Hunt to find relatives of dead Sheffield man after 200-year-old gravestone is discovered in city river

The Sheaf and Porter River Trust are trying to trace living relatives of a dead Sheffield man after discovering his 200-year-old gravestone while cleaning up a city river.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 09:26 am
The headstone uncovered by volunteers from the Sheaf and Porter River Trust

Shocked volunteers discovered the headstone of 40-year-old Benjamin Bamford - who died on August 27, 1855 - while carrying out a routine clean up of the Porter Brook and surrounding areas, close to the old Sheffield General Cemetery in Sharrow.

The group began the clean up operation near to the gatehouse, with half clearing the path above while the rest entered the river.

Over 30 volunteers turned out to help clean the Porter Brook and surrounding areas

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Anthony Wood, a founding member and volunteer of The Sheaf and Porter River Trust, was the first to come across the gravestone after traveling a short distance downstream, finding it face down and covered by silt and other debris.

“When we came across it it had formed an overgrown island covered in small rocks and vegetation,” Anthony said. “I saw a bit of the slab stuck out and had suspected it was a gravestone. I then managed to get my hand underneath it and could feel the text so knew at that point it was definitely a gravestone and knew we had to do something.

“We eventually got it cleared, which took around half an hour to do so, and between four of us we managed to turn it over and shuffle it out into a safe spot.”

The group believe the stone, which is around 5ft tall and around three to four inches thick, may have ended up in the river accidentally.

Pieces found in the Porter Brook by volunteers from the Sheaf and Porter River Trust

Anthony said: “For it to be in the great condition it is in we suspect it wasn’t pushed in and that maybe, at some point, the bank collapsed and it slid into the river.”

The Sheaf and Porter River Trust are now working with the Sheffield General Cemetery to research the life of Benjamin Bamford and hope to discover his original burial plot.

They will be meeting their partners from the River Stewardship Company at Sheffield General Cemetery at 8:30am on Tuesday, August 27, the anniversary of Mr Bamford's death, to raise the stone out.

Members of the public are invited to attend, either to observe or assist in the effort.

However, the gravestone also features other names including that of Mr Bamford's mother Elizabeth Bamford, who outlived her son and died in 1858, plus those with a different surnames such as Maria Jane Etty Siddall, the adopted daughter of Edward and Frances Ryder who died on December 12, 1889, aged 16.

The trust would also like to hear from their living relatives to help them discover more about the piece of history they have found.

Are you a relative of Benjamin Bamford or someone mentioned on the gravestone? If so get in touch via alana.roberts@jpimedia.co.uk

For more information and to find out about The Sheaf and Porter River Trust click here.