If you thought the running of a cemetery as a rather mundane business then below will show you a different picture from the late 19th century. This article is transcribed from the National Newspaper archive from a piece which appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 12th April 1881 - entitled 'BRIGHTSIDE BURIAL BOARD - A LIVELY ELECTION. (The Alflat mentioned in the piece is my Great Great Grandfather)
A meeting of the Brightside Ratepayers was held last night at the Vestry Hall, Burngreave Road. The room was crowded to the door, and the principal business, the election of four gentleman to serve on the burial board, excited the liveliest of interest.
At the hour fixed for the meeting, seven o'clock, Mr H. J. Wilson was briskly nominated for the position of chairman, and just as briskly the name of Mr Wm. Barker, one of the Overseers of the Poor, was proposed. The nominations gave the ratepayers an immediate opportunity for letting loose their pent-up feelings, and cheers, groans, and counter-cheers at once became the order of the day. This state of chaos only ended upon Mr. H. J. Wilson, in stentorian tones, making it known that he withdrew his name, and that he had not been aware of any of the overseers being present. Mr. Barker was then called upon to preside among deafening cheers.
The Chairman, who on rising to introduce the business, was received with renewed cheering, said he was not connected with any party in any way shape or form, (Cheers.) he hoped the meeting would be conducted in a fair and honourable manner, (Cheers.).
Mr. T. Collinson, assistant overseer, read the report of the Burial Board for the year ending 25th March. There had been 1,732 internments in the cemetery, as against 1,550 in the previous year, an increase of 182. The burials consisted of: Parishioners, consecrated side, 515; unconsecrated side, 369; making 884. the amount received for internments on the consecrated side was £910 8s 11d, and on the unconsecrated side £502 8s 3d; total £1,413 7s 2d. The average receipt for each internment was 16s 3 3/4d., as against 16s 10 3/4d. in the former year. This decrease was accounted for my the larger proportion of common internments owing to the long depression of trade, for while there had been an increase of 182 internments there had been only six more purchased graves than in the previous year, namely 134 against 128. The number of internments in the cemetery was now 31,455. The amount paid for labourers' wages was £407 11s 10d., less £10 8s. for chapel cleaning, &c, but as this was paid by 4s. a week it was included in the wages account. The cost per internment in the labourers' wages was 4s 7d, against 4s. 9d. The receipts for internments amounted to £1,413 7s 2d., against £1,309 9s 5d., or an increase of £104 16s 5d., and the balance of profit on the years working was £392 7s 4d., against £302 11s 8d. There is standing to the credit of the sinking fund £341 2s 8d., which will be increased to £919 1s 8d., buy the transfer of the balance on the current £578 18s. to this account. The board will therefore be able to pay off another £1,000 on the mortgage debt. The burial ground for the township of Sheffield will be opened next month and will undoubtedly diminish the number of non-parishioner internments in the cemetery, but the board do not anticipate any large decrease of income from this source for some little time to come. During the forthcoming year the board intend to give special attention to improving the appearance of the Cemetery grounds. The nature of the soil, rubble and stiff clay, will make the work somewhat expensive ; but the board believe they may well count on the ratepayers' approval of efforts to render the Cemetery as little unsightly as can well be done. The three retiring members were Messrs. Radford, Thorpe and Franklin, an as Mr. Chatterton - who was elected last year, but who had left the township - had sent in his resignation, the vestry would be called upon to elect four members. \there had been 29 general meetings and the attendance had been - R. H. Radford, 23; J. Thorpe, 15; T. Firth, 20; G. Hearnshaw, 21; W. Alflat, 17; G. Turner, 26; J. Marchington, 29; J. J. Chatterton, 19; and W. Franklin, 3. ("Oh"). The attendances of the three retiring members in the last three years were - Mr. Radford, 63; Mr. Thorpe, 50; and Mr. Franklin, 25. The accounts had been laid before the auditors appointed by the vestry, Mr. Winter and Mr. Clarke, and had been certified as correct. The abstract of accounts was then read, showing the total income to have been £1,877 5s. 3d.; the expenditure £1,219 6s. 3d. leaving a balance on the bank of £578 9s. (Applause).
Mr. H. Heber Radford, who was received with loud cheers, moved the adoption of the report and accounts.
Mr. T Clarke, one of the auditors, mentioned that they had gone through the books thoroughly and the manner in which they were kept reflected great credit upon Mr. Collinson. If the board only continued to do it's duty as it had been done last year the ratepayers had no reason to be afraid of the future. (Cheers.)
Mr. George Woodcock seconded the motion, which was agreed to almost unanimously.
Mr. H. J. Wilson moved that the thanks of the ratepayers be given to the board for their services in the past year. (Cheers.) He had arranges with a gentleman, a friend - if he might call him so - who was on the other side - if there was another side - (cheers) - to second the resolution. Such gentlemen were always deserving of their thanks whichever party they belonged to. (Hear, hear.)
A Mr. Travis was rising to second the motion, when Mr. H. J Wilson interrupted him, and told him that he had arranged with a gentleman sitting besides himself to discharge that duty. The incident caused some laughter and noise, and before calm was restored Mr. A. J. Williams who turned out to be a friend "on the other side", had carried out his part of the little arrangement.
The motion was carried. nem. con.
Mr. Radford returned thanks on behalf of the board and moved a vote of thanks to the auditors, who's voluntary services saved fees that otherwise would have to be paid to professional auditors.
The motion was passed, and the election of four members of the Burial Board was proceeded amid a hubbub that baffles description. Some cried out that the voting should be taken by a show of one hand, others bawled in favour of "two hands" whilst a noisy minority mad a hope less endeavour to have the method known by the ugly name of "scratching" adopted. At length the Chairman, after doing his best to ascertain the true feeling of an unruly meeting, decided that the "two-handed" party was in the ascendant. He cautioned them, however, that no one ratepayer had a right to vote more than four times - equal to the number of vacancies.
A Ratepayer (from the crowd at the opposite end of the room) : How are you to tell? (Roars of laughter from the crowd.)
The Assistant-Overseer : By each one watching his neighbour. (Peals of laughter.)
The Chairman : Yes, by checking his neighbour. (Renewed laughter.)
Nominations were now invited, and the most exciting portion of the proceedings entered upon. Speeches in favour of a candidate were sternly tabooed by the ratepayers, and the man who attempted to transgress the rule hardly succeeded in getting beyond - "I have great pleasure in" - at least his voice was drowned in the din. Frequently voices were heard from the closely packed crowd standing near the entrance complaining bitterly of youths and boys taking part on the election of gentlemen who are to manage the burial affairs of the district. Mr . Ephraim Eames was first of all put up, and the name at once plunged the excited ratepayers into a fresh fit of cheering alternated by groaning. Similar demonstrations greeted the name of Mr. Moses Hartley, and the next nomination that of Mr. Alfred Beckett, was honoured with shouts of "A Jingo, a Jingo." The proposer indignantly resented the insult implied in the term, declaring Mr. Beckett "had nothing of the Jingo about him, he was 18 carat gold". The retort was cheered to the echo. The other gentlemen nominated were Mr. R. H. Radford, Mr. John Thorpe, Mr. J. Yardley, Mr. A. J. Williams, and Mr. J. D. Robinson. - The Chairman read the list over, when a ratepayer seated beside Mr. A. J. Wilson complained that his nomination was ignored altogether. He said he named Mr. G. Ridge as a fit and proper person after Mr. Hartley was proposed. - The Assistant Overseer replied that the noise was so deafening he had not heard the name but that he would place it third on the list. Enumerators having being appointed, the mode of taking the votes was again made a bone of contention and the "fun" once more became fast and furious. In his dilemma Mr. H. J. Wilson came to the rescue with a universal panacea, which he said was suggested by a person in the meeting, namely, the holding up of hats instead of hands, believing as he did that though all had come with two hands they had not come provided with two hats. The idea was saluted with shouts of laughter, and when the Chairman could make himself he intimated that he would adopt it in order to get on with the business. But the ratepayers went further. Not only did they hold their "billycocks" or beavers at the ends of outstretched arms, but they held themselves up on the benches or their neighbours who were not voting; such was their anxiety to catch the enumerators eye. Mr. H. J. Wilson very decidedly objected to such an improvement on his panacea, and called upon the Chairman to order the ratepayers to sit down. But the excitement was so intense that even Mr. H. J. Wilson's wishes could not be enforced, although the Chairman used every means in his power. There was evidently a strong party favourable to the first two candidates, and they cheered accordingly. The third name, however - that of Mr. Ridge - fell like a wet blanket on the assembly, and it was not at all plain whether those who held their "felts" on high outnumbered those who groaned. The result made this plain, the votes for Mr. Ridge only counting 88, a number that was received with ironical cheering. Then came a complaining and shrill voice from the other end. It spoke in these terms: "I do most emphatically object to a lot of boys standing behind voting." The voice from the crowd went on to contend that the proceedings should be conducted in all fairness, but the meeting was long ere now at fever heat, and was in no mood to listen to precautions that should have been taken at the proper time. Another voice was heard naming one of the youths, who was said to have run up his hat three times, but cries of "Radford" rent the air, and a gentlemen on the platform unfurled scroll bearing the magic words in gigantic type. Two hundred hats responded. The cry was then all for "Thorpe" but the hats fell short of the previous number by three. Mr Yardley's friends showed in great force, and were loud in their exultation over 272 head pieces. At this point the climax had appeared to have been reached and the ratepayers generally replaced their coverings on their heads. No doubt they were remembering the Chairman's caution as to having only four votes each, and accordingly the voting upon Mr. Williams and Mr. Robinson passed off in comparative silence.
The result was :- Mr. Eames, 292; Mr. Beckett, 280; Mr. Hartley, 275; Mr. Yardley, 272; Mr. Radford, 200; Mr. Thorpe, 197; Mr. Williams, 166; Mr. Robinson, 138; Mr. ridge, 83. The last number again roused the jeering laughter which it occasioned during the voting.
The Chairman, amid loud cheers, declared the first four gentlemen duly elected.
Mr. Williams though as Englishmen and Sheffield men, and apart from all party feeling, they should not break up without giving Mr. Barker a vote of thanks for the very impartial manner in which he had conducted the meeting. (Cheers.) He hoped their opponents did not think any the worse of them. (Hear, hear) There had been a fair, stand-up fight and they were not afraid to take their licking. (Cheers.) they beat the other side last year, and of course this year the other side had done their best to retrieve that defeat. (Cheers.)
Mr. Eames seconded the motion, and said he was very much obliged to them for the large vote they had given him. He happened to be one of the defeated candidates last year, but now the loss had been made up. (Cheers.)
Mr. Harley, and Mr. W. Edwards supported the motion, which was carried, and the large meeting immediately broke up.