Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Sheffield General Cemetery

An overgrown area of the cemetery which has yet to be cleared of ivy.

Dartford Warbler has just written an interesting post over at her blog "Where Beechmast Falls". Like me, she enjoys pottering around churchyards.

When we have been in Sheffield in the past, we have had a stroll around the Sheffield General Cemetery, which is hidden away in the heart of Sharrow. It was opened in 1836 and was then "some distance in the countryside" from the industrial heartland of Sheffield, famous for its cutlery and Sheffield steel. It was one of the earliest commercial cemeteries in Britain and has a number of buildings and monuments which are Heritage listed. It is also the site of one of the deepest single grave plots in the country, dug to contain the bodies of 85 paupers . . . what a terrible indictment on the Workhouses of the period.

It was built at a time when Garden Cemeteries were reaching the height of their popularity. The Government was keen to promote the establishment of rural or urban cemeteries, since the sudden rise in populations of major cities was putting great pressure on city churchyards, and bodies were buried with just inches between the coffins, and scarcely enough earth above them to ward off the stench of decay, whilst those buried in vaults beneath the church made services very difficult for parishioners. The garden cemeteries also gave families a chance to mourn and remember their loved ones as they perambulated through the cemetery after church on Sunday, and to enjoy what amounted to a country stroll.

Sheffield cemetery was closed for further burials in 1978m and two years later about 7,500 gravestones were removed to provide a grassy recreational area. There is now a Society which carries out educational tours and workshops, carries out essential conservation work to care for the monuments and the landscape, and helps people who are carrying out historical and geneological research. The cemetery's web page with its links to burial listings is well worth a visit.

One of the green spaces made when headstones were cleared from the site.

I photographed this splendid memorial partly for the symbolism, and partly because it commemorated a Welshman a long way from home (David Davies) and his wife.

ISH, intertwined, is the Greek monogram for Jesus Christ. (Iesous Christos). See LINK. I "think" these initials (ISH) are also the symbol of St. Monica, who represented women with abusive husbands! I'm sure Mrs Davies was totally unaware of this meaning.

My family walking along Sandford Walk, named after the minister who stumped up the money to pay for additional trees to be planted beside the pathway.

A very unusual forename - Tusting - justified recording. Other members of the Cocking family were also so named - perhaps it was originally a surname from one of the family members through marriage?

I think this was Mark Firth's monument. He was Sheffield's greatest steel baron, and who was a generous benefactor of the town. This monument is Grade II listed, and was actually erected during his lifetime, and needless to say, the wrought iron work was cast in his own foundry.

The rather splendid memorial to members of the Nicholson family, of Moordale, Sheffield.

As this information board by the abandoned Gothic-style Anglican chapel of 1850 tells, the original inspiration for the cemetery was Egypt, and the Egyptian design was chosen due to strong British trading and military links with that country. The Sheffield cemetery was the first to by built using this Egyptian design.

Perhaps the Shaws were lovers of wildlife, as the Ferns and Ivy motifs on their headstone show.

Ebernezer hall of Abbeydale Park lived to the grand old age of 90 and saw the entire Victorian era from start to finish

William Parker's superb memorial reflected his position in local society - pretty well near the top!

Meadow Cranesbill, such a pretty flower, and one of the many diverse wild flowers found here. It is a rich landscape supporting many different forms of wildlife. Over 30 different species of bird have been recorded including the resident Tawny owls, Sparrowhawks, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Treecreepers, besides winter migrants such as Redwings and Waxwings.

The bur-like seed heads of Tormentil, very common herb which grows well EVERYWHERE in my garden! It has a simple yellow flower head. Here in the churchyard it grew between recumbent headstones. The name is said to derive from the Latin tormentum, allied to tummy ache and tooth ache, both of which this herb is supposed to relieve. The plant is a natural astringent, and used to be used in the tanning process.


  1. Great post on the Cemetery, my friend Pauline and I did one of the guided tours ealier this year and it was both pleasant and very interesting. Ebenezer Hall lived near me at Abbeydale Hall, it's private and rather exclusive apartemnts now but better than being allowed to fall to bits.

  2. Cemeteries are such interesting places aren't they BB? I am also captivated by that darling little foal at the top!

  3. What a fascinating cemetery BB! The Victorians certainly knew how to make a Grand Memorial. There is an equally interesting Victorian Cemetery on one of the hillsides overlooking Bradford. We have spent hours in there, reading tombstones.....

    Sheffield General Cemetery must be a lovely place for wildlife to thrive and to be enjoyed. I do think it is sad when stones are removed and the graves are less visible, but at least there are records for those who want to research specific graves or family burial records.

    Thank you for such an interesting post.

  4. Fascinating and some great photos again. The vegetation coveed gravestones is a magnificent image of the temporary nature of existence.

    Just a fabby post BB

  5. Sigh...simply a huge sigh. I love coming here to visit you!

  6. I'm in Sheffield for a short holiday, taking my other half to a school reunion. We just walked up from the city centre to our Hotel and through the cemetery on the way up. I googled for some more information, and stumbled on this page. I now know what we're doing tomorrow. Heading out in search of a particular memorial. Can you guess which one?

    Yours fascinated,

    John Tusting

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