Holme Head Wheel, Rivelin Valley, Sheffield, S6 5PN

Former grinding wheel and water management system

Holme Head Wheel and associated water management system are the remains of a water-powered site that was used for grinding (mainly knives and razors). Dating from the 1740s, it is one of the 20 water-powered mills built in the Rivelin Valley that now form an important part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage. The building was disused and still in good condition in 1936, but subsequently demolished, so now only a few remains of the building, wheel pit and the wheel spindle, together with the weir and mill dam, can still be seen.

The site is owned by Sheffield City Council and there is open access. A public footpath (the Rivelin nature and heritage trail) passes the site and runs along the dam wall. The trail can be accessed from various points along Rivelin Valley Road, or from the north (Stannington) side of the valley.

A marker post installed at the site by Rivelin Valley Conservation Group gives a brief history and links to a website where further information and pictures can be found. An information board with pictures explains the history of the site.

The site is situated on the south-east side of the River Rivelin, to the north-west of Sheffield City Centre. The water management system extends to the north-east and south-west of the site of the former mill buildings, feeding from and into the adjacent river.

Holme Head Wheel and associated water management system are part of a sequence of 20 water-powered mills (and 21 mill dams) along a 3½ mile (5.6 km) stretch of the lower Rivelin Valley, possibly the greatest density of mills over that distance in Britain. These sites together help to tell the story of Sheffield’s industrial heritage, and cutlery trade in particular, from its origins in rural workshops with water-powered grindstones. Apart from Uppermost Wheel, the furthest upstream of the 21 sites, remains of all of the others can still be seen and together they form a sequence along the valley that should be preserved in its entirety.

Holme Head Wheel is one of only a few of the sites along the Rivelin valley where substantial remains of the wheel pit and building layout can be seen. An archaeological excavation in 2009 by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield found many broken knife blade blanks here. The wet and vegetated mill dam supports a varied wetland/aquatic flora and fauna.

The steep, convex stone weir is deteriorating at the north end. Rusted remains of the capstan & roller of the head goit shuttle mechanism survive. The mill dam is quite large and mostly overgrown, although still holds water. A roller survives on the overflow stonework; the water is culverted beneath the footpath and flows into the river through a small stone arch. The tail goit runs in a culvert beneath the path before emerging into the river just above the modern stepping stones, initially separated from the river by edge-set slabs joined by wrought-iron straps.

Note: OpenStreetMap currently (February 2021) mistakenly names the Nether Cut dam as Upper Cut, and the Holme Head dam as Nether Cut.

The lower Rivelin Valley forms part of a green corridor along the River Rivelin stretching from the urban area at Malin Bridge into the Peak District. A continuous nature and heritage trail weaves between the ruins for some 5 kilometres (3 miles), passing through woodlands and pastures that are also important for wildlife. It has open access for public recreation and attracts many Sheffield residents and visitors from outside the City, for informal recreation, education and research. The area has been designated ‘Rivelin Valley – City Heritage Park’ and is managed and maintained by the Sheffield City Council Parks and Countryside Service. Much of it (excluding allotment areas) has also been designated as a ‘Local Wildlife Site’.

Further information and pictures of Holme Head Wheel and other sites in the Rivelin valley can be found at http://rivelinvalley.org.uk/trail/index.php. See also the books ‘Walking the Rivelin’, by Sue Shaw and Keith Kendall (6th edition, 2019, Rivelin Valley Conservation Group) and ‘Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers’, by C. Ball, D. Crossley, N. Flavell (Editors), (2nd Edition (2006), South Yorkshire Industrial Society).