Sheffield General Cemetery: Popular park with cafe reopens with fresh new look after £3m renovation

A popular and historic Sheffield park that has been shut for over 12 months is back open and here to stay for years to come.

Sheffield General Cemetery, in Sharrow, has been shut since early 2022 after experts realised the aging concrete structures it was built on had just a few short decades before they gave way entirely. If nothing was done before then, it was likely the park would have been unsafe to residents and costly to repair.

It left the City Council with two options: do nothing and run the risk of the Victorian cemetery crumbling, or fix it now to save it for generations.

Now, after over 12 months of repairs, several delays and a £3.8m restoration part funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, the construction barriers have come down and Sheffield General Cemetery is open again.

Project manager Claire Watts told The Star: “We’re really pleased to see the park open, and to me it’s turned out even better than I could have imagined.

“There were many hard decisions and unexpected finds but I am amazed with the visual differences and how it’s turned out. There’s so much more sun coming through to the lower levels now.”

Visitors will find huge stretches of pathways through the park have been renovated. Extensive masonry work led by historic photographs has been carried out to rebuild the staircase outside the Samuel Worth chapel to recreate the past and to realign the steps that used to be perilously uneven, while a new wildflower meadow has been laid.

Headstones unearthed in the catacombs during the works have been restored to their rightful place on the ‘Anglican’ side of the cemetery, and the Samuel Worth Cafe is ready to receive customers.

Most noticeably, entire tiers of crumbling, unsalvagable Victorian catacombs on the lower levels have been stripped away to allow more sunlight onto the path close to the river.

And beneath the surface, the removal of much of the aging concrete – the strain of which threatened to irrevocably damage the cemetery’s ‘wedding cake’ design – has been removed and replaced with lightweight industrial polystyrene, ensuring the structure will stay standing for many decades to come.

Work remains to install low-level street lighting throughout the park, while a formal opening ceremony will be held by the City Council in the autumn.

Claire said: “We want to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund, without who we wouldn’t be able to do this major restoration project, and especially Sheffield General Cemetery Trust who have helped us out every step of the way. It’s been an operation to build on the achievements they already had for us to now restore the landscape, chapel and gatehouse to completion.”

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.

During restorations, delays occured when the construction team unearthed a number of headstones that had been removed by the city council in 1980s and used as rubble and landfill, meaning they had not seen sunlight in 30 years. They are now being used as decoration lining the paths throughout the park.