A historic Sheffield graveyard is being taken over by vegetation despite volunteers itching to tidy it up – because the owner cannot be traced.
Loxley Chapel was built in 1787 and its cemetery is home to victims of the Great Flood of 1864, in which at least 240 people died.
But the listed building, off Loxley Road, lies in a sorry state following a fire in 2016, and the headstones surrounding it are gradually being hidden beneath the undergrowth.
That is despite a willing team of volunteers ready to preserve this slice of Sheffield’s history and tidy up the grounds for visitors to explore and pay their respects.
Campaigners and a local councillor have been unable to get hold of the owner, believed to be a Jamel Ali, to secure the permission needed to form a friends group which would maintain the cemetery free of charge.
The undergrowth was hacked back last year by the owner, following pressure from residents and the families of those buried in the cemetery, who were appalled by the condition into which it had been allowed to fall.
However, visitors last weekend found dense vegetation was again covering up many of the headstones, leaving parts of the cemetery inaccessible.
Natalie Jones and her friend Emma Thorpe, a pair of history buffs from Hillsborough, were horrified by the state of the cemetery.
Natalie, a 32-year-old paralegal, said: “We wanted to have a look because it has so much history, but we were shocked by what we saw.
“The graves were completely covered by weeds, except for a few Commonwealth war graves and a handful which appeared to have been looked after by relatives.
“We would love to be part of a friends group helping to maintain the cemetery because it’s a really interesting place and it’s such a shame it’s in this state.”
The chapel, which closed in 1993, was gutted by the blaze two years ago, and today its roof is missing and the windows and door are boarded up.
As well as its links to the Great Flood, the chapel is reportedly where Henry Tingle Wilde, chief officer of the Titanic, was baptised.
It is understood the landowner plans to build homes off the long driveway leading to the chapel, but no plans have been submitted.
Stannington ward councillor Penny Baker is keen to form a friends group but although she has spoken to the owner previously she says she has been unable to get hold of him for months and is growing increasingly frustrated.
“I think a friends group would be wonderful because it’s got a lot of heritage and there are still people alive today who are expecting to be buried there,” she said.
“But we need the owner’s permission to do any work there and unfortunately nobody has been able to get hold of him.”