History & Buildings

Kelham Island Power Station

History and Buildings

Kelham Island is one of the oldest industrial sites in Sheffield. The island was formed in the 1180s when a goit or millrace was created to carry water from the River Don to the Town Corn Mill, near Lady’s Bridge. A short stretch of the goit still exists today and runs alongside the museum site, the Town Corn Mill which it powered further downstream no longer stands.

Much of the early history of the island after this time is unknown until 1637 when the town armourer, Kellam Homer set up a grinding workshop and waterwheel on the island. The waterwheel was originally known as Kellam Wheel, but by the early 19th century the spelling had been altered to Kelham and the island given the same name.

In the 1800s, other industries began to spring up in the Kelham area and Kelham Island itself became a host for all kinds of manufacturers. In 1829, John Crowley bought land on the island and built a small iron foundry called Kelham Iron Works where he made all kinds of iron products – bicycles, corn grinders, lawn mowers as well as decorative items before moving his successful business to larger premises at Meadow Hall in 1870. 

In the 1890s the site was bought by the City. The Iron Works buildings were demolished and an electricity generating station was built in their place, to provide power for the City’s new tram system. The power station was in operation until the 1930s, after which the buildings were used as storage space and workshops. These buildings now house the collections, displays and workshops of Kelham Island Museum.