Birchinlee Village:

Nearly a thousand people lived in the 'Tin Town' of Birchinlee of the West side of the the River Derwent whilst construction of the dams began in 1901 and finished in 1916. This temporary town, named after an adjacent farm provided accommodation for families, and single workmen in various sized steel huts there was also a variety of shops, a railway line and even a hospital.

A School and playground as well as a recreation hall, post office, greengrocer's, cobbler and hairdresser and police station to name just a few of the buildings in this mini community. The majority of the buildings were of a temporary construction and had a tin corrugated roof and walls, however the residents of this village still wallpapered the interiors to make them homely.

Strict "Rules & Regulations" had to be followed by the inhabitants of Birchinlee and these were drawn up by Edward Sandeman for the Derwent Valley Water Board. Almost being self-sufficient the villagers enjoyed a good social life at the village with various social events taking place during the year.

The total number of employee's for the Board {DVWB} including those at Bole Hill Quarry reached a maximum of around 2700 during June 1908 and from then on the numbers gradually decreased. Sadly there is very little left in the ground as evidence that 'Tin Town' existed on the West side of the reservoir between the Derwent and Howden dam.

Construction of The Howden and Derwent dams:

Construction began in 1901 for the Derwent Valley Water Board {DVWB} with the Howden's excavations starting in July 1901 and the Derwent's in July 1902. Over 1.2 million tons of millstone grit was excavated from Bole Hill Quarry and transported by a specially constructed normal gauge railway to the site of the dams, the railway was also used for other materials as well as workers and foreman's on a daily basis.

Although the dam's main structures both look impressive there was far more excavation and dangerous work involved which is hidden from the visitor of today. Both dams had to have a narrow "heel trench" and two "wing trenches" each and these were about 6 feet wide. The "heel trenches" were dug out around 50 feet below the existing foundations of the dam which themselves were 70 feet deep, then filled with concrete. These sealed the dams from water seeping under pressure underneath the main foundations.

The "wing trenches" were dug out for a similar reason - to stop water leakage around the sides of the dams and were tunneled directly out of the adjacent hillside. These were mined and were between 115 and 192 feet deep and were much, much longer than the "heel trenches" due to ground conditions of the rock was far from watertight, in fact so much so with the Howden that it was nearly abandoned because of this reason. This added lots more labour and workers wages to the overall construction costs.

18 workers lost their lives in the construction of the dams which was completed in 1916. To satisfy the water requirements of Sheffield the Ladybower reservoir was built much later and completed in 1945.