Volunteers launch £5,000 campaign to buy plot where Sheffield anti-slavery 'hero' is buried

Penny Rea with photos of Mary Anne Rawson and her family outside the Zion Graveyard in Attercliffe.
Penny Rea with photos of Mary Anne Rawson and her family outside the Zion Graveyard in Attercliffe.
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Campaigners fighting to preserve the resting place of a Sheffield anti-slavery campaigner have launched an appeal to buy the graveyard in which she is buried.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard group has set a fundraising target of £5,000 to help it purchase the land in Zion Lane, Attercliffe.

Mary Anne Rawson's Grave.

Mary Anne Rawson's Grave.

Prominent abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson is buried in the graveyard, which was formerly attached to Zion Chapel.

Her headstone was hidden until recently by a mass of overgrown foliage. But hard work by the volunteers who have since formed the friends group has uncovered the grave along with many others.

The group now hopes to raise enough money to buy the land to protect it from developers and preserve an important piece of Sheffield's history for future generations.

In an e-mail launching the fundraising campaign, Penny Rea said it was 'probably the most unexpected' thing she had done.

Penny with descendants of Mary Anne and Deputy Lord Mayor Magid Magid

Penny with descendants of Mary Anne and Deputy Lord Mayor Magid Magid

"I am heading up a campaign to buy an overgrown graveyard that has been locked away and forgotten in the middle of an industrial area of Sheffield for thirty years," she added.

"I found it when I was searching for the burial place of my hero Mary Anne Rawson, an extraordinary pro-active woman who campaigned against slavery, and for education for the poor in the 1800s.

"She used to live at Wincobank Hall at the end of my road and she founded Wincobank Chapel, where I am a trustee. We have a building but not much money so we must raise funds to save her grave."

Volunteers have also discovered 60 graves of 19th century metal workers. Penny said their stories showed the growth of Attercliffe from an outlying village to 'the beating heart of a world famous steel city'.

She added: "We decided we could not let this slice of history disappear and so have made a successful offer to buy it as an incorporated charitable trust so we can preserve it as a wildlife garden and social history resource that will benefit both children and adults in a depressed area by helping them recognise what an important place they live in and what a contribution the craft workers of the past have made to the modern world."

Mary Anne Rawson was the founding member of Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society.

She lived from 1801 to 1887 and was at the forefront of the struggle to end centuries of injustice.

So far about £500 has already been donated to the campaign to buy the graveyard. Visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/zion-graveyard-attercliffe to help.