The Anderson Family - A Sheffield Tragedy

In December 2011 I received an e-mail from a descendent of a family whose son was killed in the disaster at Messrs. Daniel Doncaster and Sons, steel converters, in Sheffield on 25th August 1886.

"My grandfather was Septimus Anderson of Burnt Tree Lane in Sheffield. 
I have recently begun to obtain copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates for his family, and wish to thank you for your reports about the deaths which occurred in Matthew Street on 25th August 1886.  My father was not born until 1896, but he often mentioned his brother Clifford (who was age five - not age seven) who was killed in this disaster, so I was fascinated to read about it.  Spookily, some children called Armitage were also killed in this accident.
My grandparents obviously had a very hard life in Sheffield during that period.  In 1891, they lost two daughters in rapid succession, Bertha died age 18months on 5th May 1891, and Annie died age 11years on 28th May 1891, both of natural causes.
My father had another brother who had an horrific death.  His name was Frank Anderson, and he died age 14years in a boiler explosion in 1899.  His death certificate shows his cause of death as "
From injuries received from an accidental explosion of a boiler at the works of Messrs Southern and Richardson in Doncaster Street Sheffield and that the cause of the explosion was a defective water gauge".  The inquest was held on 23rd November 1899, although it probably took a lot longer because, yet again, multiple deaths occurred in the accident.  The factories in and around this area obviously cared very little for Health and Safety.
I have been unable to find any reports about the explosion in 1899, and wonder whether you would be able to give me any hints about where to start.  You seem to have a good knowledge about Sheffield during that era."

I originally posted the article to the site quite a few years ago and have added information to it as and when it became available. I was intrigued by this information and so I decided to help out and find out just what happened to Frank in November 1899.

There was no mention of this explosion at Doncaster Street on-line or in any of the local history books I consulted and so I had to start from scratch   

The results of my endeavours are in the article

The Sheffield Boiler Disaster  - 1st November 1899

And as readers of the article on the Matthew Street accident of 1886 will know there is another connection

A few months ago Chris Hobbs and Matthew Bell approached Neil Anderson, head of city-based publisher ACM Retro Ltd, to see if he'd be interested in their manuscript for Sheffield's Shocking Past.

He was immediately grabbed by the Matthew Street tragedy and insisted that a shocking depiction of the event went on the front cover of the book.

A few days later Neil was talking to his dad, Haydn Anderson, about the book and the tragedy.

Haydn Anderson was months into exploring the Anderson family tree and, bizarrely, had come across the same tragedy and found it quite a coincidence that one of the children killed, 7-year-old Clifford Anderson, held the family surname and lived on Burnt Tree Lane, home to two Anderson households that were directly related to him.

Chris Hobbs then mentioned that he was already in contact with Mary Armitage, a direct descendent of Clifford Anderson. She was able to confirm Clifford Anderson was actually a direct relation of Haydn and Neil Anderson and they found out they'd discovered a whole new side of their family they never knew existed.

But then, even more bizarrely, Neil Anderson had a call from Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson, of Sheffield University, to say they'd been excavating a piece of waste ground on Matthew Street and found out it had been the site of an appalling Victorian accident that had seen a number of children killed.

They were now looking to campaign for a memorial on the site and, as she knew of Neil's work around the Sheffield Blitz Memorial Fund which is raising money to provide permanent memorials to mark the sacrifices Sheffield made in WW2, she wondered if he'd like to get involved.

They'd stumbled on the same tragedy as part of Sheffield University's art regeneration project, plastiCities, which is focusing on the Shalesmoor, Kelham Island and Neepsend area.

Neil Anderson said: "It seems like the spirits of the dead have been working their magic in mysterious ways. This has been one of the most bizarre set of coincidences I've ever known.

"There's nothing to mark the site of one of worst tragedies in the city's history and if it wasn't for these events it would have been totally forgotten.

"It looks as though Clifford Anderson and his seven playmates are finally going to get the memorial they so deserve."

But this wasn't Neil Anderson's only link with Sheffield's Shocking Past.

Clifford Anderson's brother, he soon found out, also died in horrific circumstances and also stars in the book. Frank Anderson, aged 15, died in a boiler explosion on Doncaster Street in 1899.

Neil Anderson said: "I never thought the perfectly innocent pastime of writing and publishing books would lead me to find out I'm a part of one of the unluckiest families in Sheffield!"

Sheffield's Shocking Past is published by ACM Retro and is on sale from all good bookshops now priced 12.95.



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This page was last updated on 10/09/13 11:35