The beech trees along the dam wall of Walkley Bank Tilt (Havelock Dam) provide rich autumnal colours. Photo: P. Machin, 2009.
The beech trees along the dam wall of Walkley Bank Tilt (Havelock Dam) provide rich autumnal colours. Photo: P. Machin, 2009.

Introduction

The Rivelin trail passes along the dam wall of the Walkley Bank Tilt mill dam (Havelock Dam). The open water is maintained for recreational use and it is a popular fishing spot.

The site was used for cutlery grinding from around 1751. In 1762 it was converted to a tilt-forge and in 1897 to a wire-drawing mill. Water power was replaced by oil and then electricity. It was the last working site in the valley, closing in the 1950s.

History (C. 1750S–1950s)

Also known as: Hallam Wheel, Havelock Steel & Wire Mills, Walkley Tilt. Known locally as Havelock Dam

Main trades: Cutlery grinding, tilt forge, wire-drawing mill.

Interior of Walkley Bank Tilt, showing the tilt hammers. Watercolour by Godfrey Sykes (1824–1866). Courtesy of Museums Sheffield.
Interior of Walkley Bank Tilt, showing the tilt hammers. Watercolour by Godfrey Sykes (1824–1866). Courtesy of Museums Sheffield.

The Church Burgesses of Sheffield owned the land on which Walkley Bank Tilt stood. Its history as a cutlers’ Wheel can be traced back as far as 1751 (when it was noted as ‘newly built’), but in 1762 Jonathan Parker & William Hawksworth purchased the lease and converted it to a tilt-forge.

A tilt hammer is pivoted like a see-saw – a cam mechanism pushes the tail end down, thereby raising the hammer end, then releases so that the hammer falls by gravity. A rapid stroke rate could be achieved, making tilt hammers suitable for drawing iron down to small sizes suitable for the Sheffield cutlery trades.

Walkley Bank Tilt and mill dam (Havelock Dam), taken from Walkley Bank in the early 20th century. The buildings immediately behind are on Stannington Road, with The Anvil pub far left. Sheffield City Council, Libraries Archives and Information: www.picturesheffield.co.uk Image t06402
Walkley Bank Tilt and mill dam (Havelock Dam), taken from Walkley Bank in the early 20th century. The buildings immediately behind are on Stannington Road, with The Anvil pub far left. Sheffield City Council, Libraries Archives and Information: www.picturesheffield.co.uk Image t06402

A valuation of the forge in 1812 included a sketch showing the overshot waterwheel. In 1831 a 42-year lease was taken up by Joseph Oakes & Joseph Hawksworth, but by 1865 the Sheffield Waterworks Company had bought the property and Moss & Gamble (a well-known Sheffield name) were the tenants.

Mill building and dwelling at Walkley Bank Tilt (probably early 20th century). Sheffield City Council, Libraries Archives and Information: www.picturesheffield.co.uk Image s10492.
Mill building and dwelling at Walkley Bank Tilt (probably early 20th century). Sheffield City Council, Libraries Archives and Information: www.picturesheffield.co.uk Image s10492.

Around 1897, the tilt-forge was converted to a wire-drawing mill, operated by George Hallam & Co, who later installed an oil engine (although records show that the waterwheel was still capable of use in 1916). Electric power came to the Walkley Bank Tilt in the 1920s and the mill was the last in the valley to close, in the early 1950s.

What's there now?

Few traces of the once-thriving Walkley Bank Tilt buildings now remain – most of them stood between the mill dam and the Mousehole weir (just downstream). The weir is in good condition, having undergone some repairs and there is a modern shuttle gate on the head goit entry. The overflow outlet from the mill dam, marked on the surface by metal plates, passes beneath the path near the car park.

The water outlet from the forge building into the short tail goit is marked by a bricked-up stone arch halfway between the mill dam and the weir. The outfall into the river is close to the Mousehole weir.

Look out for the cast-iron mill marker commissioned and installed by the RVCG in 2002. It was designed by Sheffield sculptor Roger Gibson to represent various aspects of the valley – a wheel is mounted on a plinth that depicts a seed-pod emerging from the ground, with flowing water cascading downwards over weirs. There are four markers in the valley: the marker here depicts a scythe blade, the marker at Hind Wheel a fork, that at Third Coppice Wheel a spoon and at Rivelin Corn Mill an ear of corn.

Nature and wildlife at Walkley Bank Tilt

The open water of the mill dam is partly colonised by Water Horsetails, but at least once every two years the encroaching vegetation is cut back to keep it clear for the fishermen. Weeping Willows on the far bank skim the water surface and the huge Beech trees along the dam wall provide rich autumnal colours.

This is one of the few places where Coot, Mallard and Moorhen all nest successfully – May/June is a good time to see the chicks and spot the differences between them. The wide and shallow stretch of river below the dam is popular with Grey Wagtails and Dippers. Kingfishers are also regularly sighted.

On the south side of the path just upstream of the Walkley Bank Tilt weir, look out for some shrubs, including Dogwood, Laurel and Wild Cherry, which were probably planted.

On a bend in the river just downstream of the mill dam, there is a steep wooded bank on the north-west side of the river. Here there are several large Oaks at the top the bank – a favourite early morning haunt for the Great Spotted Woodpecker. Brambles, ferns, ivy and liverworts grow on the damp rocky outcrop.

Location