Following on from the highly successful three-year HLF Community Heritage project ‘Exploring Tinsley Manor’ with Heeley City Farm and Tinsley Junior School (now Tinsley Meadows), and the University of Sheffield History Department’s Unravelling Tinsley’s Court Rolls project, Wessex Archaeology Sheffield staff recently helped Heeley City Farm with an ongoing graveyard survey of St Lawrence Church in Tinsley, Sheffield. The survey is being carried out by Heeley City Farm Heritage with the help of student volunteers from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield as part of their Archaeology in the City programme.
The current church was built in 1879 on the site of an earlier (17th/18th century) church, which itself was thought to incorporate elements of a Norman chapel, the Chapel of St Leonard. In the 18th century, the renowned Sheffield antiquarian Joseph Hunter (1783–1861) described the Norman elements of the church in his South Yorkshire (a history of the Deanery of Doncaster). Michael Wood also discusses the church and chapel at length in the Tinsley Wood chapter of his 1999 book In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past. Sadly all traces of the Norman church were lost in the Victorian rebuilding.
The earliest known date for one of the graves is 1714, whilst a parish book has records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from 1711. The earliest graves are thought to lie around the current church and are predominantly aligned east to west, with a more formal north-east to south-west layout for burial plots beyond it.
The volunteers have been carrying out a condition survey of the graveyard, including transcribing inscriptions for the first time, and tying this in with the burial records, index cards, and information from a churchyard plan. The records of the known burials are being digitised to provide a single database which can be easily accessed by members of the church and public. The aim of our work was to help in producing an accurate plan of the graveyard, tied into the Ordnance Survey grid, and to assist with the digital recording and database. Over 400 graves and plots were recorded over three days, including the earliest graves around the church.
From 2017 Sheffield staff from Wessex Archaeology will be assisting Heeley Farm and Tinsley Meadows school with a new two-year HLF Community Heritage Project entitled ‘Tinsley: Time and Travel’.