Plaque unveiled to celebrate preservation of historic Sheffield graveyard

Lord Mayor Magid Magid with Penny Rea at the unveiling of the plaque at Zion Graveyard
Lord Mayor Magid Magid with Penny Rea at the unveiling of the plaque at Zion Graveyard

A plaque has been unveiled at a forgotten graveyard in Sheffield, to celebrate the preservation of a key part of city’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 prominent abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson might be lost forever.

Visitors exploring the once derelict cemetery

Visitors exploring the once derelict cemetery

The Friends of Zion Graveyard fought tirelessly to preserve the forgotten burial ground from redevelopment and preserve it as a natural and historic heritage site for the benefit of the community.

Luckily, after they received a Heritage Lottery grant to cover the purchase price and supporters of the graveyard managed to raise £5,000 the site was saved. 

Now, The Friends have uncovered a commemorative plaque to mark the historic occasion.

The event was well attended by supporters of the graveyard, including the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid.

Derek and Melanie Holdsworth look at one of the information boards

Derek and Melanie Holdsworth look at one of the information boards

Members of the public were also invited to have a go at printing bunting with flowers and leaves from the graveyard, which will be hung around the fence on the inside of the site.

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

Chair of Friends of Zion Graveyard, Penny Rea, said they are now working with Wildscapes, a subsidiary company of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, to maintain the site as a wildlife haven.

She said: “It’s lovely, you can hear an amazing bird song even though it’s in the middle of an industrial estate.

“We will also be introducing species of plant that would have previously been there in Victorian times, lots of British species that are native to the area.

“We will also be conducting research so we can tell stories of the site and of the people that are buried there, chemists, doctors, the history of Attercliffe. We can then share their stories, to educate children on those living in the area.”

The group currently open the graveyard to the public twice a month, but are aiming to open more regularly and to publish leaflets and host events commemorating its history

Penny added: “The unveiling of the plaque was our way of saying thank you to the contributors who donated money and to commemorate those who are buried there.”

The Friends are looking for more volunteers to enable them to open the historic site more, and are inviting members of the public to help with research, maintenance and to visit the historic site for a look around.

To become a volunteer email ziongraveyard@gmail.com or call Zion graveyard on 07980 14377.