Today, the once beautiful Grade II listed chapel is an empty shell. Damaged by fire, vandalised and full of graffiti, it is another one of Sheffield’s forgotten buildings.
The building was originally known as the Loxley Congregational Chapel. Constructed in 1787, the church closed in 1994 due to low congregation numbers, making it unsustainable to keep open.
Many of the 240 victims of 1864 Great Sheffield Flood are buried in the cemetery. When the Dale Dyke Dam was filled for the first time, its banks broke sending 650 million gallons of water down the Loxley Valley into central Sheffield. The dam broke around midnight. Most people were sleeping and so they were caught completely off guard. It still remains to this day, one of Britain’s worst man-made disasters.
The building was destroyed by fire in August 2016. Works have been undertaken to stabilise the walls and to restrict access. However, the metal sheets have been partially bent to enable access through downstairs windows. Restoration and reuse is under discussion. (Historic England)
Halloween is one of my favourite times of year. However, Halloween 2020 was a little different. I did not decorate this year as I did not want to encourage trick or treaters. I still wanted to do something for Halloween so I decided to take a walk to Sheffield General Cemetery. A little odd? Maybe, but the cemetery is actually a Grade II listed park, Conservation Area, Local Nature Reserve and Area of Natural History Interest..
The cemetery opened 1836 and was the principal burial ground in Victorian Sheffield containing the graves of 87,000 people. It was one of the earliest commercial cemeteries in Britain. Today, it contains the largest collection of listed buildings and monuments in Sheffield, ten in total including Grade II listed catacombs, an Anglican Chapel, with the Gatehouse, Non-conformist Chapel and the Egyptian Gateway, each listed at Grade II*.
The Cemetery was closed for burial in the late 1970s. Sheffield City Council removed many of the gravestones in the Anglican area to create more green space near to the city centre. The remains of those buried were not disturbed.
Cemetery residents include:
George Bassett (1818–1886). Founder of The Bassett Company—the company that invented Liquorice Allsorts. Mayor of Sheffield (1876).
George Bennett (1774–1841). Founder of the Sheffield Sunday School movement. The memorial to him (c.1850) is Grade II listed.
John, Thomas, and Skelton Cole. Founders of Sheffield’s Cole Brothers department store in 1847—now part of the John Lewis Partnership.
Francis Dickinson (1830–1898). One of the soldiers who fought in the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean war.
William Dronfield (1824–1891). Founder of the United Kingdom Alliance of Organised Trades, which inspired the creation of the Trades Union Congress.
Mark Firth (25 April 1819–28 November 1880). Steel manufacturer, Master Cutler (1867), Mayor of Sheffield (1874), and founder of Firth College in 1870 (later University of Sheffield). The monument to Mark Firth is Grade II listed, the railings that surround it were made at Firth’s Norfolk Works.
William Flockton, architect.
John Gunson (1809–1886). Chief engineer of the Sheffield Water Company at the time of the collapse of Dale Dyke Dam on 11 March 1864, which resulted in the Great Sheffield Flood. Samuel Harrison, who documented the flood, and 77 of the flood’s victims are also buried in the cemetery.
Samuel Holberry (1816–1842). A leading figure in the Chartist movement.
Isaac Ironside (1808–1870). Chartist and local politician.
James Montgomery (1771–1854). Poet/Publisher. The grave and Grade II listed monument to James Montgomery, were moved to the grounds of Sheffield Cathedral in 1971.
James Nicholson (died 1909). Prominent Sheffield industrialist. The memorial that he commissioned for himself and his family c.1872 is Grade II listed.
William Parker, merchant. The monument to William Parker, erected in 1837 by the merchants and manufacturers of Sheffield, is Grade II listed.
William Prest (died 1885). Cricketer and footballer born in York, who lived most of his life in Sheffield. Co-founder of Sheffield Football club.
In a Sheffield suburb, on some common land lies a Victorian bath house called Birley Spa. The building dates back to 1842-3, when the 2nd Earl of Manvers, Charles Herbert Pierrepoint opened the spa house.
A spring high in mineral content feeds the bath house, what locals have been bathing in for years, looking to benefit from the healing properties of the water.
The building is Grade II listed and is complete with a plunge pool inside. It is the last remaining Victorian bath house still set in its original grounds in South Yorkshire.
In 1998, the spa received money from the National Lottery Heritage fund to restore the building. Typical of Sheffield Council, they attempted to sell the building and in 2018, putting it up for auction without any public consultation. Fortunately, the sale was postponed after local opposition. I believe that further talks with the community are ongoing. At the moment, the future of the bath house is still unknown.
The bath house is accessible down a small lane, there isn’t much to see and you cannot go inside or see inside of the building. Fingers crossed the building can be saved and some more interpretation can be added as it is a great local asset.
If you would like to help save the bath house, the Friends of Birley Spa welcome donations and support.