Burngreave Messenger.
Issue 39 March 2004

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:



Gravestone: "In memory of Lo Shoh, died Jan  5th 1933".

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Index for Issue 39 March 2004.