Sheffield General Cemetery: Popular park will reopen next month after severe delays to renovations

A historic Sheffield cemetery which is also now a park that has been partly shut for a year for restorations will reopen this spring after months of delays.
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Sheffield General Cemetery, on Cemetery Road, Sharrow, has been undergoing renovations for the past 12 months as part of a £3.8m project by the City Council, leading to huge sections of it being shut to the public.

The extensive reworks will see the cemetery’s tiered structured reinforced for decades to come while stripping back its aging concrete catacombs to open up the lowest level by the river to more sunlight.

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The works were set to be completed last summer – a deadline which the council then moved to December following complications, only for crews to remain on site until now. Stresses included the unexpected discovery of hundreds of historic headstones that crews in the 80s decided to use as landfill.

Sheffield General Cemetery, off Cemetery Road, will finally fully reopen in May following over a year of restorations by the City Council.Sheffield General Cemetery, off Cemetery Road, will finally fully reopen in May following over a year of restorations by the City Council.
Sheffield General Cemetery, off Cemetery Road, will finally fully reopen in May following over a year of restorations by the City Council.

Now, the council has pledged that work will now be completed by May 26.

Lisa Firth, director of parks, leisure and libraries at Sheffield City Council, said: “It is expected that the work will now be completed by 26th May in time for National Cemeteries week (June 3-11). We look forward to welcoming people back with events and activities that we’ve got planned for that week.”

Sheffield General Cemetery is one of the UK’s best preserved Victorian cemeteries, and one of the few left in the world to retain a set of catacombs, a practice which was introduced but proved unpopular in the 19th century.

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It opened in 1836 and became established as the principal burial ground in Victorian Sheffield containing the graves of 87,000 people.

The site today is a Grade II* listed park which is the highest listed in Sheffield, and one of only four in South Yorkshire. It is a Conservation Area, Local Nature Reserve and Area of Natural History Interest.

One of the earliest commercial cemeteries in Britain, it contains the largest collection of listed buildings and monuments in Sheffield - 10 in total, including Grade II listed catacombs, an Anglican Chapel, with the Gatehouse, Nonconformist Chapel and the Egyptian Gateway, each listed at Grade II*.

There is the largest single grave plot in the country – a common grave in which 85 bodies were interred. It is also home to many important figures in Sheffield history such as Mark Firth, the steel manufacturer, and Samuel Holberry, the Chartist.

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The Cemetery was closed for burial in the late 1970s. At this time Sheffield City Council removed many of the gravestones in the Anglican area to create more green space near to the city centre.

The remains of those buried were not disturbed.

The Sheffield General Cemetery Trust carries out educational tours and workshops; conservation work to maintain and enhance the monuments, the landscape and the paths; and historical research on the cemetery.

The Cemetery Trust also manages the recently restored Grade II* listed former non-conformist chapel – now renamed the Samuel Worth Chapel after its architect – which is quickly becoming established as a popular venue for arts, music and other cultural events.