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.

Some Introductions

I suppose some introductions are necessary, to both the new site and to me.

The Friends of Wardsend Cemetery have recently begun working with a group of MA students at the University of Sheffield. The group consists of me (Tom, a 22 year old Brummie in Sheffield for the year) and 4 others, whom you’re likely to be hearing from in the coming weeks.

The reason you’re hearing from me first is because I’ve been put in charge of making the new website. Which, although I’m not completely technophobic, has been a bit of a leap in the dark to say the least! I hope you guys enjoy the website’s look and feel, but do remember it is currently the digital equivalent of a construction site! One of the big changes will be this blog, where you can be kept up to date on all the goings-on by multiple authors.

So for the first blog post I wanted to talk about what I have done, am doing, and plan to do.

Wardsend’s old website has served us well, but unfortunately the BTCK domain host (the bit at the end of the website) is beginning to look a bit dated, so I’m moving the Friends over to WordPress.

We’ve gone for this swanky blue and grey colour scheme, courtesy of Katy Walton (another MA student), which you will also be seeing on new flyers and posters around Sheffield.

The Friend’s Group and people of Sheffield have already done a lot of great research on the cemetery and Sheffield’s history, and I’m not planning on getting rid of any of it, so don’t worry! I’m aiming to preserve as much content as I can from the old site, and just housing it in a new place.

However, you can expect some new research, and new pages on this website compared to the old one! In particular I’m including more stories of people buried in the cemetery, and more photographs.

Aside from research, domain hosts, and colour schemes though, my main aim is to make the site much easier to navigate and to find information. There will be a search bar to find specific information, and individual people and stories will have their own separate page which keeps things neat and easy to find!

I’m really intrigued to know what your thoughts are on both the new and the old website, so feel free to write comments underneath or on the Facebook group. This will be a website for everyone, so your opinions matter!