The Rivelin trail passes along the dam wall of the Walkley Bank Tilt mill dam (now known as Havelock Dam) from the small car park. 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. Few traces of the buildings survive, but the weir, mill dam and tail goit can still be seen.
History (C. 1750S–1950s)
Also known as: Hallam Wheel, Havelock Steel & Wire Mills, Walkley Tilt. Now known locally as Havelock Dam.
Main trades: Cutlery grinding, tilt forge, wire-drawing mill.
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.] A 19th century watercolour by Godfrey Sykes [Rivelin Artists] shows the two tilt hammers at Walkley Bank Tilt.
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.
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 it was one of the last in the valley to close, in the early 1950s and thus one of the few in the valley to have been working within living memory.
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 inlet. The overflow outlet from the mill dam, marked 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 [Rivelin Artists] commissioned and installed by the RVCG in 2002.
Nature and wildlife at Walkley Bank Tilt
The open water of the mill dam is partly colonised by Water Horsetails, but the encroaching vegetation is cut back occasionally 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. Look out for the yellow flowers of Flag Iris in the north-eastern corner of the mill dam, near the entrance to the car park.
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.
In recent years, Mandarin ducks have bred successfully in Rivelin. Photo: Sue Shaw, June 2019.
The wide and shallow stretch of river below the dam is popular with Grey Wagtails and Dippers. Kingfishers are also regularly sighted.
American Signal Crayfish live in Havelock Dam and in the river nearby. This is an invasive non-native crustacean species that presents a significant risk to native wildlife and is now increasing in numbers rapidly in waterways throughout England.
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, near the stepping stones. Here there are several large oaks at the top the bank – a favourite early morning haunt for the Great Spotted Woodpecker. Brambles, ferns and ivy grow on the damp rocky outcrop together with mosses and liverworts. Kingfishers and dippers are sometimes seen on this stretch of the river.
This 19th century watercolour by Godfrey Sykes shows two tilt hammers at Walkley Bank Tilt.
The cast-iron mill marker for Walkley Bank Tilt was 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.
The Walkley Bank Tilt site is located upstream of the Rivelin fire station (on Rivelin Valley Road) at the Havelock Dam car park. The site is owned by Sheffield City Council and there is open access. A public footpath crosses the site and can be easily accessed from Rivelin Valley Road.
A marker post installed at the site by Rivelin Valley Conservation Group gives a brief history and links to this website.
OS map grid reference: SK 3242 8881
Nearest postcode: S6 5FY