53°19′05″N 1°31′59″W / 53.318°N 1.533°W / 53.318; -1.533

Old Hay Brook
The bridge which carries Old Hay Lane over Old Hay Brook
Physical characteristics
 • locationMoors to south of Sheffield
 • elevation1,300 feet (400 m)
 • location
River Sheaf at Totley Rise
 • elevation
410 feet (125 m)
Basin features
 • rightNeedham's Dyke

The Old Hay Brook is a small river in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. It is formed from the Redcar Brook, Blacka Dike and another stream, which rise on moors to the south of Sheffield, and is joined by Needham's Dyke near Totley Grange. At Totley Rise it joins Totley Brook, to become the River Sheaf. Water from the river was used to power mills processing lead, corn and paper from at least the 17th century, which were later used for grinding scythes as the Sheffield metal industry expanded. All the mills were defunct by 1900, although some remnants including weirs and dams are still visible.


The river rises as a series of streams on a gritstone ridge some 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 km) to the south-west of central Sheffield.[1] Furthest north is the Redcar Brook, which rises at four locations near the 1,300-foot (400 m) contour on Houndkirk Moor. The brook flows to the east and then to the south, passing to the west of Townhead. To the south of Redcar Brook, Blacka Dike rises at multiple springs close to the A6187 Hathersage Road, near the 1,210-foot (370 m) contour on Blacka Moor. It flows to the north-east into Black Plantation, where it is joined by several more streams which rise in the woods. It then flows east to join Redcar Brook. Further south, another stream rises by the 1,150-foot (350 m) contour on Totley Moor above Totley railway tunnel. It flows north-east, to join Blacka Dike just before its junction with Redcar Brook.[2] On modern maps, the combined streams are called Blacka Dike to the west of the bridge where they pass under Old Hay Road, and are known as Old Hay Brook to the east of it.[3] Just above the bridge is a smaller footbridge, built in the late 18th century of squared stone and ashlar masonry. It has a single arch, was restored in the 20th century, and is a grade II listed structure.[4]

Needham's Dike rises at two springs on the slopes near Brown Edge, and flows north east. It is crossed by two minor roads, before it crosses the route of Totley Tunnel near to its eastern portal. It then passes under Old Hay Road to join Old Hay Brook. The combined stream runs to the south of the Totley Brook estate, and then crosses over the tunnel entrance cutting in an aqueduct. Continuing eastwards, it passes under the A621 road to reach Totley Rise, where it joins the Totley Brook stream, and the two become the River Sheaf, which descends to join the River Don in Sheffield.[2]

The channel is heavily engineered near the railway, passing over a series of stepped weirs, constructed of bricks, on either side of the aqueduct.[5] The aqueduct itself is a large U-shaped structure, which is also constructed of bricks.[6]

Water power

There were at least four mills on the Old Hay Brook, which were powered by its water. Weirs were constructed to feed water into dams, and was then used to turn water wheels. The word "dam" was used in the Sheffield area to refer to the pond which impounded the water, rather than the structure which created the pond. Mills were used for producing paper, processing lead, grinding corn, and with the rise of the metal industries in Sheffield, for grinding scythes. The earliest records of milling date from the late 16th century, and all of the mills had ceased to operate by 1900.


  • Ball, Christine; Crossley, David; Flavell, Neville (2006). Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers: Second Edition. South Yorkshire Industrial History Society. ISBN 978-0-9556644-0-3.