Heritage Walks: Sheffield – Industrial Sheffield

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore the walks and the fantastic features that can be seen along them.

This is a short walk around the once heavily industrialised area of North Sheffield. The walk is 1.6 miles/ 2.6km, and is completely paved. The area is well covered by public transport including busses and the super tram. Click here to see the Don Valley Way webpage for this walk.

The walk starts at Kelham Island. Kelham Island is not actually an Island at all. The land was man made to create a goit to help power a corn mill situated at Millsands near Lady’s Bridge. The Island was named after the town’s former armourer, Kelham Homer who set up a grounding workshop in 1637.

Kelham Island Museum

You can regularly see kingfishers on the section of the walk that follows the Upper Don Trail. For more information on the Upper Don Trail click here. Further along on the right a small rectangular Colum can be seen. This is a memorial commemorating the people who died in the great Sheffield flood 1864. Due to the expansion of Sheffield, a better water supply was required. To do this a dam was constructed to create a reservoir in the hills above the city. Dale Dike is a tributary of the Loxley, and was the river selected for the construction of the dam. Unfortunately Dale Dike Dam failed as the reservoir was filling for the first time, late at night on the 11th March 1864 causing a huge wave to sweep through the city, carrying 650 million gallons of water. The monument reads the 12th March as the wave didn’t hit the city until the early hours of the next day. At least 240 people lost their lives in the flood.

Great Sheffield Flood memorial

The first industrial use of waterpower in the town was along the section known as Millsands. The Weir in the area helped raise a head of water to help power the mill but causes a barrier for fish wanting to move upstream. The concrete structure that can be seen on the weir from Lady’s Bridge is designed to create a deeper channel of water which allows fish to pass upstream. Lady’s bridge is the oldest crossing in Sheffield. The bridge was named after the Chapel of our Blessed Lady which stood at the south East end of the Bridge. This is one of very few bridges to have survived the great Sheffield flood intact.

The weir seen from Lady’s Bridge and the Fish Easement

Further along the walk you will come to Mobray Street. There are several former industrial buildings in this section. Sheffield is best known for its cutlery and steel works, but the damage to the health of the workers shortened lives considerably. In 1844 Fredric Engals wrote a report which states, “by far the most unwholesome work is the grinding of knife blades and forks, which especially when done with a dry stone entails certain early death. The unwholesomeness of this work lies in part with the bent posture, in which chest and stomach are cramped but especially in the quantity of sharp edged metal dust particles freed in the cutting, which fills the atmosphere and are nesscserily inhaled.” The life expectancy of dry grinders was only 35 and the wet grinders was only 10 years longer.

Sculpture next to Bridgehouses Bridge showing the areas knife making history

Along Burton Road there is an old arch painted yellow on the right hand side. There is an image of a horse shoe in the keystone to represent the underside of a horses hoof rather than good luck. The building was once part of the Clarence works. It’s now used as the Yellow Arch Studios, where many Famous Sheffield Musicians hare recorded, including the Arctic Monkeys, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and more recently Blossoms.

Further along the walk you will come to the grade two listed Ball Street Bridge. Originally built in 1856, then rebuilt in 1864 due to the great Sheffield flood, it was widened in 1900. At the far side of the bridge you can see another grade two listed structure, Kelham Island Weir. It is one of the largest weirs in the city and originally drove Kelham Wheel which powered a cutler’s wheel, a silk mill and then a cotton mill. The weir serves no purpose now, but is unfortunately a barrier to fish moving through Sheffield. The concrete beam that can be seen across the weir creates a deeper channel for fish such as Atlantic Salmon to ascend the weir. As the weir is grade two listing, it unthinkable to install a technical fish pass such as the ones seen at Brightside and Meadowhall as this could damage the weir and remove part of Sheffield’s industrial history. The disadvantages of these less invasive easements are that passage cannot be assured 100% of the time where as they can be in other fish passes.

Kelham Island Weir

To learn more about this area of Sheffield and the famous Elephant Lizzy, you should listen to our audio guide as you walk recorded by Community Engagement Officer and resident of Sheffield Sally Hyslop. To listen to the audio guide download the Don Valley Way app or stream it from the walks page of the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way Website

Click here for the Industrial Sheffield Walk

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on Android devices

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on IOS and Apple devices

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox