Moorgate Cemetery

Moorgate Cemetery History: 19th Century

Following outbreaks of cholera in Rotherham in the early and mid 19th century, which had caused hundreds of deaths in the town, it was becoming clear that Rotherham township would soon need a new burial ground. The old church yard at Rotherham Parish Church was overflowing with half buried bodies and there was no room for expansion around the church for further burials. Medical students from nearby Sheffield were taking advantage of the dreadful situation by stealing bodies for research purposes.

In 1832, the Board of Health approached the Earl of Effingham for permission to use Boston Hillside for the burial of victims of the cholera epidemic. Lord Effingham in turn wrote a letter indicating that he was willing to grant a piece of land on the hillside, which now forms part of Boston Park, free of charge for this purpose. This request was however overruled, as the inhabitants of the town feared that the water from the springs on the hillside would be contaminated thereby increasing the number of deaths in the area. Ten years later, in order to provide the town with a new burial ground, a consortium of leading business men, formed the Rotherham Public Cemetery Company. For the sum of £499 they bought 3 acres of land off Moorgate at the back of Boston Castle for the purpose of laying out a new burial ground for the town.
The Old Graveyard
A Sketch Of The Old Cemetery

The Board of Directors consisted of 12 directors, six Anglicans and six nonconformists from a variety of trades and professions. The company’s share capital was divided into 250 £10 shares and by 1847 there were 88 shareholders.

Two local architects, Samuel Worth and John Frith undertook the design of the cemetery. Around seven years earlier, Samuel Worth had been commissioned to design Sheffield General Cemetery. The ground was enclosed by a sandstone wall which incorporated several obelisks set on cannon ball sized stones mounted on stone buttresses. The layout of the cemetery was formal and symmetrical. At the bottom of a gentle slope a chapel was erected, described as having small paned Romanesque windows, cruciform finials and square spikelets. The chapel had an entrance at each end and a central partition which enabled use by both Anglicans and Nonconformists. Nonconformists entered the chapel by the front entrance and the Anglicans by the rear entrance.

Lodges in the Jacobean style were built at the entrance to the cemetery and wrought iron railings with entrance gates were placed between two stout entrance piers with decorated pyramidal copings to compliment the obelisks.

Both the chapel and the burial ground were initially used only for nonconformists. However in 1846 the first western extension to the original old ground was created and one of the chapels was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon for use by Anglicans.

The first burial which took place in 1841, was that of Robert Beatson Nightingale, the youngest son of Mr C Nightingle, one of the cemetery’s directors. Robert Beatson Nightingale had entered the Wesleyan ministry, and contracted a cold whilst in residence at the College at Hoxton, from which he never recovered. His grave was watched over for some considerable time for fear of body snatchers

In 1855 the directors sold the cemetery to the Rotherham Burial Board, which was made up of eminent citizens of the town, for the sum of £2,500. One of the Board’s members was Thomas Badger, who was also a director of the company who owned the cemetery. There was some consternation at the time regarding the selling price, as it was generally believed to be inflated.

The Rotherham Burial Board initially held their meetings at the Feeoffes School on the Crofts Moorgate.

Bill Of Sale
Burial Board Newspaper Article

The Burial Board’s constitution authorised the directors to sell or dispose of graves vaults and right of interment and right of placing graves stone monuments and memorials of the dead therein and the rights connected therewith under subject to the provisions and restrictions contained therein.

The first western extension to the cemetery was in 1869. The Burial Board approached the Earl of Effingham’s agent to enquire if they could purchase part of Boston lower field. The Earl of Effingham in turn agreed to sell approx 4 acres of land for £320 per acre and the Board of Directors was authorised to borrow the sum of money necessary to purchase the land, plus the sum required for taking down the old boundary wall and rebuilding a new one. Most of the land was to be consecrated and a portion to remain unconsecrated.

In 1884 a piece of land adjoining the cemetery on the east side was advertised by the estate of George Haywood and the Burial Board’s solicitor was instructed to ascertain the price.

For the sum of £2,000 the Board acquired 3 acres of land and an extra £800 was borrowed for building a boundary wall and laying out the grounds. It was agreed that 2/3 of the ground be consecrated and 1/3 unconsecrated and a portion retained for Roman Catholics.

Part of the old original burial ground and the eastern extension formed part of a market garden known as Moorgate Nurseries, on which there were vineries, a peach house and propagating house, together with stables and a carriage house and dwelling rooms.

On 18 January 1897 the Burial Board received a letter from the Town Clerk’s Office advising them that the powers, duties, property, debts and liabilities of the Board would be taken over by the council in accordance with the Local Government Act 1894.

Old Moorgate Cemetery