How long have you volunteered at Sheffield General Cemetery Trust?
I began volunteering about 10 years ago. I had some time on my hands as my children were growing up. After years of looking after small children and elderly parents, I wanted to do something that involved using my brain a little bit and preferably where I could work as part of a team. I had heard about the regeneration of the Cemetery and as I am a history graduate, I wrote to ask if I could be of any use. I went to meet the Research Team and immediately felt at home. I began by helping answer public enquiries and updating the data bases, then got involved in researching and writing articles for the Undertakings magazine. The team got a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to write a book about the 100 or so servicemen who died as a result of the First World War and are buried or memorialised in the Cemetery. It was a big project which I thoroughly enjoyed and I am very proud of the book we produced. At about the same time the Cemetery began to suffer financial problems. I’m a firm believer that it’s no good moaning from the sidelines, you have to roll your sleeves up and get involved… so I became a Trustee. This comes with responsibilities, but it is great to feel part of the management process and to think that together we are preserving this important site for future generations.
What’s the best thing about volunteering at Sheffield General Cemetery Trust?
Without a doubt, it’s the people I work with. We come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences but we have the love of the Cemetery in common. I joined because I was interested in Sheffield history – I knew nothing about the landscape. I feel I’ve learnt so much. It’s amazing that this fairly small site, so near to the city centre, is home to so much wildlife. To see the bats swooping overheard, and to hear the woodpecker and the owls… it’s just wonderful. We are very lucky to be part of this.
Why should people get involved?
Volunteering is good for the soul. It benefits everyone. You can do something useful, which makes you feel good, you can learn new skills, which keeps the little grey cells ticking over, and you can be part of a team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people There is no downside at all!
What is your favourite part of the Sheffield General Cemetery landscape and why?
My favourite part of the Cemetery is undoubtedly the Samuel Worth Chapel. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to go in when it was opened up at the beginning of the restoration. It was dark and smelly and not very hygienic, having been inhabited mostly by pigeons for the last 50 years. Now, though, it is a stunning, light, beautiful space. To see the light flooding in through the amazing windows and see it dressed for a wedding or party with flowers and candles….Stunning! it really is a unique and beautiful space. It will also, hopefully, secure our future as, when the current emergency is over, we can let it out again as a fantastic event space and the income will guarantee that Sheffield General Cemetery and its famous and ordinary residents can rest in peace, in perpetuity.