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Carver Street Methodist Chapel

For the non-believers, the Methodist movement is a group of denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their practice and belief from the life and teachings of John Wesley (1703-1791), a minister who sought to challenge religious assumptions of the day.

The movement was particularly strong in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a significant number of Methodist chapels built across Britain.

This being the case, I’m not sure what the old Methodists would think about the present use for this building, known to most of us as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar, since the turn of the century.

This was originally the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, or Carver Street Methodist Chapel, built in 1804 by Methodist minister-turned-architect, Rev. William Jenkins (1763-1844). It was the first chapel designed wholly by him, the five-bay façade derived from Wesley’s Chapel at City Road, in London.

Afterwards, Jenkins designed about thirteen similar chapels, of which only five (including this) survive.

When it was built, the chapel was was surrounded by cornfields, known as Cadman’s Fields. Built in brick, with stone dressings, its spacious interior had a wooden single-span roof, impressively wide for its date, with a round-ended continuous gallery.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel opened in 1805 with capacity for 1,100 followers, the biggest of its kind built in Sheffield.

When the chapel was built it was surrounded by cornfields, known as Cadman’s Fields

Few non-conformist chapels in the city had their own burial grounds, but the Carver Street Chapel was an exception. About 1,600 burials took place here between 1805-1855, the gravestones sited in a small front graveyard and on both sides of the building.

By the end of the twentieth century the chapel had closed and was empty for several years.

And now to the shocking part, one that some people will find astonishing.

Some of the graves extended across modern West Street, as well as Rockingham Lane behind.

In 1993, in advance of the Sheffield Supertram project, bodies were exhumed from beneath West Street, long-hidden beneath the road surface.

And if matters couldn’t be worse, the opening of Walkabout inside the Grade II-listed chapel meant that a new beer cellar had to be built outside. This meant that a further 101 individuals were excavated from the old graveyard to allow its construction.

Finally, most modern-day revellers, taking advantage of the external beer garden, will be alarmed to find they are standing on top of old graves.

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