The Role of the Closed Cemetery

Hi. I’m Katy, another of the students studying Public Humanities at the University of Sheffield. I’ve also benefitted from the cemetery local to my parents’ house in Wiltshire since I was 15. Attached to the St. Denys the Minster, it provided me a place of refuge when my sister was watching rugby, somewhere to read poetry without interruption, and a place to think things through. It also bought me closer to my town when I discovered a WW1 grave, who’s occupant died 10 days before the Armistice was announced.

Why am I telling you all of this?

When we had our brief for the partnership with the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, I was excited to find that we were focusing on a cemetery. This was a fantastic opportunity to be part of reclaiming the cemetery and turning it into a place of refuge, like my cemetery back home.

Many people consider my view of cemeteries as a place of refuge as a little bizarre, even a little gothic. However, in the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, and the ‘Friends’ culture I hadn’t come across before moving to Sheffield, there is a different approach where the cemetery becomes a place of history, nature and community. From encouraging locals to get involved with clear up sessions through to working with heritage and environmental projects, the FoWC  is doing everything they can to bring Wardsend Cemetery back into the community.

So what will Wardsend Cemetery’s role be?

Obviously, a closed cemetery is not open for more burials. We are left with two possible roles. The local community can eventually abandon the cemetery and allow it to become overgrown and unused. This is what has happened to Wardsend. The other choice is to maintain the cemetery and turn it into an area that the community can enjoy and learn from. Essentially, to recreate the cemetery in the form of a museum, park and creative space. This is the route that the FoWC seem to be heading down.

In the renewed Wardsend Cemetery, the surrounding community has a space in which they can learn, create and relax. Who knows, maybe even a place for teenagers to seek refuge from sports-obsessed siblings.

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