LARGE trees were lifted from the ground, roofs ripped, children blown across roads and canal water raised in huge sheets as “wholesale destruction” arrived in minutes.
Witnesses said the tornado which tore through Rotherham on August 10, 1895 — leaving a trail of wreckage from Whiston to the north of the borough — was unlike anything they had witnessed before.
The whirlwind’s timing, towards the end of the 19th century, meant it was among the first such weather events to be recorded in detail by the press of the era.
A story in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph at the time said: “Rain fell in torrents, the wind howled and the thunder and lightning were extremely severe.
“Destruction was brought about wholesale in less than five minutes. The howling of the wind was likened to the roaring of lions, or the snorting of steam engines.
“Which almost seemed to touch the housetops, had the appearance of a very rough sea, and travelled at a tremendous pace.
“Property was damaged, large trees were uprooted, garden produce was utterly ruined, and there were many miraculous escapes from personal injury through the falling of chimney stacks, dislodged slates and ridge tiles.”
The track length suggested a tornado strength of up to T4 on the Torro scale — indicating winds as high as 136mph.
PK6 The canal in Parkgate where water was thrown up in huge sheets, high up in the air
The Mexborough and Swinton Times called it: “One of the most violent thunderstorms even known in the place, accompanied by the perfect tornado, striking terror into hundreds of inhabitants and doing much damage to property.”
It reported two boys lifted off their feet and carried across the street, lampposts being twisted into strange shapes and debris including flying chimney pots, tiles, shop signs, bricks, timber and furniture.
The storm entered the borough on Saturday, August 10, from the south, heading through Whiston to Moorgate and damaging a shed at Red House, which is now the grade II-listed Swinden House belonging to Tata Steel.
Field crops were spoiled and large trees lifted from the earth as the tornado moved to Broom.
It ripped off part of the roof and members’ stands at the racecourse near Badsley Moor Lane, and carried away the debris, while demolishing 65 yards of hoardings.
House tops were punctured and windows smashed all along Lister Street and Gilberthorpe Street, before trees were wrecked at Clifton Park and a bench was blown 25 yards.
The tornado moved towards Parkgate via Eastwood.
Police sergeant Barclay, of the West Riding Constabulary, watched its progress from the relatively safe position of Mangham Quarry.
He described the scene as “awfully grand, transcending anything” he had seen in his life.
And he added: “The clouds were light-coloured, turning round and rolling forward.
“They whirled round in a circle and went in a north-westerly direction, but not in a straight line.
“They moved rapidly, occupying but a short time in coming into and going beyond the range of vision.
“The noise was extremely great, as if a lot of railway trains were running about at a breakneck speed.”
Tony Dodsworth (left), from Rawmarsh and Parkgate Local History Group, said: “The year 1895 was one marked in the local press as among the worst for thunderstorms.
“It was reported that between May 24 and August 11, there had been no fewer than 13.
“The Sheffield Daily Telegraph at the time reported on the one in August, saying it resembled an American cyclone.
“We would probably call it a tornado nowadays.
“It described it as a storm the virulence of which was never before equalled in the neighbourhood.
“A local source of information was William Parkin’s book. He was a miner living in Rawmarsh and kept a diary of events in the Rotherham area, generally based on reports in the Advertiser.”
Mr Dodsworth added: “Water from the canal separating Eastwood from Parkgate was thrown up in huge sheets which, when high up in the air, had a remarkable effect.
“Tall poplar trees were bent double, their heads coming in contact with the ground.
“Much alarm was excited by all the shop and house gaslights going out, which was said to be caused by the wind striking the gasometer at the gasworks.”
At Parkgate Iron and Steel Co, slates were stripped from the blast engine house, and a shutter at Mr FL Sharpe’s butchers, at the corner of Broad Street and Lloyd Street, was lifted over the Wesleyan chapel opposite.
Half the roof belonging to pork butcher Mr Binney was gone and three cottages behind the Sportsman Inn also suffered.
Schonhut shop window that was 'blown to pieces'. Mrs Lound, a customer, was seriously injured in the shop
Mrs Lounds — a customer in nearby Mr Schonhut’s store — suffered two broken ribs from debris and Messrs J Smith and Sons, drapers, had two large windows smashed. Mr Parkin’s fruit shop and Mr Ward’s newsagents were among the other businesses to suffer damage. The iron streetlighting lamp-post belonging to the urban council was twisted beyond use.
Mr Wilson’s bus was passing along Broad Street when the horses were frightened and bolted up Rawmarsh Hill to Albert Road, toppling after catching a kerb. The driver and his passengers, Mr and Mrs Garbutt, were left shocked and bruised.