Heritage: Lost grave of Mary Anne uncovered

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Heritage campaigner Ron Clayton describes the moment volunteers found plot of anti-slavery campaigner Mary Anne Rawson in Attercliffe jungle.

Hidden for decades, the final resting place of Sheffield anti – slavery Mary Anne Rawson was uncovered in tangled undergrowth last week.

Volunteers were determined to find her plot in the former Zion Chapel graveyard in Attercliffe after the site was put up for sale.

Mary Anne was a founding member in 1825 of the Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society and played a role in ending centuries of injustice. The Friends of Wincobank Hill believe her grave is so significant the cemetery should be preserved.

Ron Clayton was there on the day and wrote:

“It’s a bright busy day in the core of what remains of the former pulse of Sheffield and where you now have to wander the Avenues and Alleyways as Tony Christie would sing to find traces of its previous community.

“It’s a secret protected place with a few mattresses and blue plastic bags hanging in the trees. The brambles are like barbed wire and slow you down almost as if, like the fence, they are protecting the place.

“I perch uncomfortably among the brambles and sigh for the comfort of dock leaves. However, I manage to beg a few leaves of paper from Penny and pen a few thoughts while the others do the work.

“The rich soil is cleaned off with surprising ease but after all we are using Sheffield Steel and it’s in good hands. Tender, reverent hands in fact, as the humus comes off easily and people’s names come up as clear as if it were yesterday.

“A row of graves, including William and Elizabeth Addy. In front of me, a substantial monument still with cast- iron railings and to my right an old football KIA (kicked in action) but now MIA (missing in action).

“Yet this is no Golgotha, far from it, for we are bringing new life to it and everyone is involved for we are looking for Mary Anne and it’s a team effort. There’s Mick and Dave and Ken Riley and his daughter Jo who’smindful of her nails but gamely looking for Mary Anne.

“The call goes up from Penny: “We’ve found her,” and she’s a bit emotional but in the best stiff upper lip way.

“As you will see from her pictures. Penny plants some primroses, it being Primrose Day in memory of a ‘modest lady’ but one with a good soul.

“A robin takes an increasing interest and brings his or her song into play and hops down to see who is there and what we are up to.

“The memorials are monumental but so was and is the lady commemorated.

“I leave the others and trudge off in search of vittles and wonder how Mary Anne would find this latest version of Attercliffe with the old school house put to a different purpose and its swingers’ clubs and saris and exotic pets.

“In the chip shop I notice there’s a bustle about the place and think how she would have appreciated the robin.

“For we’ve found Mary Anne.”