Little graveyard is the final resting place of 19th-century social campaigners and key figures in city’s industrial development
The tiny overgrown Zion Graveyard, enclosed with the site of the demolished Zion Congregational Church, tells forgotten stories of Attercliffe.
Each grave commemorates an individual or family who made a contribution to the great city of Sheffield.
Who were they? This is the mystery that is slowly unravelling.
In the furthest corner is the very plain but imposing tomb of the relentless campaigner for social reform, Mary Anne Rawson, her parents, Joseph and Elizabeth Read, and five more children.
The Reads’ grandsons Henry Joseph Wilson MP, JP and John Wycliffe Wilson JP went on to become prominent Liberal politicians and great grandson Cecil Wilson was MP for Attercliffe for 18 years.
Chantal Brown, great great great granddaughter of the Reads, is anxious to preserve her ancestors’ grave and we would very much like to trace family members of others who are buried there.
She said: “I felt very proud to discover I was a descendant of Joseph and Elizabeth Read and related to Mary Anne Rawson who played such an active role in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of human rights.
“I will do all I can to help conserve the final resting place of such an important figure in Sheffield’s history.”
In 1805 Joseph and Elizabeth Read moved from Green Lane to live at Royds Mill beside the refinery and smelting works founded by his father John Read in which is still trading as Thessco Ltd, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of silver brazing alloys.
Joseph Read was a major funder for the rebuilding of the Zion Chapel in 1805 from its original temporary structure erected in 1793.
In 1863, under the leadership of the dynamic pastor Rev John Calvert, the simple chapel was replaced by the more elaborate church with the tall spire that many people will remember.
Over the course of 38 years, John Calvert initiated educational and social programmes, galvanising and inspiring the community until his church had the highest attendance in the Attercliffe.
His wife Jane and their three-day-old daughter Mary are buried at Zion Chapel.
Mark Oake, who died on September 19, 1856, was employed as an assayer and refiner, but also had his own business as a crucible maker.
Scissor grinder Jonathan and his wife Hannah Oakes (May 9, 1836 and April 2, 1866) are reported to be buried there, but their graves have not yet been uncovered.
Fork-maker Thomas Hancock died on August 5, 1808, his wife Ann died on June 18, 1827 and their son John on October 11, 1842.
Ann Hancock is recorded in 1819 as living in the old house of Benjamin Huntsman that later became The Britannia pub on Worksop Road.
Thomas was the son of Joseph Hancock who developed Boulsover’s discovery of Sheffield Plate and adapted it for the wider production. Descended from Protestant refugees from Europe, they were among the founding families of Zion.
John Pearson of Hall Carr House, who died on January 14, 1877 was the church’s chief organist. He is buried with his wife and sister, close to the tomb of the Read family in an elaborate grave marked with iron posts.
Jonathan Wood, owner of Wood’s (or Bridge) Foundry, member of the Zion Church choir, died October 20, 1848, and his wife Catherine Wood died September 12, 1873.
They are buried with their two tiny children, in an impressive tomb surrounded by iron railings that were once painted gold.
Two other infants aged one year and two months, with the same family names are buried nearby.
Where are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of these and others interred in the little graveyard?
The communities in Attercliffe have long been dispersed but many Atterclevians are still living in Sheffield or nearby.
Not everyone can easily travel back to tend a family grave but there are many different ways for others to help as well.
Looking after a cemetery near you is a way of returning the good work done by Friends groups across the country, so please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or come along and have a look from 10am to 11am on Saturday at Zion Graveyard at the junction of Zion Lane and Lawrence Street, Attercliffe S9 3RG.