Until last weekend, I hadn’t set foot in the Zion Graveyard – Attercliffe’s only historic site regularly open to the general public – since September 2019, the last time I was able to run a heritage Bus Ride Round Attercliffe.
A great deal has happened in eighteen months, not least at the Graveyard where, despite the constraints of lockdown and social distancing, the Friends have restored the place so that it once again looks like a graveyard rather than a jungle.
The difference they’ve made to a long-neglected, significant historic site is impressive.
The Friends of Zion Graveyard was formed in 2017 by the group who look after Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel, a couple of miles away. They wanted to locate the burial place of the Chapel’s founder, Mary Ann Rawson (1801-1887), an energetic anti-slavery campaigner and social reformer, and found it deep in the neglected burial ground of the former Zion Congregational Church, which was burnt down in 1987.
The Friends purchased the graveyard site from the Yorkshire Congregational Union in January 2018. The events that followed are chronicled at FoZGA End of Project Photo Report final.pdf (windows.net) and come alive in Jon Harrison’s excellent video: Zion – the Forgotten Graveyard – YouTube.
They’re a small, energetic group who’ve achieved a great deal through their enthusiasm and their ability to secure funds from such organisations as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the J G Graves Charitable Trust to supplement the donations of individuals and small businesses associated with the Lower Don Valley.
There’s been much talk about celebrating the historic heritage of Attercliffe and Carbrook. Carbrook Hall has been restored and converted from a pub to a particularly fine Starbucks. The Hill Top Chapel is used for worship by the Sheffield Evangelical Presbyterian Church. And Attercliffe Library has become a promising coffee shop, wine-bar and restaurant.
There are other buildings in the Valley that deserve to be put to use. Some, like Tinsley Tram Sheds and the Adelphi Cinema, have given conservationists cause for concern while others, such as the imposing Banner’s former department store and the former Bodmin Street Wesleyan Reform Chapel are earning their keep in new ways.
The Graveyard has remained closed to the public during the pandemic, and its gradual reopening will be publicised on their website: Friends of Zion Graveyard – Events (btck.co.uk). It’s a delightful and fascinating place where visitors are made very welcome.