The Rivelin (left) joins the Loxley (right) at Malin Bridge
|Origin||Damflask Reservoir nr Stacey Bank
|Mouth||River Don at Owlerton
|Length||6.2 miles (10.0 km)|
|Source elevation||600 feet (180 m)|
|Mouth elevation||190 feet (58 m)|
|Basin area||16.8 square miles (44 km2)|
The River Loxley is a river in the City of Sheffield South Yorkshire, England. Its source is a series of streams which rise some 10 miles (16 km) in the north-west of Sheffield on Bradfield Moors, and converge at Low Bradfield. It flows easterly through Damflask Reservoir and is joined by Storrs Brook at Storrs, near Stannington, and the River Rivelin at Malin Bridge, before flowing into the River Don at Owlerton, in Hillsborough. The Loxley valley provided the initial course of the Great Sheffield Flood, which happened after the Dale Dyke Dam collapsed shortly before its completion in March 1864.
The upper river is marked by the presence of four large reservoirs, used for the impounding of drinking water. Drinking water for the people of Sheffield was provided by five small reservoirs on a site close to Langsett Road. Others were added as the population grew, but by 1830, they could not keep up with the demand. Sheffield Water Company became responsible for water supply after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1830, and their first major reservoir was completed in 1836, when Wyming Brook was dammed to form the Redmires Middle Reservoir.
Reservoir building continued as the population expanded further, and the Dale Dyke reservoir was nearly complete in 1864 when the dam failed, with catastrophic consequences for the communities below it. 250 people died in the flood, and many businesses were washed away or severely damaged. As a result of the compensation payments they had to make, the Sheffield Water Company obtained parliamentary powers to raise their water rates by 25 per cent. The company soon started other major projects, and Strines Reservoir was completed in 1869, covering 54 acres (22 ha) and impounding 453 million gallons (2,059 Megalitres (Ml)) of water. Agden Reservoir was completed in the same year, which covered 62 acres (25 ha) and held 559 million gallons (2541 Ml). The replacement Dale Dyke reservoir was completed in 1875. It covered the same area at Agden reservoir, and held 466 million gallons (2,118 Ml).
When powers to raise the extra levy on water rates ceased in 1887, the Sheffield Water Company applied to parliament to make the charge permanent, and to make further increases to its charges. The Corporation of Sheffield decided that water supply should be in public ownership, and submitted a bill to buy the Water Company by compulsory purchase. Both sides fought for their cause vigorously, but the committee of the House of Lords which heard the cases ruled in favour of the Corporation, who paid the Water Company £2,092,014 for all of their assets, and took over responsibility for water supply.
Under the new regime, Damflask Reservoir was completed in 1896. This was built as a compensation reservoir, rather than for drinking water, and was there to maintain a flow in the river, which protected the interests of those who abstracted water from the river, or used its flow to drive machinery. It covers 116 acres (47 ha) and holds 1,108 million gallons (5,037 Ml).
The river has played an important part in the industrial history of Sheffield, as it descends through 280 feet (85 m) in the 6 miles (9.7 km) between Low Bradfield and the Don, and this has enabled many mills, forges and cutlers wheels to be powered by its waters. Low Bradfield Corn Mill is the earliest known installation, being recorded in documents from 1219. It was destroyed by the flood in 1864, but was rebuilt, despite the fact that only £3505 was received in compensation against the claim for £5000. It was owned by Sheffield Corporation by 1905, and continued to use water power for some considerable time afterwards. It was destroyed by a fire during the Second World War.
There were medieval corn mills at Bradfield, Damflask and Owlerton, and cutlers wheels were in use at Wisewood in 1521, at Ashton Carr in 1549, and at Slack Wheel, near the confluence with the Don, in 1581. Development after 1720 was rapid, and a shift to heavier industry occurred from the early 19th century, with forges replacing cutlers wheels, or in some cases being built alongside them. A total of 24 mills, wheels and forges are known to have existed on the river. Many were swept away or damaged in 1864 by the flood, but although steam power was gradually replacing water power elsewhere, most of those rebuilt continued to use water power, at least in part. Although the mill buildings have mostly gone, several of the weirs and dams remain, and there are still water wheels at Malin Bridge corn mill and Low Matlock rolling mill.
Low Matlock Wheel is first mentioned in 1732, when James Balguy leased some land to build a cutlers wheel. The size of the wheel and the number of grinding troughs were left to his discretion, and so were not mentioned in the deeds. By 1825, the site was described as having three works, the first containing two tilt hammers, the second, two forges, and the third, two more tilt hammers and a plating hammer. The site was extensively damaged by the 1864 flood, and the owners put in a claim for over £5,000 to repair the damage. The present buildings carry the date 1882, and the rolling mill is a grade II* listed structure. Water power continued to be used until 1956, after which much of the internal machinery was retained but adapted to allow electric power to drive it. Following the sale in 1999 of most of the site for development, the rolling mill was bought by Pro-Roll Ltd, who were using teams of four men to roll high-value bar by hand in 2006. An archaeological excavation of part of the site took place in 2001, prior to redevelopment.
The upper river valley is now the site of Damflask reservoir, built in the 1870s, but not completed until 1896, due to problems with leakage. It covered the sites of Dam Flask Corn Mill, which was probably part of the complex mentioned in 1219, and Dam Flask Wheel, which was variously a cutlers' wheel, a paper mill, and a scythe and sickle manufactory, between 1750 and 1861. By 1864 it was probably a wire mill, as four wire-drawers were drowned there in the flood.
Points of interest
(Links to map resources)
|OS Grid Ref||Notes|
|Strines Dike||SK200902||multiple springs|
|Foulstone Dike||SK197911||multiple springs|
|Hilling Dale Brook||SK220925||multiple springs|
|Strines Reservoir outlet||SK232903|
|Dale Dike Reservoir outlet||SK244915|
|Agden Reservoir outlet||SK258921|
|Damflask Reservoir outlet||SK282905|
|Junction with Storrs Brook||SK298895|
|Junction with River Rivelin||SK325893||Malinbridge|
|Junction with River Don||SK341894||mouth|
- Ball, Christine; Crossley, David; Flavell, Neville (2006). Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers: Second Edition. South Yorkshire Industrial History Society. ISBN 978-0-9556644-0-3.
- Firth, Christopher (1997). Domesday to the dawn of the New Millennium - 900 years of the Don fishery. Environment Agency. (This is available online at The Don Catchment Rivers Trust in 5 parts. Page numbers show the part number and the page number within the pdf file).