Local History - Articles and letters about Bradway's past

Winter 2002

Construction of Totley Tunnel - Post Box - Roman Times

Construction of Totley Tunnel

Throughout the nineteenth century there were several plans to improve the link between the large industrial cities of Sheffield and Manchester by road, canal and railway. Eventually the 1884 Dore and Chinley Act (of Parliament) saw the incorporation of a company for the construction of a new railway line, running from Dore & Totley station, itself opened in 1872, to Chinley. But it was not until June 1894 that it was ready for the first passenger traffic.

The greatest achievement of this railway was the construction of the Totley tunnel - 3 miles and 950 yards long. In October 1888, work began at both Totley and Grindleford. The line of the tunnel had been set out from three high points - Bradway Summit, the moor above the tunnel and on Sir William Hill, Grindleford. A line was laid out on the ground and small shafts were bored at intervals. The line and depth of the tunnel was established by suspending weighted wires, of known length, down shafts and by the use of a theodolite at the headings. The accuracy of this method was such that when the headings met, the centre line was only 4 ½" out of line horizontally and 2 1/4" vertically.

Four permanent shafts were sunk within a mile of the Totley end. These were used both for ventilation and as a base for the excavation of the headings. The main problem was water, which flooded into the tunnel. In June 1889, 26,000 gallons of water were being pumped away each hour. A contemporary newspaper report from the Manchester Guardian declared "every man seemed to possess the miraculous power of Moses, for whenever a rock was struck, water sprang out of it".

As the miners tunnelled, they were followed by bricklayers who arched the tunnel - the sides being lined with large blocks of stone with brick arches above. Many of the bricks used were produced locally at the Totley Moor works. By August 1889 boring was progressing at the rate of 18 yards each week.

Working conditions were poor, with lighting by tallow candles and always with the danger of great in rushes of water. 163 tons of gelignite were used to blast away the rock, the waste material being hauled up above ground and dumped, covering large areas of what was Nether Bentley near the Crown Inn at Hillfoot.

Many labourers were brought in to help with the work. They arrived with their wives and families. Accommodation was provided in huts built around the shafts and many lodged in houses in the area. It was quite common for dozens of people to share a house and living conditions were generally disgusting. Many homes were without water, and raw sewage ran into the gardens. The crescent of shops on Totley Rise was then a row of houses - known as Bricky Row because of the unusual building material for the area - and built to house the workers.

At Totley the incomers actually outnumbered the local residents. The navvies’ fondness for drink, poaching and gambling - prize-fights and horse races were laid on at Owler Bar - boosted the local crime rate alarmingly, keeping the police and courts very busy. In their defence, it was acknowledged that working conditions were appalling, accidents were a common occurrence and it was difficult to keep enough labourers on the payroll. A working day was one of three 8- hour shifts and in mid-1889 the pay was 3s 2d per week.

Not surprisingly, there were many complaints about the rough behaviour of the navvies. Drunkenness was common, much of the money earned being spent in the alehouses of Dore and Totley. The nomadic lifestyle of the navvies was not conductive to a good education or healthy practices.

There was a smallpox outbreak in 1893, which caused deaths amongst this group, who had not been vaccinated. There are 17 entries in the Register of Burials at Dore Church between March and July 1893, which have S.P. after the name. Of these eleven were infants and children. Seven died at the Smallpox Hospital, Totley, which was sited at Green Oak. Whether all the deaths were actually recorded is in doubt given the number of casual Irish labourers at the time.

Tales of those who drove Totley tunnel have been told by their descendants. The grandfather of Mrs Rosemary Lockie met and married a local girl after coming to find work with a gang of his mates when their jobs on the Severn tunnel came to an end. He was skilled in the use of explosives and in later years used to tell how he was one of the men who shook hands with those who made the final ‘breakthrough’ from the opposite, Dore, end of the tunnel. Another resident recalled a Welsh relative who brought his family to live in Hathersage. Nicknamed ‘Jimmy the Whip’, he became a foreman on the tunnel.

No article on the tunnel would be complete without reference to Brian Edwards’s definitive book on the tunnel. In words, pictures, drawings and maps, this tell the fascinating human and engineering story about the building of the tunnel. Unfortunately it is out of print, but the library should have a copy.

Post Box

Dear Sir,

Roger Davis, in his interesting survey of street names, says about St Quentin’s Well "Presumably there was a well of this name" There is no need to dream up a well: the Old English "wella" means spring or stream. So, for example, Bradwell means "place by a wide stream", just as Bradway is "place with a broad road".

Similarly the Old English "sic" is a small stream. Twentywellsick Lane, as it was called less than a century ago, therefore contains a tautology: "St Quentin's Stream Stream".

Word meanings can change ever so slightly, and yet mislead. The Old English "clif" means cliff, slope or river-bank. So to understand Attercliffe, from the Anglo-Saxon "at the cliff", one does not have to find a precipice. It is interesting that the natives of that area use almost the same words today, just a little updated to "on t’cliff".

John Kilpatrick

Dear Sir,

I wonder if you can help me, or know anybody else who can. I'm trying to find out about my father, and have been told that in the 1930's (or around that time) he ran a Potted Meat Factory behind a cottage that was on the corner of Abbey Lane/Beauchief Abbey Lane. Although I live miles from Sheffield I was up there yesterday and think I have found the building (or rather it's foundations). Now all I want is some old photos/information. I feel this is a shot in the dark (but worth a try?)

My father was (John) Marshall Hurst born 1900. He also worked for Clarinco Sweets (apparently rather cheap & nasty liquorice affairs) have you ever heard of them? Any information, however small would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.

Liza Hopkinson (nee Hurst)

Ed. Can anyone help with this enquiry which came in by e-mail.


We know little about the surrounding area in Roman times, but there was a Roman Road just to our north and a Roman Fort at Brough in the Hope Valley.

The Roman invasion of Britain was made in A.D.43 and around A.D.60 Roman occupation at Derby brought the army within striking distance of the Peak District. The fort at Brough on Noe (Navio) was initially constructed of timber in the second half of the 1st century before being abandoned around A.D.120 as the conquest moved further north. Re-occupation of Navio in A.D.155 in a new 2 acre fort built on the deserted site could hardly have held the whole regiment. Re-building in stone was done towards the end of the 3rd century with further rebuilding in A.D.305-306. On the basis of pottery evidence and a single coin, occupation is believed to have ended before A.D.360.

COHORS I AQUITANORUM EQUITATA. an auxiliary regiment, was the only known garrison to serve at Navio and consisted of 500 men, some of them mounted. It is referred to on Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB 1550), engaged in building work at Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall between A.D.122 and A.D.125.

Two inscriptions record the presence in Derbyshire of the regiment, RIB 283 when it was at Navio about A.D.155 and RIB 278, an alter found at Haddon Hall. The altar was dedicated to the romano-celtic god Mars Braciaca by the unit's commander, Quintus Sittius Caecilianus. It has been speculated that he originated from North Africa on the basis of his unusual name.

Early in the third century the regiment moved to the new fort at Brancaster (Norfolk) where two stamped tiles have been found reading CH 1 AQ which has been expanded to C(O)H(ORS) 1 AQ(VITANORVM). A further inscription on a lead seal was found at Leicester reading C(OHORS) 1 AQ(VITANORVM) and may have been sent by the regiment whilst it was stationed at Navio.

The regiment is recorded on the 3rd century tombstone of M. Valerius Speratus from Viminacium in Nosier Superior (on the lower Danube). He was a veteran legionary and a town councilor called out of retirement to command the regiment in Britain where he died aged 55. He was commemorated in his native Viminecium by his wife Afrodisia.

96 milestones are recorded from Roman Britain but only 9 mention a place name and few give a distance, but a milestone in Buxton museum reads A NAVIONE M P Xi which translates as 11 miles from Navio.

A censitor Brittonum Anavion (ensium) held office around A.D. 112. He would have been in control of the local area administration and also lead production and was obviously based at Navio. Workings for lead were originally in the hands of lessees (conductores) and is known to have been taken as early as A.D.49 from the Mendips, only 6 years after the invasion. The lead production of the Societatus Lutudarensis of Derbyshire was probably lst century. The Derbyshire ore field was one of the largest and most productive in Britain and nearly 30 of the 80 known pigs of lead are believed to have originated in Derbyshire with a further 21 from Somerset. These lost or hidden pigs must represent a very small percentage of the total production of Romano-British lead.

Under Hadrian, a tightening-up of state monopoly resulted in no further reference to lessees and it appears that lead production was under military control. Exceptionally high demand for lead may have been caused by the military building requirements on the new northern frontier around Hadrian's Wall. A large proportion of Derbyshire lead production was sent to Petuaria (Brough on Humber). This would be more convenient for coastal shipment in preference to overland transport to Hadrian's Wall.

Frank Smith

Ed. This article originally appeared in the magazine ‘Under the Edge’ covering the Great Longstone area.

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