Retro: Sheffield hit by other deaths as World War One raged

Retro Oct 1914: Fire engines leaving Central Fire Station, Division Street, now Bungalows and Bears
Retro Oct 1914: Fire engines leaving Central Fire Station, Division Street, now Bungalows and Bears
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In October 1914 the impact of war was increasingly felt across the pages of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.

Good news could be hard to find, buried beneath the stories of conflict that were coming to dominate the paper’s headlines.

But the war wasn’t the only threat to Sheffield safety in 1914. While trenches were being dug and men were losing their lives on European battlefields, death and disaster were also frequent visitors to the city.

Accidents and unusual deaths were a common source of column inches in October 1914. Many of these reported accidents were caused by technologies within the home or workplace, particularly open fires.

A huge fire at Old Park Farm on Cricket Inn Road destroyed 8 tonnes of hay, causing £8 worth of damage. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but with rising inflation, this would amount to more than £800 in today’s money!

A labourer on the farm escaped relatively unharmed, but he suffered from burns to his arms and face, and he scorched his hair and beard.

Sometimes small things and seemingly minor ailments could prove to be very serious indeed.

A young girl named Florence pricked her knee on a pin whilst playing chase with a boy. This small injury led to blood poisoning and poor Florence died.

A Sheffield man with a broken leg also developed septic poisoning and died from the “shock” following his operation. Although we can moan about waiting times and opening hours, it shows how lucky we are to have the services provided by the NHS today.

Some stories mixed their sombre subject matter with bizarre and mysterious twists. Early in October, a man died while enjoying a pint of beer in his local pub!

The story reads: “As he was lifting it up to his mouth, he fell to the ground.” The cause of death was unknown.

Later that month the paper reported the strange tale of James Brinner, a commercial clerk, who died suddenly at the Electric Light Generating Station in Neepsend.

He was singing a song called Happy Moments, and on reaching the second line, he turned around and fell forward. He died soon after of heart failure.

While these sad stories contain a touch of dark humour, others tales aspire to romance and tragedy. On October 8 the paper reported the suicide of a 72-year-old man.

He had died from opium poisoning and was found with a bottle in his hand, lying next to his wife’s grave, in the Intake Cemetery (now the City Road Cemetery), one of the largest in Sheffield.

But one surprising threat to the comfort and wellbeing of Sheffielders was the city’s roads. They were too good!

On October 20 an article complained that many of Sheffield’s highways and byways were too slippery and polished, with steep hills being “positively dangerous.”

They were a “death trap to horses”!

While today we might complain about potholes and cracks in the pavement, in 1914 Sheffielders wrote in to lend their support, pointing the finger of blame at the city authorities who were “responsible for accidents” caused by slippery roads.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Sheffield 1914 and to hear your own stories and memories.

Please get in touch on Twitter at @Sheffield1914, or write to us at: Sheffield 1914 Team, c/o Dr Amber Regis, Jessop West, Upper Hanover St, Sheffield, S3 7RA.

Photographs courtesy of Sheffield Archives at