A historic cemetery in Sheffield could be given a multi-million pound cash injection to restore its fascinating features.
Sheffield Council’s parks and countryside services chiefs will use £429,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund cash to progres plans for the Sheffield General Cemetery in Sharrow - then apply for up to £4m with a full grant in 2018.
The dream is to transform the site into a well-used heritage and wildlife park that will be enjoyed and explored by people of all ages and interests.
Built in 1836 to meet rising demand for burial space as Sheffield grew, the cemetery has more listed structures than any other Sheffield park and is a Grade II listed landscape.
More than 87,000 people are buried there - including football legend William Prest, who co-founded Sheffield FC, and two rows of catacombs were built into the hillside as luxury resting places but are now collapsing.
Any restoration work would include collapsing catacombs, ensuring structures throughout are safe and enhancing habitats to attract more wildlife.
Coun Sioned-Mair Richards, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at the council, said: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for the city.
“The general cemetery is one of Sheffield’s hidden gems and now we can really put it on the map.”
Work to restore the park’s noncomformist chapel as an arts venue has taken place while other projects with its Friends’ group have also been progressed, but restoration on such a scale is expensive.
Coun Richards added: “Since we rescued the site i 1978 we’ve maintained it as best we can, with the considerable help of volunteers from the Friends of the General Cemetery and Sheffield General Cemetery Trust. But due to its unique structure, age and wear and tear this is becoming increasingly difficult.
“The site is just 10 minutes from the city centre, so as well as attracting people from the surrounding communities, we hope it will become a favourite for people who work in the city and visiting other attractions.
“The cemetery is already valued for its unique historic character, abundance of plants and wildlife, and it’s our duty to protect and enhance that. This investment means we can do that and look at realising the true potential that lies within this beautiful, historic cemetery for future generations.”