Sheffield General Cemetery: How volunteers have transformed a Yorkshire cemetery into a wonderful green space

Volunteers have transformed the Sheffield General Cemetery from a sombre space into the thriving green park that its Victorian creators imagined.

Now, as pledges are made to match fund donations to its charitable trust, a rare chance is open to see even more impact.

Every individual donation given, up to £250 at a time, will be matched by the Aviva Community Fund from now until July 28.

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What it means is that for a short spell, gestures and donations will see double the impact – and organisations can receive up to £50,000 in match funding.

Sheffield General Cemetary - by Liam RimmingtonSheffield General Cemetary - by Liam Rimmington
Sheffield General Cemetary - by Liam Rimmington

Dave Hunt, chair Sheffield General Cemetery Trust (SGCT) said teams were very grateful to be chosen.

"The Trust's volunteers have been looking after the General Cemetery for 35 years, and sharing our research through our tours, books and exhibitions," he said. "We have to raise every penny we spend to enhance this historic and beautiful green space, which is open as a public park 24/7, and we rely on the generosity of the people of Sheffield.”

Some of Aviva's staff in Sheffield volunteer with the charity, he added, and it was wonderful to the fund working to help teams conserve the parkland.

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The cemetery, opened in 1836 and with the last burial in 1978, is now preserved as a valuable green space in the heart of Sheffield.

Sheffield General Cemetery Patti Claxton, landscape volunteer.  - credit Liam RimmingtonSheffield General Cemetery Patti Claxton, landscape volunteer.  - credit Liam Rimmington
Sheffield General Cemetery Patti Claxton, landscape volunteer. - credit Liam Rimmington

Abandoned and overgrown for many years, it has been carefully restored over three decades.

Today the site is a Grade ll listed park, a conservation area, nature reserve and Area of Natural History Interest.

It is also home to many important figures in Sheffield's history from confectioners to activists, including Mark Firth the steel manufacturer, and chartist Samuel Holberry.

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Donations, said members of the SGCT, will make an "enormous" difference.

The trust carries out educational tours and workshops, conservation work and historical research.

The aim is to encourage everyone to enjoy this historical site, members said, by walking its paths, learning its history or enjoying a quiet, peaceful place.

The trust also manages the newly restored non-conformist chapel – now named the Samuel Worth Chapel after its architect – which is becoming established as an arts and music venue.

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Funding now will help make the cemetery more accessible, including providing adapted equipment for older volunteers such as power grip secateurs, or raised kneeling stools so they can continue to volunteer in a place they love.

It will also enable work to communicate this landscape's rich history and wildlife through inclusive events, publications, exhibitions, tours and workshops.

To find out more and to make an individual donation, visit gencem.org.

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