Moorgate Cemetery History: 21st Century
As the chapel within the cemetery is neither listed nor consecrated, a sustainable use for it is a priority in order to save it from further deterioration.
In 2003 authorisation was given by the Council for the unpaid work programme (the old probation service) to carry out some remedial work to the interior of the chapel and to clear some of the sapling trees and ivy on and around the graves, which, in some cases was hiding the inscriptions.
The cemeteries department are under an obligation to ensure the grounds are safe for visitors and people who work in the cemetery and have had to provide considerable resources to carry out tests on every memorial. Unfortunately, where headstones have not been maintained adequately, it has been necessary to lay them down.
This is however a last resort and is done in a way which leaves the inscription intact and the memorial over the grave space. In their view this is a far better alternative than allowing, the monuments to fall over and cause injury.
However, this exercise has proved controversial with the general public.
The question of security in the cemetery in the 21st Century still proves problematic. Whilst the cemetery department recognised in their 1999 strategy for security the need for visitors to the cemetery to be able to leave cars without fear of theft or vandalism, funding has still not been forthcoming for CCTV cameras. Use of cameras at the crematorium has eliminated car thefts and reduced instances of antisocial behaviour.
The cemeteries department do, however employ three cemetery wardens who regularly patrol and secure the cemetery. In addition a further warden is responsible for locking the gates at the cemetery and also Boston Park. The cemeteries department has a hotline number for people to report problems.
In addition, a member of the bereavement service would accompany anyone who is nervous about visiting a family grave. Members of the public who are unable to trace a family grave are advised to contact the staff at the Crematorium; we hold all the records.
Our projects aim to increase the employment and training opportunities particularly to the young and ultimately stimulate a younger audience to engage with their heritage.
In 2003 Richard Gibson, Registrar and Cemeteries Manager, met representatives from the unpaid work Programme and the Friends of Moorgate Cemetery. The meeting was held to formulate a programme to satisfy the requirements of all parties with regard to carrying out work on the old offices in the cemetery and to rebuild part of the cemetery wall between Boston Park and cemetery grounds.
Initial work on rewiring and plumbing was required, as the offices had not been used for several years and this work was paid for by the council. Work on the project commenced in 2004 and Yorkshire Windows very generously donated the new windows and doors.
High winds caused problems to the flat roof which held up the work, but after some delay Richard Gibson identified a funding source and repair work was carried out by the council.
This useful resource now meets the requirement of the unpaid work service when they carry out work in the cemetery clearing pathway and encroaching ivy from the gravestones.
The Rotherham Family History Society undertook an ambitious audit exercise in the cemetery in 2003, which resulted in a series of 5 books containing Monumental Inscriptions of all the legible gravestones in the cemetery.
This major project, which took a number of months to carry out, under difficult conditions, has proved a valuable source of information for relatives, both local and further afield, who are researching their family tree.
In 2007 the council entered into negotiations with several private companies with a view to forming a public/private initiative to run the bereavement service at Rotherham. Originally Moorgate Cemetery formed part of a prospective Heritage Lottery bid, along with Boston Castle and Boston Park.
In 2008 it became clear that Dignity Funerals Limited had been successful in their bid and this Company are now responsible for running the bereavement service in Rotherham. Unfortunately, because of the initial expenditure required to upgrade Crematorium and its grounds, Dignity have no plans for investment in Moorgate Cemetery at the present time.
The current position regarding the cemetery is as follows:
- The Chapel in Moorgate remains the responsibility of RMBC (i.e. it is not covered by the Dignity / RMBC contract).
- As Dignity are not responsible for the cemetery at Moorgate it is not expected that they will engage in any partnership with the Community Pay Back service, however the partnership between the Community Pay Back Service and Rotherham MBC hopefully will be maintained with RMBC taking the lead.
- Discussions are underway regarding the digitalisation of the burial registers and this matter will be raised with the Archives and Local Studies department.
- The council are willing to maintain the partnership with the Friends Group, but Dignity’s involvement with Moorgate Cemetery will be minimal).
The Chapel in the cemetery remains one of the main concerns in view of its rapid deterioration. The windows remain smashed and have still not been boarded up . Furthermore, no work has been carried out on the roof for several years and there are a number of slates missing.
The Friends of Moorgate Cemetery are not totally pessimistic about a favourable outcome with regard to the future use of the Chapel and ongoing work in the Cemetery.
Following the successful Heritage Lottery bid for the restoration of Boston Castle, it is hoped that space will be made inside the castle to interpret the history of Moorgate Cemetery as part of Rotherham’s heritage.