The panels unveiled this week at the Zion Graveyard in Attercliffe have been funded by the JG Graves Charitable Trust and were designed by Ann Beedham with text by local historian Mike Higginbottom.
Zion Graveyard is the forgotten burial ground of Zion Congregational Church Attercliffe, which was demolished in 1987 after a serious fire.
Friends of Zion Graveyard visited the site on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the hard work of the volunteers who helped make the panels a reality.
The Hallamshire branch of Soroptimists International also donated funds for an additional panel and plants for the graveyard in memory of past President Rosemary Skerritt.
Penny Rea, of Friends of Zion Graveyard, said: “Friends of Zion Graveyard Attercliffe were delighted to unveil a set of beautiful information panels that tell the story of a unique and historic site in a neglected backwater of Sheffield which was once the beating heart of this great city.”
She added: “Many many thanks to the JG Graves Charitable Trust for funding our new information panels and the Mike Higginbottom, Ann Beedham and all the other people who allowed us to use their photos or helped in others ways. Today was a thank you day, but we will be open to the public on Sunday, May 9th, but due to Covid restrictions we have to ask visitors to book in with a max of six people arriving every 20 mins.”
The church site was sold, but the graveyard remained in the ownership of the Yorkshire Congregational Union until it was purchased in 2018 by a group of community volunteers who raised funds through crowdfunding and were granted a generous donation from the National Lottery.
Three years later, the graveyard is no longer an overgrown and neglected rubbish dump, but a cherished oasis in an industrial area, a sanctuary for wildlife and the respected final resting place of anti-slavery campaigner Mary Anne Rawson and her family, the Reads of Wincobank Hall.
The site is also a burial ground for cutlers, scissor makers, brass and iron-founders, Joseph Watts (Attercliffe’s first chemist), a boot-maker and an entire cross-section of the population of Attercliffe in the 1800s from a time when it was an important village in the early days of Sheffield's metal industry.
As well as her international anti-slavery work, Mary Anne Rawson and her sister Emily Read were active in their local community of Wincobank, founding a village school in 1841.
Now, 180 years later, the school is known as Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel with a small but active Christian congregation, who meet for Sunday services and organise a programme of community activities that are open to all and are just beginning to start up again.
If you would like to get involved with the Zion site, you can visit their public Facebook page at Friends of Zion Graveyard, Attercliffe.
There is also information on the page about how to visit the historical site once open on May 9.