Category Archives: history

History: The Watermills of Sheffield

There are 149 watermills and dams shown on this interactive map, dating from the 1200’s to the 1930’s all using water power to drive tilt hammers, blowers for forgers, grinding wheels for sharpening knifes and scythes as well for the milling of corn and other grains. Each mill has a brief chapter of the places history taken from the book ‘The Water-Mills of Sheffield’ by W.T. Miller, 2nd Issue, published in 1947.

The map has been designed for use with mobile phones, and the GPS can be used to find your location when you are out and about, on a desktop computer the GPS will not work. Click on a dot to see the mill name, and then click on the name for some interesting facts. On your mobile use the menu (top right) to turn GPS on to show your position.


The Watermills of Sheffield

History: Colliery Road is Weird

Colliery Road in Sheffield Brightside is an odd throughway that passes under the Midland Mainline Railway providing a 290m (317 yards) route between the junction of Brightside Lane and Weedon Street to Holywell Road. It is a narrow single track road and the the Brightside Lane end has been cut into the hillside to accommodate the railway junction and sidings above. Nowadays access is limited to pedestrians and cyclists as at 2.32m (7′ 6″) high the bridges are far too low to be of any use for general traffic, the road was closed to motor vehicles in around 2016 and is now part of the Lower Don Valley Cycle Route1. In this short essay I am looking a little into its history, the modifications that have changed the road to accommodate the railway and to speculate why it exists at all.

The Bridges of Colliery Road

Two rail bridges run over the road, one for the Midland Mainline, originally the Sheffield to Rotherham Railway, constructed in 1838/39, this bridge is referred to in Drake’s Road Book published in 1840 where he says “We now cross a private road by a beautiful stone bridge – one which is infact the only ornamented bridge upon the line, and also the only one that is graced with parapets”2. The other is now disused, it was part of Brightside Junction giving access to the various steel works as well as a line towards Catcliffe and the south as part of the Sheffield District Railway. As well as the two we now see, sometime between 1880 and 1955 there was also a third single track bridge on the north western side used for the gas and chemical works.

Colliery Road, Brightside [Ordnance Survey]
The 1854 map (Yorkshire 289) shows a footpath or track approximately following the route of the road today, leading from Brightside Lane under the railway and up to The Grange farm at the end of Wincobank Lane, on the 1892 map this is shown as a footpath, it looks to have been around a 620m (678 yards) walk from the farm to Brightside village.

Colliery Road highlighted in yellow

By 1892 Brightside Junction had been added to the railway providing access to the steel works in that part of the Don Valley, at that time Colliery Road was moved to start from near near Naseby Street and run alongside the south-eastern side of the tracks for a short while before ducking under the line, this was to accommodate the embankment built for the junction and the goods line into Brightside Steel works. It wasn’t until 1896 when construction started on the Sheffield District Railway that the road was moved to go between the new railway and the existing goods line, this is when the roads route was fixed to that we see today.

Ordnance Survey Maps – 1854 to 1949 [National Library of Scotland]

In the 1930’s on the north-eastern side of the tracks Holywell Road was extended from Upwell Street alongside the Gas Works to connect to Limpsfield Road and replacing Burslem Street as part of an expansion of housing into the area. Before then this part of Wincobank was mostly farmland with some industry alongside the railway, most notably the 1906 map (CCLXXXIX.SW) shows the Grimesthorpe Gas Works taking up a large amount of land between Upwell Street and Colliery Road. Looking at the 1926 aerial photo below, the exit of Colliery Road from under the railway can be seen on the far left of the image. Today this land is used by a mail order distribution centre as well as some smaller wholesalers and trade suppliers.

The Grimesthorpe Gas Works, Sheffield, 1926 [Britain From Above]

Brightside Colliery was also situated on the north-eastern side, the mine was worked from 1855 to 1886 and the shafts were located at the end of Colliery Road, the colliery was owned by Unwin & Shaw Co. and the pit had two shafts, No. 1 from 1855 to 1871 and No.2 from 1868 to 1886, they worked the Parkgate seam3. From 1883 until around 1955 the site was occupied by the Brightside Chemical Works which was a part of the gas works dealing with sulphur produced from gas manufacture [Sheffield History]. Nowadays the land is used by a self storage facility and a motor vehicle repair company.

Extra width has been added to the mainline bridge over time

The purpose of Colliery Road?

The road must of had a high cost of construction, the changes that needed to be made to have it run under the railway including cutting it into the hillside at the Brightside Lane seems a lot of effort has gone into maintaining a private a road that gives such poor access.

A reason for this could be that the colliery supplied coal to the works and foundries on the south-eastern side of the railway, this would justify a bridge for the Sheffield to Rotherham Railway but by the time Brightside Junction was built the mine had been closed for around five years so why go to all the trouble to modify the road? Or is Colliery Road a legacy of the landowner insisting they have access from their farm at The Grange down to Brightside Lane? I can imagine a track existing before the railway and it being kept as a right of way as a route to Brightside village and the bridge across the Don which had been there in one form or another since before 16504.

Comparing access for the colliery 1854 and 1892

By comparing the 1854 and 1892 maps above we can see similarities between the buildings being shown, the map also shows there is no roadway from the colliery site into Brightside as a field is in the way. The coming of the railway would have cut access off from Naseby Street and maybe the landowner did not want to sell part of his field, or set the price too high, to permit access to the nearest bridge over the line on Jenkin Road and forcing further development of Colliery Road, the bridge and its parapets.

More of my Colliery Road photos can be found on flickr

Dates of Interest

1838/39 Sheffield to Rotherham Railway constructed (Midland Mainline)
1838 Brightside Station opens
1855-1871 Brightside Colliery – Shaft No.1 in operation
1868-1886 Brightside Colliery – Shaft No.2 in operation
c.1855-c.1955 Grimesthorpe Gas Works in operation
1883-c.1955 Brightside Chemical works – part of Grimesthorpe Gas Works
c.1890 Brightside Junction added – for the steel works
1896 Sheffield District Railway construction starts

Links and Sources

My photos of Colliery Road on flickr

  1. Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, Transport Committee, 26 Sept 2016. p. 17
  2. Drake’s Road Book of the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway, London 1840, p.33
  3. The Coal Mining Industry of Sheffield and North Derbyshire, Ken Wain, 2014: ISBN-13: 978-1445639635
  4. Hallamshire. The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield. Joseph Hunter, London 1819, p.227

Ordnance Survey maps at the National Library of Scotland:

History: Reading Early 19th Century Handwriting

I recently posted a legal document written in 1827, this was written in hand using a quill pen (quite possibly made from a goose feather) and it is rather difficult to read, there is no punctuation, commas or full stops not even an apostrophe and the capitalisation is all over the place. There are fewer characters in this alphabet, with some serving a dual purpose in giving a value based on context rather than appearance.

Whatever is written here….

The ‘m’ and ‘n’ characters are upside down, uppercase ‘I’ and ‘J’ are both the same and some characters have still not been fully completed, so ‘c’ looks like an ‘r’ and ‘e’ looks like a ‘c’. The double ‘s’ – ‘ss’ had still not been invented at this time and words with these are spelt ‘fs’, so ‘passages’ is written as ‘pafsesges’. I have constructed this cheat sheet from that document and hopefully the chart will help you in your quest:

Letter Example
A  Upper A  Lower A and Example A
B  Upper B  Lower B between Example B
C  Upper C  Lower C second Example C
D  Upper D  Lower D hundred Example D
E  Upper E  Lower E same Example E
F  Upper F  Lower F of Example F
G  Upper G  Lower G shillings Example G
H  Upper H  Lower H her Example H
I  Upper I  Lower I said Example I
J  Upper J  Lower J jointly Example J
K    Lower K Blake Example K
L    Lower L latter Example L
M  Upper M  Lower M made Example M
N  Upper N  Lower N grant Example N
O  Upper O  Lower O Joseph Example O
P  Upper P  Lower P appointed Example P
Q    Lower Q quality Example Q
R    Lower R presents Example R
S    Lower S assign Example S
T  Upper T  Lower T the Example T
U    Lower U fourth Example U
V    Lower V revoked Example V
W  Upper W  Lower W wife Example W
X    Lower X execution Example X
Y    Lower Y yearly Example Y
Z    Lower Z Elizabeth Example Z

After few hours reading the words start to pop out, it helps that the document is written is a formulaic legalese style with many repeated phrases (were they paid by the word?).

Further Reading

History: A Property Contract, Sheffield, July 1827

An indenture dated 18th July 1827 for the transfer of a mortgage for £1000 and interest between Ralph Blakelock, a banker in Sheffield and the merchants; John Butcher, Samuel Hadfield, John Binney, and Thomas Binney, as well as Henry Agie a Gentleman all of Sheffield. The document looks to be describing the mortgage, rents and leases as well some land and property of a ‘large Capital Messuage or Dwelling house’ built on the site of two dwelling houses in a street or place in Sheffield commonly called or known by the name of the Hartshead. The two former houses were occupied by John Trippett and James Mycock before being ‘wholly pulled down and rebuilt’ by Nicholas Broadbent.


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