Future of 'hidden gem' Sheffield cemetery secured by Â£10,000 heritage grant
The future of one of Sheffield's hidden gems has been secured thanks to a Â£9,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Friends of Zion Graveyard will be able to purchase the neglected Attercliffe burial ground and preserve it as a natural and historic heritage site for the benefit of the community.
The funding will also enable volunteers to make the graveyard safe so the wider public can visit on open days or by appointment.
Chair of the group, Penny Rea, said: “We are relieved and delighted that thanks to National Lottery players, we will now be able to secure the future of this historic site which previously was threatened with commercial development.
"We are confident the project will benefit people of all ages from across Sheffield and beyond, and will raise the profile of Mary Anne Rawson as a leading female activist, ahead of her time”.
Mary Anne Rawson - who was buried there in 1887 - was a Victorian abolitionist who was a who was a founding member of the Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society which campaigned for the rights of the slaves in the British Empire.
She was later the Secretary of the Sheffield Ladies Association for the Universal Abolition of Slavery which was the first group in the country to call for immediate and world-wide abolition.
Explaining the importance of the Lottery support, David Renwick, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The Zion Graveyard is a hidden gem, providing a haven for local wildlife as well as linking to an important part of Sheffield’s history.
"This project will save and preserve this important site, ensuring the local community and future generations can visit and learn about this vital part of our heritage”.
Locked away for 20 years, nature has flourished at the site so it will need to be carefully managed to create a space where the wildlife can still thrive whilst allowing safe and easy access to the graves.
Visitors will be able to experience the tranquillity of this forgotten corner and learn the intriguing stories of those who are interred there.
Friends of Zion Graveyard will be organising a full programme of community education activities to increase understanding of this important site.
In addition to the HLF grant there have been many generous donations from individuals and organisations including the Sanita Merali Trust, The Ashram Community Trust and Upper Wincobank Chapel, which was founded by Mary Anne Rawson in 1841.
As an unusual fund-raising event, retired catering professionals Penny and Adam Rattenbury provided a delicious Victorian High Tea at the chapel for 35 paying guests.
And the group gave special thanks and congratulations to their youngest members, Alanna and Holly Hurman, both 14, and their sister Emily, 13.
They used a school enterprise project to raise funds by making and selling Christmas decorations and artwork made from the wood that was cleared from the graveyard.
Their work - 'Dreams of Zion' - raised over Â£400 for the group.
Friends of Zion Graveyard is a charitable organisation founded in July 2017 specifically to save the graveyard.
Launched by a small group it has rapidly grown and gained support across Sheffield and beyond, uniting former residents of the now industrialised Attercliffe area with heritage supporters and the families of those buried there.
Formal membership now exceeds 300, with thousands following the campaign progress through social media.