Wardsend Cemetery -A hidden little Sheffield Gem full of history

19 Jan

Wardsend Cemetery, which is really a detached churchyard, was opened on 21st June 1857 as the burial ground for St. Philip’s Churh on Infirmary Road (now demolished). The vicar, the Rev. John Livesey, had, at his own expense, bought five acres of land at Wardsend when the churchyard was closed for burials. He also contributed to the cost of building a small chapel and a sexton’s house.

The cemetery and the chapel, which was designed by Weightman, Hadfield and Goldie of Sheffield, were consecrated by the Archbishop of York, Thomas Musgrave, on the 5th of July 1859.

Wardsend Cemetery has a distinct military influence due to its close proximity to Hillsborough Barracks. The obelisk monument commemorates the soldiers of 6th, 19th, 24th, 33rd, 51st, 55th Regiments of Foot, Victorian Army, who died whilst at Hillsborough Barracks during the period 1866 – 1869.

There are also memorials to several soldiers who gave their lives during both World Wars. Some of the 240 victims of the Great Sheffield Flood of the night of 11th/12 March 1864, when the Dale Dyke reservoir at Bradfield collapsed, were laid to rest in Wardsend Cemetery, including the children of Paymaster Sergeant Foulds, Isabella, aged 5 and John aged 3, of Hillsborough Barracks, also Mr Joseph Goddard and his wife Sarah, of Malin Bridge.

Other epitaphs of interest are dedications to a number of Bible readers, one a member of the Philadelphian Wesleyan church; the Secretary of Sheffield Angling Association, widows referred to as relicts, and a reference to a 15 year old boy trgically killed at work in a colliery accident.

By the turn of the century, some 20,000 interments had taken place and in 1901, a further two acres of land on the other side of the railway were added. Wardsend Cemetery remains the only cemetery in England with a railway running through it!!

The final burial took place in 1977, when the re-interment of remains from a building site close to Sheffield Cathedral took place and the cemetery was officially closed in 1988.

Although it remained legally open for burials until 1988,Wardsend Cemetery has been increasingly neglected over the last thirty or so years and following the demolition of the chapel and sexton’s house, was more or less abandoned by the parish and church authorities.

Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, a group devoted to Wardsend Cemetery and raising awareness of its position as part of the Livesey Street Project set up 18 months ago. 

A Facebook page has been created as part of an archaeological assessment of the cemetery conducted by students of the University of Sheffield with help from the Hillsborough College and the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery.

If you have any stories about the cemetery to share or would like to know more about this hidden gem, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/wardsendcemeteryproject/

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