IT was 4am on February 16, 1962, when Haydn Anderson was woken up by something which had never disturbed his sleep before nor has done since.
It was the crashing sound of complete and utter silence.
“I remember it was tangible,” recalls the 74-year-old who was living in Bodmin Street, Attercliffe, Sheffield, at the time. “I didn’t know what had woken me at first but then I realised it was because there wasn’t a sound anywhere.
“It was so strange I couldn’t get back to sleep but as I lay in bed listening, this small rustling of wind started, and slowly it got louder, until this gale was blowing, and suddenly, everywhere flying past my window were roof slates and tree branches and whatever else. I had no idea what was happening.”
What was happening was the Great Sheffield Hurricane – a freak weather storm which saw winds of 96 mph tearing through the city, and which is set to be recounted in a new book to be released later this year.
In little more than four hours three people would be killed, 98 houses destroyed, and almost two-thirds of buildings in the city damaged. More than 25 people were made homeless.
The Government was so concerned it declared Sheffield a national disaster zone.
The clean up bill was £1 million – at a time when £1 million was a lot of money.
Pylons, schools, railway boxes and a 150-foot Bramall Lane floodlight were all damaged.
Particularly badly hit were the Attercliffe, Crookes and Heeley areas.
“The damage was unbelievable,” says Haydn, a retired engineer and grandfather-of-four who now lives in Chesterfield. “By about 9am it had died down and I left the house because I had college at the old Pond Street tec.
“This huge crane there had been literally bent in two. It was extraordinary.”
Extraordinary is right.
Perhaps most so was while Sheffielders battled to cope with the blasts, neighbouring towns like Rotherham and Barnsley enjoyed a relatively pleasant morning.
This was pure freak-of-nature stuff caused, experts have since said, by hot and cold airstreams being ‘bounced’ off each other across the Pennines.
“It’s undoubtedly one of the most bizarre episodes in Sheffield’s history – and this is a city that has had its fair share of bizarre episodes,” says Neil Anderson, son of Haydn and the author behind the new book, Dirty Stop Outs Guide To 1960s Sheffield.
“I’ve been interviewing people about the period for the book, and this is one of the things that really sticks out in their memories.
“It’s one of those where-were-you events that Sheffielders of that generation talk about.”
The new tome – a follow-up to the popular Dirty Stop Outs Guide To 1970s Sheffield – is a picture-heavy look at the town as it was in that period, from the nightlife and boutiques to the mammoth bus queues in Pond Street.
It was a time when The Beatles played in Gleadless, Pete Stringfellow was king of the clubs, and a new multi-sex changing room at clothes shop C&A Modes was causing no small amount of consternation.
“But the one memory which people kept coming back to was this hurricane,” says Neil. “So I decided it needed a chapter of its own.”
He’s now looking for anyone with any memories and pictures of the 1960s to get in touch with a view to contributing to the book.
“We can never have too much information or too many pictures,” says Neil. “I’m certain there’s a treasure trove of photos and memories out there.”
Anyone who thinks they can help should email ACM Retro at email@example.com
the lost lives
ALL those who died during the freak hurricane did so after chimneys collapsed on them.
The youngest victim was 17-year-old John William Johnson, of Colwall Street, Attercliffe, who died in his bed after the structure fell on him. Rescuers including his dad, a neighbour and two police officers could not get to the lad after part of the upstairs floor collapsed sending them plunging to the ground.
In Brightside, Shirley Hill, the wife of local Reverend Colin Hill, died after being trapped by their home’s falling chimney. She was 30.
The third victim was 57-year-old Ida Stabbs who died in hospital after being trapped in bed in her Crookes home. Her husband Eric was seriously injured but pulled through.