Plaque commemorating fundraising efforts to save proud piece of Sheffield’s history to be unveiled 

Mary Anne Rawson (photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Mary Anne Rawson (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

A plaque is set to be uncovered, commemorating the successful efforts of fundraisers to save a proud piece of Sheffield’s history. 

When the United Reform Church put the Zion Graveyard in Attercliffe up for sale last year, it looked as though the final resting place of influential figures such as pioneering anti-slavery campaigner Mary Anne Rawson might be lost forever. 

The friends group hopes to open up the graveyard to the public more regularly

The friends group hopes to open up the graveyard to the public more regularly

The burial place, which sits in the midst of an industrial estate on Zion Lane, became engulfed by vegetation during many years of neglect after Zion Congregational Church caught fire and was demolished.

But after Friends of Zion Graveyard received a Heritage Lottery grant to cover the purchase price and supporters of the graveyard managed to raise £5,000 the historic site was saved. 

They now hope to preserve it as a monument to the area’s lost heritage, while maintaining the wildlife haven that has grown since the fire. 

Chair of Friends of Zion Graveyard, Penny Rea, said the plaque to commemorate the fundraising appeal will be unveiled later this month. 

She said: “We are delighted to be able to invite our kind friends and supporters to a very special event at Zion Graveyard on Saturday, September 29, when the Lord Mayor of Sheffield will be unveiling a plaque to commemorate the successful fundraising campaign to purchase the burial ground and save the graves of an early industrial community from Sheffield's heyday. 

“We are really grateful and would like to say thank you to all who donated through our crowdfunding campaign, for the many private donors who sent cheques and for the many ordinary people who buy lottery tickets and therefore enabled us to apply for a Heritage Lottery grant. 

“All our members are invited and anyone else who brings a lottery ticket will also be very welcome to join us for the afternoon and for free refreshments.

Penny added: “Importantly, we have saved and hope to restore the family vault of Mary Anne Rawson who is buried with her parents and sisters.  The whole family were active in the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century and in other social causes.”

The graveyard could easily have ended up as a car sales yard, according to the friends group, after a businessman who has bought the adjacent church site for that purpose put in an offer.

The group has previously said it will aim to open the graveyard to the public on regular days and to publish leaflets and host events commemorating its history, as well as working to work with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to maintain the grounds as a wildlife haven.