Volunteers needed to preserve historic graveyard in Sheffield

Penny Rea outside Zion Graveyard with photos of Mary Anne Rawson and her family
Penny Rea outside Zion Graveyard with photos of Mary Anne Rawson and her family
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A new friends group is being formed to restore and preserve a historic burial ground in Sheffield, which had lain neglected for many years.

Volunteers are being sought to look after Zion Graveyard, in Attercliffe, where one of the shining lights in the fight to abolish slavery is buried.

Mary Anne Rawson's grave, which was uncovered earlier this year having been hidden beneath a tangle of vegetation in Zion Graveyard

Mary Anne Rawson's grave, which was uncovered earlier this year having been hidden beneath a tangle of vegetation in Zion Graveyard

Mary Anne Rawson's grave was recently uncovered in the burial plot, at the junction of Zion Lane and Lawrence Street, where it had been hidden among the dense undergrowth for years.

The founding member of Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society, who lived from 1801 to 1887, was at the forefront of the struggle to end centuries of injustice.

The Friends of Wincobank Hill believe her final resting place, close to where the old Zion Chapel once stood, is an important piece of the city's heritage and could form part of an Attercliffe history trail.

They want to form a new friends group, which is due to be launched at a meeting outside the graveyard on Saturday, July 1, at 10am, when it is hoped new members will be able to look inside.

The graveyard is owned by the United Reformed Church (URC), which had put the site up for sale.

But Penny Rea, of the Friends of Wincobank Hill, says she hopes the new group can work with the church to look after the site.

"We're hopeful we can come to some sort of agreement with the church to look after the graveyard and make it accessible to the public," she said.

"We want to get a group of volunteers together to help with gardening, researching the families buried there and organising fundraising activities."

Mary Anne is buried alongside other members of the Read family, who owned Wincobank Hall.

It is 200 years since her parents Joseph and Elizabeth Read decided to turn the coach-house at Wincobank Hall into a chapel and the laundry outhouse into a Sunday school to save local people the walk to Ecclesfield or Attercliffe.

The bicentenary of that decision was marked over the weekend at Upper Wincobank Chapel, which was built 24 years later.

Floral displays were created by the many community organisations which today use the building, from singing groups to youth clubs, and visitors were able to browse archive material and memorabilia from throughout the chapel's history.

* For more information about the new Zion Graveyard friends group, email upperwincobankchapel@gmail.com or call Penny Rea on 0798 0143 776.