Fight to preserve historic Sheffield graveyard reaches first milestone

Mary Anne Rawson's headstone at Zion Graveyard following the latest clean-up
Mary Anne Rawson's headstone at Zion Graveyard following the latest clean-up
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Campaigners fighting to preserve the final resting place of a pioneering anti-slavery campaigner in Sheffield have reached their first milestone.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard need to raise £5,000 to help buy the site on Zion Lane, Attercliffe, where prominent abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson is buried.

Volunteers tidy up the historic graveyard

Volunteers tidy up the historic graveyard

Having just passed the £1,000 mark, the group has teamed up with modern-day slavery campaigners in an attempt to reach its goal.

They joined forces with members of Soroptimist International (SI) - which fights to protect the rights of vulnerable women and children, including those who have been trafficked and forced into slavery - to tidy up Mary Anne's grave, which had until recently been hidden beneath dense foliage.

Steve Randall, treasurer of the friends group, said: "If Mary Anne were around today she would be appalled that people in this country and across the world haven't learned enough about the evils of slavery."

Mary Anne, who lived from 1801 to 1887, was at the forefront of the struggle to end centuries of injustice and led a boycott of goods sold by firms profiting from the wicked practice.

Mary Anne Rawson

Mary Anne Rawson

Members of SI's Hallamshire and Sheffield branches took part in the clean-up at Zion Graveyard on Wednesday (August 23).

They were joined by Sheffield's Master Cutler Richard Edwards and David Grey, managing director of the neighbouring firm G & J Hall who wielded brooms to help clear the path of debris.

SI Yorkshire's regional president Jennie Levick said: "Mary Anne’s opposition of slavery resonates with our members. Our regional anti-slavery group has been instrumental in raising awareness of modern-day slavery and human trafficking."

Soroptimist International has helped influence the work of governments to oppose trafficking, and on a more local level supports Sheffield charity Snowdrop Project, which helps slavery victims rebuild their lives.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard formed after learning the disused burial ground, formerly attached to Zion Chapel, had been put up for sale.

They have reached an agreement with the United Reformed Church to buy the land and are applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund to cover the cost of the purchase, with the additional £5,000 needed to restore and protect the site.

As well as Mary Anne and her family, who used to own Wincobank Hall, the graveyard is home to dozens of 19th century metal workers and offers an insight into the area's rapid growth amid the boom in the industry.

The friends group wants to preserve it as a wildlife garden, open to all, where visitors can learn about the area's heritage and the ongoing battle against slavery.

* You can visit Zion Graveyard on Sunday, September 10, from 10am-4pm, as part of the Heritage Open Day weekend. Wincobank Chapel, on Wincobank Avenue, will be open to visitors on the Saturday, September 9, during the same hours.

* You can donate at

* Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to 'Friends of Zion Graveyard, Attercliffe' to The Treasurer, FoZGA, 331 Newman Road, Sheffield S9 1LW, or make a bank transfer to sort code: 40-42-49, account number: 72101939, including your surname and initials.

* For more information, email