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Doncaster News and Features: 1854: The Floods at Doncaster

From the Illustrated London News, Jan 28 1854

In our last Number we narrated the overflow of the river at Doncaster and the fearful state of the part of the town known as the Marsh-gate. We now give some further particulars of this shocking inundation. As regarded this portion of the town, it may be said, that never was witnessed, on the part of the hundreds of spectators, so deep a feeling of commisseration.

It had been previously known that the flood on Mexbro' Ings, about seven miles up the river, was three feet higher than it had ever been known before; and, as the water kept rapidly rising, great fears were entertained that it would be a considerable time before it would sub-side.

This conviction rendered the situation in which the poor peoiple in Marshgate were placed, almost overflowed, still more pitiable - a condition still more deplorable by the high price of coals and provisions. Still the waters kept rising, and in consequence of the height to which they had reached in the street, the Mayor gave orders for cabs to be constantly plying along the whole of Marsh-gate, in order to convey passengers to and from the town - a ferry of a very novel and unprecedented character.

Fears were likewise entertained that the Mill-bridge would be blown up by the force of the current, which seemed to increase in impetuosity. This, in all probability, would have been the case, if the thick ice with which the river was bound had not previously broken up with little disturbance. Had it been otherwise, the weight of the stream and pressure of large blocks of ice would have doomed the Mill bridge to inevitable destruction - perhaps, swept it away altogether.

From the Great Northern Railway, crossing to the residence of Mr John Ward, farmer, the road was crowded with spectators, and the greatest anxiety appeared to be manifested for the occupiers of Marshgate. Vehicles of every description were brought into use, and many individuals were carried through the turbulent stream in carts, on the payment of a penny. The whole of the property in this unfortunate district was under water. It was truly pitiable to behold the occupiers driven from their firesides to ttake shelter in their upper rooms. All communication was almost entirely cut off from them, as no one ventured into the yards of the lower parts of Marsh-gate.

In Swift's Yard the people were greatly alarmed, in consequence of the great rapidity in the rise of the water in so short a time, and all had to take refuge on the second floors, without being able to carry with them any fuel and the necessaries of life. Tables, chairs, and other articles were floating about in the lower rooms, and sometimes came in collision with the framework of the windows. From Gray Friar's buildings to the Marsh Gate-bridge the road was one sheet of water, and the whole of the houses were inundated to an extent hitherto unknown.

The next morning (Thursday) the Marsh Gate was still impassable. It is impossible to give an adequate idea of the destruction to property which it has occasioned. During the night the water gradually subsided, a foot in some places, and less in others, but there was no indication of any material subsidence of the water until about eight o'clock this morning, when the Bentley bank burst, and the water rushed with fearful impetuosity on the Bentley Ings, and of the lands each side of the Selby, turnpike, as far as Bentley and Arksey. The circumstance afforded an outlet for the water in Masrh-gate, and consequently, from the time above-named, the flood became gradually less. Two large heaps of railway sleepers, which had been washed down the river, were picked up at the Marsh-gate lock; the water also forced its way into Mr Stone's, the New River Tavern, and the approach to it was impassable. From the field behind the New River Tavern the water continued to rush as furiously as ever over the turnpike and into the Falcon Yard.

The whole neighbourhood bore marks of the devastating flood; and the deprivation which the poor people in Marsh-gate experienced was truly lamentable. From an early hour on Thursday morning vehicles of every description were plying from Greay-Friars-buildings to the Millbridge, the inundation being confined within those two points. The water in several of the courts and yards was as high as the window sills, and the inhabitants were house-bound. In the evening fears began to the entertained as to the difficulty of lighting the public lamps in this district; but a small boat was procured, and rowed by two men underneath the gas maps when one of the men climbed the wall and lighted them. No communication whatever could be made with the inhabitants, except by means of ladders, which enabled some of them to receive provisions, &c., for eimmediate wants. Others wwre quite unable to obtain anything, either in the shape of food or fuel.

This flood has been more disastrous in the effects than any other yet known. The poor people have been deprived of their domestic comfort and daily labour, and their articles of furniture have been damaged and some destroyed. During Thursday and the evening the water in Marshgate had so far subsided as to admit of persons walking from one end of the street to the other, and the inhabitants were actively engaged in discharging the water from their respective houses. The banks of the river at Barnby Dun were burst, and the neighbourhood was fearfully inundated; but the waters have since much subsided.

The accompanying view of the Marsh-gate, during the flood, is from a sketch by Mr H. Tilbury of Doncaster.


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