Name change on the cards for Sheffield General Cemetery

The Sheffield General Cemetery
The Sheffield General Cemetery
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The Sheffield General Cemetery could be in line for a new name as part of a drive to increase visitor numbers.

The city council, which owns the site in Sharrow, is holding a consultation on potentially changing the cemetery's title to accompany a scheme of major restoration work that aims to transform the place into a park focusing on wildlife and history.

Headstones in the General Cemetery

Headstones in the General Cemetery

Five options are being put to a public vote online - Cemetery Park; Sheffield Garden Cemetery; Gen Cem; Sheffield General Cemetery and Porter Fields; and the graveyard's existing name.

The council has been given development funding of £429,000 to draw up plans for the revamp, and is set to apply for a full grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund next year, taking the total sum to as much as £4 million.

Work will include restoring the site's catacombs, which are in a state of collapse, and improving habitats for animals. The project will link with efforts to position Sheffield as the country's premier 'outdoor city', strengthening links to the Peak District for walkers, runners and cyclists.

Progress has already been made elsewhere in the cemetery. The graveyard's non-conformist chapel - which stood derelict for more than 50 years - reopened last year following a £270,000 restoration largely led by the General Cemetery Trust. The group managed to get the Grade II* listed building, now renamed the Samuel Worth Chapel after its architect, taken off the national ‘at risk’ register.

Janet Ridler, of the General Cemetery Trust, outside the Samuel Worth Chapel

Janet Ridler, of the General Cemetery Trust, outside the Samuel Worth Chapel

The park is home to 10 listed structures and buildings, including the catacombs, monuments, gateways, an Anglican chapel and the gatehouse, where a flat was recently put up for rent.

Opened in 1836, the cemetery was conceived as a response to overcrowding and poor conditions in Sheffield's churchyards. It was one of the earliest commercial cemeteries of its kind in the UK, and many key figures in the city's development are buried there, such as industrialist and Sheffield University founder Mark Firth; George Bassett, the original owner of Bassett's Sweets, and the Cole Brothers, who started the well-known Sheffield department store which is now a branch of John Lewis.

The idea of a name change was inspired by previous surveys by marketing consultants working for the council. It is a condition of HLF funding to attract new visitors to a heritage site.

"In earlier consultations with people who don't currently visit the cemetery, some of them said they thought a different name would encourage more people to visit," said trustees, who have shared the poll on Facebook with the consultants' agreement.

At the last count, the most popular choice was to keep the present name. Views were also gathered during a Heritage Open Day event at the site last weekend.

"We'll pass the results on to the council and the consultants," the trustees said.

Visit to vote.