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Thurnscoe Baby Memorial

Pupils unveil Thurnscoe Baby Memorial

The Dearne Memorial Group was formed in December 2002 with the aims of improving the appearance of Thurnscoe cemetery and safeguarding its historic value for the community.

At an early meeting Ken Eastwood, the Council’s Bereavement Services Manager and Chair of the Group, suggested that as its first project the group could consider raising funds for a memorial to mark the Children’s Public Graves in Thurnscoe cemetery. With assistance from Paul Beardsley, Cemetery and Crematorium Supervisor, the group learned that there were over 500 babies and some adults buried in unmarked graves on this site.

The Group quickly began fund raising, with much help from the local community. The aim was to commission a memorial to all of the babies buried in the area and a local mason, SR Wesson of Goldthorpe, was approached. Steve Wesson designed the monument and subsequently Brian Butterfield and staff from Swinton completed the work.


Background to Public Graves

In the past society dealt differently with bereavement and loss. High child mortality was a dominant feature and can be attributed to the conditions in which children were born. In the 1900’s there were no toilets but instead ashpits called “Middens” were in common use. Unfortunately, the sewage from Hickleton seeped down into Thurnscoe Dyke and into the drinking water. Typhoid, Diptheria, Whooping Cough, Influenza and other contagious diseases took their toll on the children of Thurnscoe and surrounding villages.

Many of the children buried were stillborn due to congenital abnormalities or problems in childbirth. Tragically, there are several mothers and babies buried together in Thurnscoe Cemetery when both were lost due to medical complications and a lack of facilities.

five hundred babies buried in the ground / each one was lost and now is found / five hundred babies, each one once loved / are now looking down and smiling from above -- Goosacre Primary School

Many parents who lost children were told, “Go home, we will take care of things.” They were never told where their baby was buried.

People were poor and many children were buried in graves along with a recent adult death, with the families’ permission. If this hadn’t been done the numbers would have been even greater in the Children’s Public Graves.

War Graves


Remembering The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month


On my travels obtaining information on servicemen and women from Thurnscoe I have come across many sad and horific tales, from men captured and put into POW camps, men whose personality changed so much that they were hated by their families to the merciless slaughter of helpless mariners floating in the open ocean.

I wish I had started this task many years ago.

Had I done so I would have had many more tales to record. Many of Thurnscoe’s Heroes have gone but I will ensure they are not forgotten.

In the cemetery you will find information boards on the graves that I have found, though there are many more that I have not yet come across. I was fortunate to discover the family of Private Samuel Blackwell who was killed in action on Saturday 10th February 1917. He lived at 62 Church Street—I was born at 66 Church Street. I spoke to his granddaughter, Mavis Brady, and she gave me a picture and a poem she wrote, which is as follows:

I sit and look at a photograph
Of a man I never knew
I tell him of the heartache as
I know what he went through
I think he would be just an ordinary man
Who daily worked down the mine
The toll was hard, the wages small
To feed and clothe his family of nine
The war was declared, all the world was involved
And this man in this picture, to fight was called
What did he expect, was he afraid this time?
As he stood in the queue, waiting to sign
With thousands of others, his son by his side
But he went anyway, hoping God would guide
He never returned from that, then, faraway land
Never to hold a loved one’s hand
Tears did fall, and tears still fall
As I look at this picture, so tattered and torn
But he wasn’t ordinary, as I’m proud to say
He was special and brave, to the very last day
And this man in this picture, is smiling, not sad
And this man in this picture, is MY GRANDAD

Soldier of the Month Pte Jack Smith 1/KOYLI


This is 23735964 Private Jack Smith 1st Battalion The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry aged 19 years.

Jack along with Pte Albert Reynolds and Lt Beaumont were on a Night Canoeing exercise crossing LAKE NISSER, whilst at the Outward Bound Training Centre at ISSEFJAER , NORWAY. On the night of the 11th May 1961 they set off to cross the Lake, a sudden Squall arose and capsized their canoes. They were found floating in the lake the following morning and were pronounced dead on the 12th May 1961. Jack and Lt Beaumont were brought back to England, Albert Reynolds is buried in the Hanover Military Cemetery, Germany. The family of Jack Smith and Lt Beaumont wavered the right to have a headstone for their sons in favour of repatriation. The Veterans of the 1/KOYLI and Jack’s family have raised £450 to have a headstone for Jack who is buried in Thurnscoe Cemetery, We hope to have the Light Infantry Buglers and the Banners of the KOYLI Branches at the cemetery when the inauguration of the headstone takes place.

Jack was buried on his 20th Birthday on 23rd May 1961.

Renovation & Headstone Cleaning

Click on any of the photos on this page for larger versions


Michelle and Craig

Since the Group started in 2002 over 50 headstones and graves have been cleaned as well as 13 war graves.

The group’s headstone cleaners are Michelle Shields and Craig Heaton, both 16 year old members of the group.

Michelle saw the state of a statue of the Virgin Mary (pictured right) and was so concerned that she spent two days cleaning it, as you can see by the results that she did an excellent job. There are many examples of the work done by Michelle and Craig – the one shown of Margaret Rose Leng shows what can be done with a bit of hard work. They have received nothing but praise for their work, and are well sought after.

Margaret Leng’s grave before

And after

Madonna statue before

And after

We had a visit from a lady from Canada who wanted her grandmother’s grave cleaned, by the next day it was done, she donated £50 to the Group’s funds.

The money raised by headstone cleaning enables the Group to buy equipment to be used in the cemetery, such as chippings, plants, tools, cleaning equipment, blocks to put vases on and other bits and pieces which are given to visitors of the Cemetery.

If you or someone you know requires a family headstone or grave renovating please contact Peter Shields at [email protected].