Improving access

We were delighted when Mr David Grey, CEO of the neighbouring firm OSL (formerly G&J Halls) gave permission for us to remove the fence panels over Mary Anne Rawson's grave and along the length of the path to give better access for those who are less able to navigate the rough and sloping path from Zion Lane.  We understand that there was originally an access point from Ferguson Street through the yard at the back of Zion Institute (also used as a chapel) which curiously was built over the head of Mary Anne Rawson's grave.   As the land ownership changed, the institute was demolished and rebuilt,  the access was blocked sometime around 2000 with a steel fence replacing the wall over the grave. Since then access to the graveyard has depended on the good will of the owners of the adjacent church site and we are also grateful to our other neighbour Mr Zaffir Hussain for allowing access along the traditional path from the corner of Zion Lane and Lawrence Street. The next step is to restore Mary Anne's grave.

Greening the fence

When our new neighbour erected a fence between the boundary line of the old church where he has plans for a car sales pitch, he gave us permission to paint it.  th

e paint was a slightly lighter brighter shade than expected but we are sure it will look lovely once we get some plants growing up it.  We are working with Wildscapes to develop a planting and

 management plan that will  make the graveyard looked cared for and still give the wildlife space to flourish.

The Contract is finally signed!

The contract to purchase the graveyard from the Yorkshire Congregational Union was signed by Penny Rea on behalf of Friends of Zion Graveyard Attercliffe at Voluntary Action Sheffield under the watchful eye of Keith Arrowsmith of Counterculture Partnerships on 25th January 2018 - the deadline day.  Many thanks to our solicitor Laura Marsden for her advice and support. 

(Photo by kind permission of Joseph Desforges of VAS).

We wanted to see this historic graveyard preserved intact and cared for but as it was up for sale, it was in danger of becoming part of a car sales yard.  Over the last twenty years the site has been shut away and has become a haven for wildlife that would be ordinary else where but is rare in industrial Attercliffe. We wanted to save it as  a wildlife garden that is opened at regular times or for groups and relatives by arrangement.We made a formal offer to buy the graveyard. We were given permission to clear the graves and research the inscriptions. We found the family vault of Abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson covered in litter, half under a fence.We submitted a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and launched a Crowdfunding page to meet additional costs and legal fees. We are very grateful for every donation, from the loose change dropped into collecting tins to the £1,000 generously donated by the Sanita Merali Trust and donations from many other individuals and organisations.Thanks to the generosity of supporters who donated through Just Giving Crowdfunding and with direct donations, and  a fantastic grant from Heritage Lottery Fund we raised enough to save the graveyard.

Soroptimists and Master Cutlers visit Mary Anne's grave

On Wednesday 23rd August it was the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.  A small deputation from the Sheffield and Hallam branches of Soroptimist International made a visit to the graveyard to pay their respects to Mary Anne Rawson.  They are supporting the Snowdrop Project which helps survivors of modern-day slavery. It is very sad that nearly 200 years on, slavery is still an issue so it was a timely reminder to keep our thoughts in the present as well as on the past.

We also had a surprise visit from the present and previous Master Cutlers who dropped in to discuss shared access with neighbouring G & J Halls.  They were impressed with the work going on to clear the graveyard and commented that some of the names on the gravestones were from families known to be associated with the metal industry, some of whom were Master Cutlers themselves.  We are looking forward to find out more about these graves.

The search for the final resting place of Victorian philanthropists Joseph and Elizabeth Read and their eldest daughter Mary Anne Rawson, one of the leading anti-slavery campaigners of the nineteenth century, led to the surprising discovery of a locked and forgotten graveyard in the industrial area of Attercliffe, Sheffield, UK.  In January 2017 we read in the Sheffield Telegraph that the disused burial ground, all that remains of the once grand Zion Congregational Church, had been advertised for sale. 

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