Looking back at the history of Sheffield's Resurrection Service which started more than 100 years ago

The Resurrection Day Service were a traditional Easter event in Sheffield but it turns out it is not that common in the country and the first one was conducted in 1902 where 3,000 turned out for the event.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 12:30 pm
A procession from St Peter's Church to Heeley Parish Church where a joint resurrection service was held in April 1925.
A procession from St Peter's Church to Heeley Parish Church where a joint resurrection service was held in April 1925.

Deepcar resident Michael Parker has been researching the history and heritage of the religious event which marks the resurrection of Jesus but wants help in collecting memories of more recent events.

Michael, from Robertshaw Crescent, who grew up in Walkley during the late 50s and 60s nearby Walkley Baptist Church, where for a while he attended Sunday School, the Boys Brigade and recall walking behind the band and banner to the Whitsuntide gatherings in Weston Park.

He has spent some time looking into the history of the service and its importance in our city and how Rev Sydney T.G. Smith of St Mary’s Church, Walkley, in the Walkley Cemetery on Easter Sunday conducted the first Resurrection Day Service in 1902.

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Michael said: “The service was fully choral, and clergy and choir, robing in the cemetery chapel, walked thence to the platform. The clergy present were the Revs. S.T.G. Smith (vicar of Walkley), W. Lownds (curate), A. Pearson (vicar of St Mark’s and Rural Dean) and A.C. Macnutt (curate of St. Mark’s).”

He says prior to 1902 such services were uncommon in England, though they were regularly held by the Moravians in Switzerland; but in 1902 there was an hour of service was 4 o’clock on Resurrection Morn where £11 was raised through the collection.

Michael said: “The RDS was a first for Sheffield but appeared to have set a trend.”

By the April 1939 the Sheffield Telegraph carried an article by Canon S.T.G. Smith reminiscing about the RDS at Walkley after attending the 38th annual occasion at Walkley Cemetery.

The first RDS at Wombwell Cemetery was held at Easter 1923 by the now Rector of Wombwell, the Rev S.T.G. Smith from Walkley. There were three choirs of the churches of the parish, Wombwell, Jump and Broomhill, in attendance the following year.

During the 1920s RDS were conducted at Heeley Churchyard; with the third combined RDS of the parishes of St Peter’s Abbeydale and Christ Church, Heeley, drawing a large crowd to Heeley Churchyard in 1925.

Michael said: “Services took place in the afternoon, there is one report from Easter Sunday 1926, of a day break service held by 30 worshippers assembled at St Stephen’s Church, Fawcett Street recreation ground, situated off Manchester Road, Sheffield.

His research found an official count of 12,764 people attended the Walkley RDS in 1907 and it was an opportunity for attendees to celebrate the lives of their family and friends in the particular cemetery, whose graves they dressed with flowers and such activity also led to the cemeteries avoiding falling into neglect.

Michael added: “I didn’t manage to search beyond 1939 and haven’t been able to determine when these Resurrection Day Services came to an end in Sheffield and why.

"I have no knowledge of such services being conducted in more recent times. I was wondering if readers could shed any more detailed light.”

Anyone who has any photos or memories from RDS during the Second World War and beyond is asked to contact the Sheffield Star and we will pass them on to Michael. Email [email protected]