New lease of life for old cemetery chapel

Mike Pye at the old chapel in Sheffield General Cemetery Trust which will be turned into a community arts project
Mike Pye at the old chapel in Sheffield General Cemetery Trust which will be turned into a community arts project

The location will make it one of Sheffield’s more unusual venues for arts and community events and school visits.

Work is due to start the end of the month on restoring the derelict non-conformist chapel in the middle of the Victorian General Cemetery in Sharrow.

The grade II* listed building, which was opened in 1836 following a cholera epidemic, was last used in 1950s and is on the national heritage ‘at risk’ register. Now volunteers are set to give it a new lease of life.

A £200,000 grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund has been secured by the General Cemetery Trust, another £60,000 has come from the Wren Fund (Waste Recycling Environment Ltd), and the council, which owns the cemetery and its buildings, is chipping in £6,600.

“The money will enable it to be used for a number of events,” said Mike Pye, of the Sheffield General Cemetery Trust. “We’ll see who wants to use it, but we have had a number of groups, primarily in the cultural field, who are saying it would be nice as an exhibition or arts space. A local film group has also expressed an interest. It’s a nice usable space.”

School and other groups on tours of the cemetery will also be able to use the building.

Heating, lighting and toilets are being installed as part of the renovation with a view to creating a venue that will be able to seat 90 to 100 people. “Structurally it is perfectly sound, but inside is awful. We are spending £250,000 bringing it back. All being well, we’ll start at the end of February and by the end of the year it should be finished.”

The chapel was built in a classical style, with Egyptian influences, on the designs of Sheffield architect Samuel Worth.

Current day Walker Cunnington architects, who are working on the restoration project with the South Yorkshire Buildings Preservation Trust, describe it as “the architectural centrepiece of an extraordinary landscape vision”.

The trust hopes the restoration can act as a catalyst to other improvements to the cemetery, between Cemetery Road and Ecclesall Road.

The prominent Anglican chapel, next to Cemetery Road, is also derelict and on the ‘at risk’ register. Planning permission was granted in 2010 for it to be converted into houses.

Meanwhile, the trust holds tours of the atmospheric cemetery on the first Sunday of the month. It also holds events on occasions such as Hallow’een.

The council is to be consulted on creating a safe pedestrian route to the non-conformist chapel for more nervous visitors.