The Porter Brook at Wilson's Sharrow Mill.
|Length||6.5 miles (10.46 km)|
The Porter Brook is a river in the City of Sheffield, England descending over 1,000 feet (300 m) from its source among the sedge grass on Burbage moor behind a small farm on Hangram just inside the Peak District National Park in the west of the city at Clough Hollow, near the village of Ringinglow.Coordinates: Porter Brook derives its name from its brownish colour, similar to the colour of Porter, a brownish discolouration obtained as it passes over iron-ore deposits on its course from the source.
From here it flows eastward through Porter Clough through Mayfield Valley to the first of the remaining mill dams. Beyond Forge Dam the brook makes its way through Endcliffe Park to Hunter's Bar, before running between Ecclesall Road and Sheffield General Cemetery, past the former Wards brewery. The final section of the river from Pear Street, location of Sharrow Forge (No. 15), is now built over running through culverts beneath the intersection of London Road and the Inner Ring Road. It meets the similarly subterranean River Sheaf beneath Sheffield Midland Station.
The Porter, like the other rivers in Sheffield, is ideally suited for providing water power, as the final section falls some 450 feet (140 m) in a little over 4 miles (6.4 km). This enabled dams to be constructed reasonably close together, without the outflow from one mill being restricted by the next downstream dam. In addition to this water-power, natural sandstone was available in abundance in the nearby hills of Sheffield and the Peak District National Park. Lying at the edge of these hills, mill-owners found Millstone Grit was an easily extractable resource. By 1740 Sheffield became the most extensive user of water-power in Britain and probably in Europe. Ninety mills had been built, two-thirds of them for grinding. By 1850 these mills numbered well over 100. In the Porter valley alone 21 mill dams served 19 water-wheels, mostly used for grinding corn, operating forge-hammers, and rolling mills, grinding knives and the various types of blade that made Sheffield famous. Most were active during the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Fulwood Cornmill
A mill is known to have existed at Fulwood in 1641, when Ulysses Fox its builder appeared before the Court of Kings Bench changed with "trespass", as the rights to grind corn were owned by the manor. Despite having to pay £35 8s 9d (£35.43) the mill survived. Later, there were two wheels served by two dams lying between Mill Lane and Mark Lane in Mayfield Valley above Forge Dam. In 1760 the mill was used by Thomas Boulsover for the production of Sheffield-plate buttons. A steam engine was used at the Nether or lower mill from 1847, and both were unused by 1884. The complex was given to Sheffield Corporation in 1937, but most of it has since been demolished. Unlike most installations in Sheffield, the dam impounded the whole of the flow from the Mayfield Brook, with the result that the dam (the normal local term for the lake, rather than the structure that creates the lake) has completely silted up.
Thomas Boulsover first used this site for the production of writing paper, but this was unsuccessful, as the water contained ochre. By 1765, it had become a forge and rolling mill, and by 1832 was used for the production of saws, while two drop-hammers were used to beat heated metal ingots into wrought-iron. Two water wheels were supplemented by a steam engine in 1835, and the operation ceased around 1887. A showman called Herbert Maxfield used the dam as a boating pool between 1900 and 1920, and the site was bought by Sheffield Corporation in 1939. The workers’ cottages became a café. The 40-foot (12 m) weir is still in good condition, but the dam has suffered from silting, as its layout was similar to the Fulwood dam.
- Wiremill Dam (extant) Previously Whiteley Wood Rolling Mill, also known as Bowser Bottom or Thomas Boulsover's Rolling Mill.
The mill produced thin steel plate suitable for sawplate and for other items fashioned from strip steel, and wire used mainly in the cutlery industry. Wiremill Dam was once the site of the largest diameter water-wheel in Sheffield. Two overshot wheels were recorded in 1829, each 34.5 feet (10.5 m) in diameter and 4.25 feet (1.30 m) wide. They rotated at 6 rpm and were fed by a head of water of about 10 feet (3.0 m).
- Nether Wheel
- Shepherd's Wheel (extant)
Named after Edward Shepherd, tenant at the wheel from 1749 to 1794, when 10 men were employed here. From the 1820s, the wheel was occupied by the Hinde family who worked here for over a hundred years and is now run as a museum by the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.
- Ibbotson’s Wheel (extant) previously Upper Spurgear Wheel or 4th Endcliffe Wheel.
During the early 1900s this dam became Porter Glen Boating Lake.
- Nether Spurgear Wheel (extant) also known as 3rd Endcliffe Wheel
- Second Endcliffe Wheel
- Holme Wheel (extant) also known as Nether Mill, Leather Wheel, or Whiteley Woods Bottoms Wheel (1754).
The dam became Endcliffe Boating Lake when Endcliffe Park was re-opened in 1887 to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria following major re-design and landscaping by landscape architect William Goldring. Porter Valley Parks are all part of the Sheffield Round Walk.
- First Endcliffe Wheel
For a short while this dam at Hunter's Bar became Endcliffe Bathing Pool. It was closed at the outbreak of World War II. Some 20 years later it was drained and filled in.
- Upper Lescar Wheel This cutlers wheel and the Nether Lescar Wheel took their names from the marshy area, Leeche Carr by the Porter Brook, carr being Old Norse for a wetland. The wheel existed in 1587. This dam was to supply power to the Porter Steel Works until 1890 when the works closed.
- Nether Lescar Wheel Dam Records indicate that this cutlers wheel existed in 1587. In 1630 John Bamforth paid £2-00 and two hens per annum to the Lord of the Manor to rent this wheel. This dam also supplied power to the Porter Steel Works.
- Porter Works Dam
Both Lescar Wheel and Porter Works Dams were drained to provide housing between Ecclesall Road and Sharrow Vale Road.
- Wilsons of Sharrow (extant) also known as Wilson's Bottom mill.
From here the brook follows Toad Walk (t'owd walk: Sheffield dialect) running beneath the high wall stone wall of Harland House, Wilson's Top mill and beneath the Egyptian-style gatehouse of Sheffield General Cemetery.
- Stalker Wheel also known as Three-Square Dams
- Sharrow Forge
Drained and filled in, c. 1870. The land was developed to build houses in Napier Street and St Matthias Primary School.
- Broomhall Cornmill
Also drained and filled in, c. 1870.
- Bennett's Wheel also known as Little Sheffield Moor or Vulcan Works Dam
The original grinding wheel (1810–1851) closed and the dam was leased to the Vulcan Works a forge, and rolling-mill providing water for boilers.
- Leadmill Dam also known as Marriott's Wheel (1732–1780s).
The White Lead Works was erected in 1759 producing pigments for paint and pottery glazes and continued in use until the later 19th century. When it closed, the dam was filled in and the site used to constructed a tram-depot c1910.
- Ponds Lane Dam
The Peak Park Anniversary Cycle Route follows the Porter Brook from Bingham Park to Porter Clough near Ringinglow.
In popular culture
The river is one of several which inspired the song "Wickerman" by Pulp.
Points of interest
(Links to map resources)
|OS Grid Ref||Notes|
|Junction with River Don||SK358877||by Blonk Street bridge|
|Start of Sheffield Station culvert||SK358868|
|Start of St Mary's Gate culvert||SK345863|
|Sharrow Snuff Mill||SK338858|
|A625 Eccleshall Road bridge||SK334858|
|Oakbrook Road bridge||SK320858|
|Fulwood Lane bridge||SK284841|
- Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006, p. 114
- Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006, pp. 115–117
- Sheffield City Council, Regeneration of Porter Brook
- Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006, pp. 117–118
- Ball, Crossley & Flavell 2006, pp. 119–121
- Signboards erected in Eastwood Road micro park
- Signboards erected in Eastwood Road micro park
- OS Map 1810
- "Wickerman (song)". Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- Sheffield City Library – historical photographs, prints, and old postcards
- Maps, birds of the Porter, things to do here
- British Archaeology News – Early leadmill uncovered in Sheffield
- Friends of the Porter Valley – preserving the past and existing dams