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Christine Steers


How we started the 'Friends of Burngreave Cemetery', 2001

Colour photograph of a path in Burngreave Cemetery.
Burngreave cemetery © Christine Steers

When I first came to Burngreave, I was a dog walker. That's when I discovered the cemetery and what a magical place it is. I went for a walk there with a neighbour in deep snow and it was wonderful!

It was really the dog problem that precipitated the creation of the 'Friends of Burngreave Cemetery' as a group. There had been talk of turning the chapel into an arts centre but nothing was really happening. Then the dog wardens started trying to stop people from walking their dogs in the cemetery grounds and this led to a meeting between local people and a couple of officers from the council's Bereavement Services. It was quite acrimonious, lots of complaints about the state of the graves. But in the end the outcome was that, as an experiment, we had a temporary set of guidelines that allowed people to take their dogs there so long as they kept the dogs under control and cleaned up any mess. It was at that point that some of us decided to form the Friends group as a community organisation. We got some money to hold an event in the cemetery grounds, despite disapproval from Bereavement Services. It was an arts and crafts display and it was really successful, lots of people came. The head of Bereavement Services dropped by towards the end of the day and it changed her attitude completely. After that she was really supportive of what we wanted to do.

Since then things have developed further. We were allowed access to one of the two chapels. We put in a lot of effort to clean it and then started to open it each Sunday for visitors to the cemetery. We offer them a cup of tea and help with finding relatives buried there - we've had lots of enquiries. One volunteer has been transcribing records from a grave purchasing ledger and I get a lot of email requests now. We've had exhibitions of art work and photography and even film showings in one of the chapels. We hope to raise enough money in the future to renovate the chapel.

From an interview with Christine Steers, November 2006