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Gravestones used as pavements

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I was down in Sheffield a few days ago with my husband who was born there. We had some time to spare so visited the cathedral where some of his ancestors where married. On approaching the building I noticed that many memorial headstones had been laid flat and were being used as a public pavement outside the cathedral area. The general public were walking all over them and as well as damaging them the inscriptions were being eroded. Some of the headstones dated back to the middle 1700's.

As a member of the public and as a family historian I am appalled. I understand that these very old headstones were removed during redevelopment but surely they should have been treated in a more respectful way and moved to a place where they could be safely stored. What a shocking way for Sheffield to treat it's deceased citizens, for their memorials - paid by loved ones - to be disregarded in such a disgraceful way !

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They have been like that for several decades. Memorial stones are fine so long as they are maintained...if not they become a danger to the public...as witness the number of graveyards where the headstones have been laid flat to save endangering the public. I remember visiting one such overgrown cemetery in Glasgow, where head stones lay at crazy angles...it was a mess and truly a disgrace. I , for one, enjoy family history and one of my ancestors head stones  might be one you have walked on in the Cathedral...I have no problem at all.

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It's a similar story with most churchyards and cemeteries. Gravestones laid flat or just stacked on the walls to the grounds. At Saint John's in the Park, they have been used for paving stones and steps!

Of course it makes it easier to cut the grass if they are removed. But many grave stones have been removed and smashed up. I have even seen the broken ones in Sheffield rivers!

Below is an example from St John's - laid flat.

Since many of the stones are made from sandstone. The acid rain and pollution from motor cars will eventually eat into the stone so the inscription is lost.

Of course many of the inscriptions were recorded for family history and historical purposes. But of course these are stored in places that have limited opening hours or have access issues.  

Turton St John Cem004.jpg

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Ecclesfield St Marys used the same cost cutting method for making paths around the church.  Luckily the inscriptions in the churchyard were recorded in 1959 and published in the parish magazine.  Otherwise I wouldn't have found that my ancestor George Wilkinson was the town crier, and when he was buried there in 1797 his inscription read "Here lies George Wilkinson , Born and cri'd, Liv'd ninety-four years, And then he di'd".  The inscription is now totally worn off the stone.  It would have been better in my mind for the stones to have been re-laid face down, which would at least have a chance of preserving the inscriptions.

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I don't think laying them face down would have made a lot of difference, since the soil will probably be acidic from the tree leaves. They could have put a protective coating on the stones, but of course that kind of work costs money and so they wouldn't do it anyway. 

The best way to do it would be a photographic survey of each stone, then placed in a book in the church for people to view, assuming the church is still open to the public.

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If you look at Victorian etchings or photos of the Cathedral you can see that the headstones seem to have been always laid flat, but the Victorians laid paths among them and nobody walked on the stones BUT I think it's a case of showing a total lack of respect for the people who's names are on the headstones, to use them as paving slabs is shameful. The finest churchyard I've ever been in is Greyfriars in Edinburgh.

image.jpeg

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4 hours ago, tozzin said:

I think it's a case of showing a total lack of respect for the people who's names are on the headstones, to use them as paving slabs is shameful. The finest churchyard I've ever been in is Greyfriars in Edinburgh.

I agree entirely, I don't think many people, certainly of my age, would normally walk across a grave or gravestone, but this forces them to do so.   

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Not walking on a gravestone is a bit of a superstition rather than respect. Most churchyards and cemeteries have bodies under the grass, that never had a stone. Many were just wooden crosses that marked graves.

Since graves were paid for and still are, the authorities in charge of them, respect the conditions for the grave for the time stated in the paid settlement. However unless it is renewed by some relation of the original owner. Then the authorities can do what they like with the stones.

Though we might think we are walking on the person's grave when the stone is laid flat, we obviously are not, since the grave of the person would be in front of the inscription, not under the stone. If the there were other graves and stones at the back of the stone, then somebody else's burial is under the current stone. That's assuming that the stones have not been moved to another part!  

In many cases the stones have been removed completely.  I found that the gravestones of my ancestors have all been removed, at both the Burngreave and General Cemeteries.       

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I think it's shameful too, one of my ancestors family stone is still outside the Cathedral where everyone walks across each day. The whole family including young children are or was in that grave.

A few years ago when there were some protest going on and the protesters were camping in the grounds of the Cathedral you could see them throwing out the dregs of their drinks over the stones and putting their fags ends out on the stones. If all the bodies have been moved from the Cathedral church yard as suggested then why didn't they relay the grave stones right up to the Cathedral wall where they wouldn't get damaged as much.

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I was down in Sheffield a few days ago with my husband who was born there. We had some time to spare so visited the cathedral where some of his ancestors where married. On approaching the building I noticed that many memorial headstones had been laid flat and were being used as a public pavement outside the cathedral area. The general public were walking all over them and as well as damaging them the inscriptions were being eroded. Some of the headstones dated back to the middle 1700's.

As a member of the public and as a family historian I am appalled. I understand that these very old headstones were removed during redevelopment but surely they should have been treated in a more respectful way and moved to a place where they could be safely stored. What a shocking way for Sheffield to treat it's deceased citizens, for their memorials - paid by loved ones - to be disregarded in such a disgraceful way !

Hia, I understand your disgust at this, I agree they should have been put 'somewhere' shall we say a little more discrete. But this situation happens everywhere, as time goes on and land areas change, I'm afraid decisions are made by powers in charge, that Grave Stones so old will have no one left to visit them, and therefore are removed or put to other uses. It also happens sometimes for various reasons, complete Graves are removed from their 'resting place', then Re-buried else where. This operation is usually documented by Clergy and Council, confusing Family Researchers. This happened at St Mary's in town, and Derwent Village Church when they built the dam. It's sad, but unfortunately a 'sign of the times'.

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Here is one that apparently survived for a while in an upright position due to objections. I wonder where this one is now?

QUOTE   From Newspaper Cuttings Relating to Sheffield: Ref: 942.74 SF Vol 25 Page 23 Objections from a cavalry regiment stationed in the city at the time other gravestones were being levelled, he is the only tomb-stone in the yard of Sheffield Cathedral that remains upright. The inscription reads : To the memory of Richard Walker, of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, who departed this life the 22nd of June 1800 aged 28 years. Within this dark and silent grave Here lies a soldier just and brave And when the awful Trump shall sound, He is for settled quarters bound"   UNQUOTE

Picture Sheffield  --------      http://picturesheffield.com/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;s07744&pos=66&action=zoom&id=10920

walker.jpg

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I think that laying the assortment of head- stones against the Cathedral walls,as ukelele lady suggests, would make the Cathedral exterior look very untidy and, more importantly, be a potential hazard...as semi upright headstones would, inevitably, present a falling hazard. ...and that would never do...as witness the controversy after the Cathedral's re-ordering and the resulting raised step in the forecourt.

 

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You could make a seating area with flowerbeds with the stones used as the bank sides. It would depend on the space, but at least it would look nice and the stones would be upright. I think this could be done at St John's in the Park. It would also make an interesting area for the residents to have use of, especially in the summer months.

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On ‎11‎/‎05‎/‎2018 at 20:06, lysander said:

I think that laying the assortment of head- stones against the Cathedral walls,as ukelele lady suggests, would make the Cathedral exterior look very untidy and, more importantly, be a potential hazard...as semi upright headstones would, inevitably, present a falling hazard. ...and that would never do...as witness the controversy after the Cathedral's re-ordering and the resulting raised step in the forecourt.

 

I didn't mean for the headstones to be semi upright as you suggest but to be layed flat just as they are today , so that it wouldn't be a falling hazard but put at the side of the Cathedral wall where no one would be walking on them but of course this will never be done.

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I once researched the two brothers who's headstone lies at the side of the Cathedral,very sad life  of their father a tailor and the mother who could not read or write.

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U/L, have you considered writing to the Cathedral authorities and putting the suggestion to them, I wonder...It seems reasonable to me and,  in the recent past ,they have been very adept at finding lots of funding.

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