by the celebrated Dutch painter, Anton Pieck (1895-1987) simply annotated "Totley", and wondered whether we could identify their locations.

We would like to thank Christopher Rodgers for bringing to our attention this fascinating log of the 85th Sheffield (St. John's and Totley Orphanage) Wolf Cub Pack for 1927-45. The log is published jointly by Sheffield Scout Archives and Totley History Group as a free PDF download. It is illustrated by no fewer than 92 photographs and is supported by a comprehensive index and biographies of some of the main participants.

Following our Open Meeting event on School Days, Roger Hart, Howard Adams and John Timperley have each written to us with their memories of Norwood School, which was located in the rooms attached to the Dore & Totley United Reformed Church on Totley Brook Road. 

On 22nd July 1909 the children of Dore and Totley Schools celebrated by a pageant the union of England under King Ecgbert which took place at Dore in AD 827. The pageant was devised and written by Mrs Sarah Milner and her daughter Marjorie and performed in a field close to Avenue Farm in front of a large audience. Photographs of the event survive together with a fragment of the script.

John Edward Greenwood Pinder had lived all 46 years of his life in Totley but on census night, Sunday 2 April 1911, he was not at home; he was in Derby Gaol serving a sentence of three months hard labour. From the age of 20, John had been in and out of local courts for a series of minor offences including drunkenness, assault, wilful damage and night poaching. Finally he was sent to gaol for cutting down and stealing 86 small trees which he sold in Sheffield market for Christmas.

We have already transcribed the census returns for Totley, Totley Rise and Dore. Now we have transcribed Census Strays. These are people who were born in Totley but are missing from our earlier transcriptions. They may have been living, working or studying elsewhere or just away from home on the night the census was taken. Two people were in prison. Others were in Union Workhouses, hospitals and asylums. Fully indexed strays from the 1851, 1861, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses are available now. 

We wish to thank Gillian Walker for allowing us to digitize an archive of material about the 1st Totley Scout Group. Most of the material was collected by Arthur Percival Birley in the period 1949-51 and there are many interesting documents pertaining to the building of the scout hut on Totley Hall Lane. In addition four Newsletters survive, two from the 1940s and two from 1971.

We are grateful to Angela Waite and All Saints' Parish Church for giving us access to baptismal and kindergarten birthday rolls dating from 1926 to 1941. We have transcribed the names, addresses, birthdates and baptismal dates and created an alphabetical index of entries for you to search. 

Edmund Sanderson, a Sheffield estate agent, aquired the land on either side of the old drive to Totley Grove in 1874 and divided it into plots for development. He called it the Totley Brook Estate. But before many houses were built, the estate road was severed in two by the building of the Dore & Chinley Railway line. The eastern end of the road became the cul-de-sac we now call Grove Road

John Roberts was born in Sheffield in 1798. He became a partner in one of the leading silversmiths firms in the city before moving to Abbeydale Park in 1851 and extending the house in Victorian gothic style. He paid for the building of St. John's Church and was believed to dispense more in charity than any other person in the neighbourhood including his protege Ebenezer Hall.

The Coke Family owned the Totley Hall Estate from 1791 to 1881. With the aid of a family tree to guide us, Josie Dunsmore takes us through the story of their tenure. 

When the Rev. D'Ewes Coke inherited the Totley Hall Estate in 1791 it had two farms. Josie Dunsmore tells the story of how the two farms were combined under the tenancy of Peter Flint with the aid of field maps drawn by Flint himself and later by the Fairbanks family.

Do you think you recognize this face? More than sixty photographs of the girls and teachers at Hurlfield Grammar School for Girls in the 1940s were given to Totley History Group by Avril Critchley, who was herself a student at the school. The collection includes fifteen form photographs from June 1949. There would have been a number of girls from the Totley area attending the school in those days.

Christine Weaving tells the story of her 2 x great uncle George Edward Hukin, a Totley razor-grinder, and his life-long friendship with the academic, poet, writer, and free-thinker Edward Carpenter.

Eric Renshaw (pictured here on the right with Bob Carr) grew up and lived in Totley from 1932 to 1960. Many of his memories are of a sporting nature.

We are very grateful to Gordon Grayson for giving us this splendid sale document for the Norton Hall Estates, following the death in 1850 of Samuel Shore. The estates included a large part of Totley and the document has maps and illustrations, plus schedules of land and property with the names of tenants. We have also added a transcription of the entries for Totley and Dore. 

Watch this Youtube video of the talk given by Dr. Mark Frost and Sally Goldsmith on Ruskin, Totley and St. George's Farm. The talk was hosted by Totley History Group on 20th May 2015 as part of the Ruskin in Sheffield programme. Also enjoy a video of the outdoor performance Boots, Fresh Air & Ginger Beer written by Sally.

When Jacqueline A. Gibbons became interested in what made her father tick, it began a journey through WW1 archive records and led to her flying from Toronto to visit the house and village where he lived and the countryside that he so much enjoyed. Jacqueline reminds us that in the early 20th century Sheffield was a driving force of industry and that Totley was the place where many of its remarkable people lived and where they formulated their ideas.

Edgar Wood was the designer of The Dingle, 172 Prospect Road, built in 1904 for Rev. William Blackshaw, the founder of the Croft House Settlement. The house, together with its western terrace and boundary walls, has now been awarded Grade II listed building status. 

What was probably "the most perfect little garden railway in existence" in 1910 was to be found in the grounds of Brook House, Grove Road, the home of its designer and constructor, Guy Mitchell. Look at some wonderful photographs and read reports in newspapers and a full appreciation in Model Railways magazine. 

We have now completed our transcription of Totley School's Admission Records for the period from 1877 to 1914. There is also a useful index to the names of the scholars and to their parents or guardians. We are very grateful to Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library for allowing us to transcribe and publish these records and for permission to reproduce the photograph of a specimen page of the register.

On 8, 9 and 11 November 2014 Totley History Group held an exhibition at Dore & Totley United Reformed Church to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Below are additional links to some of the photographs we were lent and stories we researched especially for the exhibition.

 

Oscar Creswick was a local farmer who served with the Army Service Corps in Salonika and who after the war returned to Totley to become the innkeeper of the Cricket Inn and a member of the village's successful tug of war team.

 

Walter Evans was a market gardener who also ran a small grocery shop on Hillfoot Road when war broke out. He fought with the Machine Gun Corps at the fourth battle of Ypres. After the war, Walter ran a grocers shop at the top of Main Avenue.

 

Fred Cartwright was another Totley soldier who survived the Great War. He fought in France and Belgium and although he wasn't wounded he was gassed and was home on sick leave when his daughter was delivered by Nurse Jessop during a snowstorm in January 1917.

 

Maurice Johnson joined the Yorkshire Dragoons, a territorial unit, on 1 Jan 1914 and so was called up at the very start of the war. He fought throughout the war on the Somme, at Ypres and at Cambrai. After demobilization in 1919 Maurice returned to his old occupation in the steel industry.

 

Bill Glossop lent us a letter written by his father, William Walton Glossop to his wife describing life in the army during training in the north east of England and asking her to keep him in mind with the children.

 

The photo above provides a link to an album of photographs taken of WW1 Hospitals at St. John's, Abbeydale and the Longshaw Estate.

 

Nora Green, of Chapel Lane, was only 14 when war broke out. In 1914 she was ill with diphtheria and was sent to the isolation hospital at Holmley Lane, Dronfield. Nora recovered and wrote a letter of thanks to one of the hospital staff and the reply she received survives. 

 

We have collected together on this page the names of local men who appear on various War Memorials and Rolls of Honour in Totley, Dore, Abbeydale, Norton, Holmesfield and Dronfield.

 

Unfortunately we were unable to identify all the photographs we were lent of Totley Soldiers. Please take a look at this album to see if you recognize any of the missing names.

This walk visits locations that have strong associations with Totley during the First World War. It includes the homes of the ten soldiers from the village who lost their lives, the auxiliary hospitals, war memorials, and even the rifle range on which the soldiers trained. Take a look at the first draft of a new walk by the authors of "Totley War Memorial WW1 1914-1918"

As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have decided to create a Virtual Museum instead, starting with old bottles that were found under the floor of the Old Infant School. Please contact us by email if you would like to see the real thing or have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.

We wish to thank the Trustees of Cherrytree for giving us permission to publish transcriptions of the Cherrytree Orphanage Admissions Book entries for the years 1866-1929. There is also an alphabetical index for you to look at.

With more people having access to faster broadband and mobile networks, we have uploaded seven full and unedited oral history recordings and also added more short excerpts for you to listen to.

Our transcriptions of local trade directories have been expanded to cover the 95 years from 1837-1932 and have also been indexed. From the days when there were a handful of farmers, stone masons, saw handle makers & scythe grinders to the wonders of the Totley Bridge Garage Company, Betty's Boudoir and The Heatherfield Shopping Centre.

We continue to add to our Totley Newspaper Archive. Recent entries have included several about John Roberts and the building of St. John's Church. There are several about the history of Brinkburn Grange and its first occupier, John Unwin Wing, an accountant who later lived at Totley Hall before being convicted of forgery and fraud and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in Pentonville gaol. There are more than 50 articles from the 1880s and 1890s about Joseph Mountain and the Victoria Gardens, and twenty on the construction of the Totley Tunnel and the Dore and Chinley Railway.

Totley Church of England Parish Magazines for the years 1922-1939 and 1948-1967 with notices of births, marriages and deaths and accounts of spiritual, educational, charitable and social matters in the village. 

Around 90 photographs taken by Stuart Greenhoff for his thesis A Geographical Study of Dore and Totley including several of Totley Moor Brickworks. Superb!  

Chronologically ordered snippets of information recorded by Brian Edwards during his many years of research into our local history.

Read the inscriptions on more than 600 gravestones in  the churchyard.

 

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