Burngreave Cemetery –
good for the souls
by Albert Jackson
The Friends of Burngreave Cemetery and
Chapel will this year hold events and open days from the Chapels
in the Cemetery. We look back through history and explore
the changes to date and the fruits of the Friends’ labour.
Established in 1860 under The Burial Act, The
Brightside Bierlow Cemetery, as it was named, was built on
a 27-acre package of land comprising part of the ancient woods
of Burn Greave, a quarry, mines and shale pits. Costing £5,400;
a further £11,600 was spent laying out the grounds by
city architects William Flockton & Son, and the building
of the now Grade II listed chapels and buildings.
The Gothic-style chapels and spire provide a
significant landmark and can be viewed from across the city.
The Anglican Chapel and two thirds of the grounds were consecrated
by the Archbishop of York on 16th March 1861 for Church of
England burials, the other Chapel and lands were designated
for non-conformist use.
The cemetery was further extended by nine acres
in 1900 when the City Council took over its responsibility
and it became Burngreave Cemetery; a lodge and the entrance
at Scott Road were also added.
The War Memorial in the north-east of the cemetery
honours the memory of the military personnel. Amongst the
family graves is that of Sergeant James Firth VC – honoured
for his gallantry during the Boer War when he rescued and
carried to safety two of his battalion during action, a lance
corporal and a second lieutenant, himself injured by a bullet
through his nose and eye in the action. He is buried alongside
his wife and twelve-year-old son.
The adjoining headstone bears memory to Joseph
Edwards, lost in the sinking of the great Cunard liner Lusitania
on 7th May 1915, while close by lies the military grave of
Sub-Lieutenant HR Dyson MM RNVR, who was twenty-six when he
died on 25th November 1918 while attached to the RAF. His
inscription reads “Many as good, but none better”.
A mass grave is the resting place of soldiers
who had served in the Somme and other theatres, but died while
receiving treatment in the Northern Field Hospital, a military
unit housed in the Children’s Wards at the Fir Vale
Workhouse between 1916 and 1921 (now the Northern General
Hospital). During this time it treated 15,647 soldiers and
prisoners of war.
When reading the monuments, the sadness and
mourning of everyday lives in times past are revealed to us;
one headstone tells the woe of a family who lost five children
aged between only eighteen days and eighteen months in the
five-year period between 1866 and 1872. Many are part of the
story of an event that happened in this month 140 years ago;
The Great Sheffield Flood. On 12th March 1864 the banks of
the Dale Dyke Dam at Loxley burst, cascading millions of gallons
of water along the Rivers Loxley and Don onto Sheffield. The
poor Webster family were among its casualties and their headstone
tells of their misfortune; Peter, 31, his wife Sarah, 30,
and their sons Robert aged four and baby of only sixteen months,
Joseph Edward, were all drowned by the waters.
During the 75th Anniversary Celebrations at
neighbouring St Catherine’s RC Church in 2001, a survey
of parishioners revealed that they represented some 28 countries
of origin. Many of the cemetery’s headstones are inscribed
with names from different cultures. Of the 180,000 souls interred,
it is not known how many different nationalities are represented.
Now, after years of neglect and decay The Friends
of Burngreave Cemetery and Chapel are helping with the care
of the chapels and its lands. The Friends are a voluntary
group whose objectives are to further the historic and environmental
benefits of the cemetery within the local community. Along
with the Council and other local agencies they are working
to repair and reopen the chapels. One is currently open and
will house exhibitions and open days throughout the year,
with information on grave locations, wildlife and ecology.
The volunteers are also aiming to involve local artists in
the use of the chapel.
The interior of the first chapel can also be
seen every Sunday between 11am–3pm. For further details
contact Friends of Burngreave Cemetery, 12 Burngreave Road,
S3 9DD or at
For info or to get more involved in the creative
activities email Cassie Limb at: