Sheffield group set to rediscover lost history of Graves Park

The Friends of Graves Park have been awarded a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore and research the lost history of the popular Sheffield park.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 13:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 13:43 pm
The Sun Slider waterslide at Graves Park in Sheffield last summer

Thanks to National Lottery players the project will explore the history of the Norton Park Estate, now called Graves Park following the bequest to the city by Alderman JG Graves in the 1920s, which is the most popular public park in Sheffield.

Norton is recorded in the Domesday book in 1087 and the estate is first recorded in 1002. There is also evidence of prehistoric settlement.

Sheffield Open Cross Country Championships held last month at Graves Park in Sheffield

The Friends group said: “Graves Park has a unique history and heritage. As part of the project local communities, visitors, and schools will find out about this remarkable place and resource on their doorstep.

“The work will engage local people as heritage champions and will produce a technical report plus on-line materials and a leaflet to provide information to local communities and schools.”

Led by volunteers with professional support, the aim of the project is to uncover the history, heritage, and archaeology of the Norton Park Estate and its historic stately homes, past and present.

Volunteers will find out about the history, heritage and archaeology of the landscape, the medieval park and the designed landscape of the 1700s to 1900s and identify the boundaries, buildings and trackways, the park areas, the old field systems and the prehistoric features.

Avocado the llama last year and her newborn daughter at Graves Park Animal Farm (picture courtesy of the farm)

Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University, who worked with South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group on the successful project Norton in the Heart of Chantreyland, said that the HLF grant will make a huge difference in terms of our understanding of a unique landscape and the city's biggest public open space.

He added: “Furthermore, this work with tens of volunteers from across the region will enable us to drill deep into the history and help us protect and conserve the amazing heritage for future generations.

“Graves Park is presently an under-appreciated gem which can become the jewel in the crown of Sheffield's urban green spaces.”

The initial Lost Norton Park discovery event will introduce people to the project.

The Highland Fling in Graves Park in 2016

It is an open community event to enable volunteers and members of the public to meet, listen to introductory talks and look at initial display material.

Anyone who is interested in taking part can email friends@gravespark.org to book a place at the launch event on Saturday, March 23 at Mount View Methodist Church Hall, Derbyshire Lane, S8 8SG.

The Friends of Graves Park said: “We are very grateful to National Lottery Players, who have made this project possible. We hope that all local people who are interested will join us in making this project a success.”

The group’s website, www.gravespark.org, says that, at 248 acres including the Animal Farm, Graves Park is the largest park in Sheffield, incorporating open parkland and Cobnar, Waterfall and Summerhouse woods.

The Rose Garden Cafe, pictured in 2010

The park also has children’s play areas and facilities for tennis, bowls, miniature golf, cycling, and orienteering, as well as football pitches, the popular Rose Garden Cafe, lakes and the rare animal breeds centre.

The land was formerly part of the Norton Estate, presided over by Norton Hall, and the earliest known reference to its ownership is contained in the will of Wulfic Spott in the year 1002, says the website.

An old packhorse road from Sheffield to Chesterfield once ran through the land and later became a turnpike road that was a main route to London for stagecoaches and other vehicles until around 1795, when Meadowhead Road was opened. 

In 1927, a quarry in Cobnar Wood, originally the site of the old Norton Rifle Range, was converted into an open-air theatre.

During the summer months the Parks Committee arranged a variety of theatrical events, including orchestral and chamber music, bands and plays, says the website.

The park is always popular with dog walkers