Building » Sheffield (Rivelin) – St Michael’s Cemetery Chapel

Sheffield (Rivelin) – St Michael’s Cemetery Chapel

Rivelin Valley Road, Rivelin, Sheffield, S6

A cemetery chapel of 1877-8 by the notable Catholic architect Charles Hadfield, largely paid for a local donor, with notable furnishings by Boulton, Westlake and J. F. Bentley.  The cemetery was the first dedicated Catholic cemetery in Sheffield and opened in 1862. Located on a sloping hillside in Rivelin Glen, the cemetery retains many monuments and mature planting and is of considerable evidential, historical, aesthetic and communal value. 

Before the building of the church of St Marie in 1846-50, a house belonging to the Duke of Norfolk stood in Norfolk Row. The early eighteenth century house was home to Henry Howard (the Duke’s agent), and was better known as the Lord’s House. By the 1800s a modest-sized chapel had been built in the garden, with a burial ground. This was closed in 1847 and although the General Cemetery opened in 1836, there was no Catholic cemetery in Sheffield. For Catholics who wished to be interred in consecrated ground, the nearest burial ground was at St Bede’s, Rotherham.

In 1862, an eight-acre site on a sloping hillside in the Rivelin Valley was purchased for £600 from the Wilson family. It was enclosed and following the obtaining of government approval for use as a burial ground, the cemetery was opened on the feast of St Michael, 29 September 1862. The Bishop of Beverley, Robert Cornthwaite laid and consecrated the cornerstone of a temporary chapel which was blessed on 26 October 1863. The cost of the work to the cemetery and construction of the temporary chapel was £1,400.

Following a donation of £2,000 from George Harvey Foster, a local businessman, a permanent chapel could be planned and Charles Hadfield of M. E. Hadfield & Son was appointed to draw up the designs. The builder was M. J. Dowling.

The chapel was opened and blessed by Robert Cornthwaite, Bishop of Leeds on 10 May 1878. The report in The Tablet described the building in some detail.

“On Thursday morning, 10th inst., the new church at the Catholic Cemetery, in Rivelin Valley, was opened by the Bishop of Beverley. The church is dedicated to St. Michael, and the cost has been entirely defrayed by a generous benefactor of the Vincentian Fathers. It is in the early English style of architecture, and built of hammer-dressed Greenmoor wallstone, with Worrall stone dressings. It is 22 feet wide and 72 feet long internally, and has an open roof, covered with Staffordshire tiles. At the western end a massive bell turret, in which hangs a fine-toned bell by Mears, of London, rises to a height of 60 feet, and in the gable of the south porch is a niche, with a figure of St. Michael slaying the dragon. The bell weighs 7 cwt., and is inscribed, “Adjuvet nos Sanctus Michael diebus ac noctibus ut nos ponat in bonorum sanctorum consortibus.” The chancel floor is laid with encaustic tiles, and there is an altar of polished marble and veined alabaster, with an exquisitely sculptured figure of “The Dead Christ” underneath in white alabaster, by Boulton, of Cheltenham. On a boarder above in gilded letters, is the legend, “Christus passus et sepultus est,” and the three windows above the altar are filled with beautiful glass, by Westlake, of London. In the centre is the figure of our Saviour in majesty, and below the legend, “Surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia,” and at each side are figures of Our Lady and St. John. The colouring is refined and delicate, and the more effective from the white ground on which the figures are placed. There are choir-stalls of oak, and in the side walls of the nave are inserted terra-cotta groups of the Stations of the Cross in arcaded stone panels […] The whole of the works have been carried out from the drawings of the architects, Messrs. Hadfield and Son.”

In 1884, the Fosters gave additional funds (£430), which went towards a west window to the memory of the Rev. James Fitzgerald, a Sienese hanging rood and wall paintings, to designs of Charles Hadfield and Nathaniel Westlake.

In more recent decades the chapel fell into disrepair, but in 2005 a major programme of repairs took place, grant aided by English Heritage. The cemetery remains in use, but burials are mainly in existing family plots rather than new graves. The chapel is served from St Vincent’s, and Mass is said on the first Monday of every month.


The list entry (below) provides a detailed account of the building and its furnishings, and repetition is unnecessary. There are some typographical errors with names, which have been corrected below. Further details of the chapel are contained in the contemporary account in The Tablet (above). Recently the west entrance has been closed and the porch area adapted to provide an accessible WC. The principal entrance is now through the south porch.

List descriptions

Cemetery chapel


Roman Catholic cemetery chapel. 1877-78. By Charles Hadfield. Paid for by GH Foster, whose monument (qv) is outside the west door. Coursed squared stone (Greenmoor) with ashlar dressings (Worrall) and plain tile roof. Gothic Revival style. PLAN: nave with apsidal east end, south-west porch and north-west vestry. EXTERIOR: chamfered plinth, sill band, quoins, coped gables to nave and porch. 5 bay nave has 4 single lancets on each side and 3 in the apse. West gable has a moulded and gabled door and above it, a 2-light pointed arch window with trefoil tracery, set between prominent buttresses which support the chamfered, gabled single bellcote. Porch has a pointed doorway with hoodmould and above it, a niche with a figure of St Michael. Vestry has a 2-light pointed arch window in its gable and a side wall stack with double round shafts. INTERIOR: has wagon roof with moulded wall plate. Chamfered doorways. East end has polished marble sanctuary wall and altar with alabaster figure of the dead Christ below the mensa by Hadfield, sculpted by RL Boulton of Cheltenham. East end glazing, 1878, designed by JF Bentley, executed by Lavers, Barraud & Westlake. Rood, west window and chancel paintings and decorations by NHJ Westlake, 1884. Stations of the Cross by Hadfield and Boulton. GH Foster also donated the fittings. Listing NGR: SK3224488421 

Foster monument


Monument and vault with wall and railing. 1894. Sandstone ashlar, Portland stone and pink granite. To GH Foster and family, donor of the cemetery chapel (qv). Stepped square pedestal carrying an inscribed square block with an ornate gabled canopy and double corner shafts topped with pinnacles. The monument is topped with a square crocketed spire. Vault has blocked doorway reached by a stairway lined with glazed brick. Around the monument, a wrought-iron railing and gate, with chamfered stone plinth and traceried square piers. Listing NGR: SK3223488428

Walsh monument


Monument and railing surmounting family vault. c1890. For the Walsh family. Ashlar and marble, with granite dressings. Square rusticated vault with chamfered coping carrying a cast-iron crest and railing with posts linked by chains. Steps to blocked entrance lined with glazed bricks. Paved flat top. In the centre, on a square base, a square marble pedestal with round-arched inscribed panel on each side, under a pedimented canopy carried on 4 granite Doric columns. Atop the canopy, a standing figure approx 1.5m high.

Heritage Details

Architect: M.E. Hadfield & Son

Original Date: 1878

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II