By Dan Barron, Community Organiser
Back in August 2021 Cllr Ian jones was promoting a community meeting for those interested in in a community project at Masbrough Cemetery. Attending the meet was Cllr Ian jones, Chris Willis and 5 Masbrough residents. Cllr Ian jones started the introductions and we all spoke about our reasons for attending. Some residents were interested in the meeting because they have family members buried on the site and others have identified their ancestors buried on the site as well as having local connections.
Chris Willis the bereavement officer for RMBC spoke to us all and answered our questions about the cemetery, gave us a tour of the site and was able to talk to us about the current usage of the cemetery. Whilst we were walking around Chris highlighted areas of the grounds that had succumbed to the green overgrowth as we saw grave sites overrun with ivy, shrubbery due to the lack of maintenance. We also spoke about the 2 chapels being 1 of 3 sites in the UK to have both an Anglican and catholic chapel built as a mirror image that also separated the burial land by religion. Chris was very informative and spoke about the current situation of the site, services involved and other Friends of projects that the bereavement services are operating in other areas. Whilst at the site we decided on another meeting but this time we want to get stuck in with a community day of action to start working on the overgrowth of green mass currently residing in the grounds. So we have set up an official Friends of Masbrough Cemetery Group as a page to communicate future activities, events and relevant topics. The group is just over 6 weeks old now and already has 98 members who have joined the group. The page has seen over 1000 photos uploaded to the page as well as interactions asking about relatives, events.
Fast forward to the 18th September the group had hosted its first community day in the cemetery in which saw 14 people attended – including litter pickers, a photographer and residents who wanted to speak about the project – ready to start chopping back the green overgrowth onsite. It was great fun, everyone enjoyed it and as we were cutting and chopping more and more graves began to appear. In total were able to uncover 10 gravestones that were concealed by the planation. The litter pickers were able to pick several bags of rubbish to be picked up by environmental services. After 2 hours of graft we were done and amazed at how much we had. On a light hearted note the volunteers began to notice that Cllr Ian Jones had been chatting to residents for quite a while and had not done any gardening for a while and had even posted a comment of admission.
Cllr Ian Jones:
“Well done to everyone it was a great start and sets the example for how we want to go on , despite the local Cllr spending most of my morning talking rather than working , something I will correct next time”
The main story spotlight is about John, a volunteer who has had a keen interest in the site from the start. John has already photographed the entire cemeteries graves sites as well as the community day that was held. Despite the fact the cemetery site already has a directory created as official documentation, John has created his own with pen and paper, including photographs of all the graves and highlighted with a section to help relatives find their family grave sites with some great results. The feedback on the pages has been positive. We also have members researching names on the graves and finding articles about the circumstances of deaths through archives of news articles for those members who may not know how their relative died. Additionally John also has an official records Index for people buried there from 1871-1983.
John Gray ” I am photographing all the grave inscriptions , only done a small part up to now but hope to compile to a database together with the help volunteers. (hopefully)”
Paul is also looking into transcripts of graves on the page.
“Transcript of the headstone inscription; and a newspaper report regarding the sad death of Agnes Badger. From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 10th March 1908.
We shall meet again/ In Affectionate Remembrance of/ AGNES BADGER/ who died March 6th 1908/ aged 57 years/ Hard hard was the blow that compelled us to part/ With a mother so near and dear to our hearts/ But the love that we bore her shall dwell in our breast/ Till we meet her again in the realms of the blest./ She was the lass that made it/ But was not spared to enjoy it./ Also AGNES BADGER/ daughter of the above/ who died March 5th 1914/ aged 25 years/ Also of the above named/ JOSEPH BADGER/ who died Oct 27th 1925/ aged 75 years.”
The in depth work and research some members of the group are doing is fantastic and just adds so much community value to the project but also to the cemetery as a community site.
Chris Willis RMBC Bereavment Services has expressed his thanks to the volunteers and everyone involved.
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone that came yesterday. What a huge difference a couple of hours has made. Well done to you all. I think I will be picking thorns out of my hands for days. Look forward to the next event!”
The long term strategy of the group is to become a constituted group that can draw in funding to regenerate the old chapels. The group has had an amazing start! With a successful community day and thriving Facebook page after just 1 month, we have a second community day planned, to work on creating a well kept cemetery space for families to visit their loved ones. You could see the difference what 2 hours and 12 volunteers can make and how 10 graves could now be visited and identified by families that would not be able to otherwise. The community work will bring some much needed promotion to the cemetery as well as promoting positive community values.
We’ve had some good feedback from volunteers and some comical ones too:
Paula U, on litter picking – “Picked a thorn out myself and I was only litter picking”
Susan C – on finding a family members grave photo from John – “My family member-thank you” & “Good day at Masbrough cemetery, lovely sun shine and uncovered several graves. Well done everyone”
Kathleen S – on the results – “Wonderful work”
Christine R – Commenting on the group – “Would love to be in this group as I think I’ve got relatives buried there”
Simon H – commenting on John Grays work – “amazing work. Do you intend to write an index of all the names you have photographed? Or does one exist elsewhere?”
Angie B – “I’ve looked through section D, I think my Grandparents grave must fall into section F . I’m looking forward to seeing more of your photographs x”