Supporters of Sheffield’s General Cemetery are ready for the final phase of work to restore its non-conformist chapel - after efforts to revive the wider site were given a huge funding boost.
Sheffield Council’s parks and countryside service will use £429,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund money to make a start on plans for the burial ground in Sharrow - before applying for a full grant of up to £4 million in two years’ time.
The aim is to transform the cemetery into a community park, focusing on its heritage, landscape and wildlife.
In recent years the Sheffield General Cemetery Trust has mainly focused on turning the once-derelict chapel into a new venue for arts events, community activities and school visits.
When completed, the venue will be able to seat 90 to 100 people. The trust had hoped to launch the venue in 2015, but the opening date is now planned for later this year.
Trustee Janet Ridler said: “Over winter we’ve been continuing to work at a slightly slower pace. As we enter the spring hopefully we will finish the last few jobs that remain.”
Funding worth more than £250,000 was secured from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Wren Fund and the city council, which owns the cemetery and its buildings.
“We’re still fundraising,” said Janet. “We’re a charitable trust and we require constant fundraising to sustain it.”
The grade II* listed chapel was removed from Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register last year. The cemetery, built in 1836 to meet rising demand for burial space as Sheffield expanded, has more listed structures than any other park in the city, including the gatehouse, which has already been restored.
More than 87,000 people are buried there, including Mark Firth, the founder of Sheffield University, and the Cole Brothers, owners of the city centre department store.
Janet said members of the trust were ‘delighted’ at the prospect of more than £4 million being spent on the park scheme. “We’ve worked very closely with the council in making the cemetery a pleasant and inviting place for people to come, both as a heritage site and as part of Sheffield’s landscape.”
Any restoration work would include the catacombs, which were built into the hillside but are now collapsing and need shoring up.