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Legacies - South Yorkshire

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Immigration and Emigration
Thomas Memmott and Emma Whitham
Thomas Memmott and Emma Whitham

© Courtesy of Hal Memmott
Mormon emigration from Sheffield

Industrial Sheffield

Concomitant with the industrial expansion experienced by Sheffield in the 19th Century was an increase in Sheffield's population. In the 1851 census, Sheffield's population was recorded at 135,000 and, according to historian Bruce Robinson, this would have been quadruple the population 50 years earlier.

emigrants arriving in America
America would provide an escape
© Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Consequently overcrowded and unsanitary conditions were commonplace as the city grew at too rapid a pace to be able to accommodate the sudden influx of people. In 1839, Dr. Holland of Sheffield described "scenes of wretchedness" in the city that so appalled him that he often insisted on them "going to the workhouse, simply for protection from cold and hunger".

A cholera epidemic of 1832, which was caused by raw sewage flowing down the streets and crowded conditions, infected 1,347 people and claimed 402 lives. A large graveyard, called the Cholera Garden, was created to cope with the number of corpses.

Such social misery and poor working conditions led to an increase in support for the Chartist movement. Strong support for this organisation, which campaigned for workers rights, was demonstrated by numerous protests between 1835 and 1849.

Mormon Temple
The Salt Lake Temple
© Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
This high level of support for a political movement which landed many of its campaigners, including George Harney, the organiser for Sheffield, in prison, goes some way to depicting how terrible the conditions for the poor and working class were.

Into this grim world appeared Mormon missionaries, offering people the chance to start a new life in America as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Given the abominable conditions present in many of Britain's industrial towns and cities, it is not difficult to understand why they focussed on these locations to gain converts. In Sheffield, the Church gained many converts, and became the location for one of its first meeting houses.

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Your comments

1 Margaret Allen from New Zealand - 12 November 2003
"Just got on the net through our provider's information page and as my first choice picked South Yorkshire. What a coincidence as our family joined the Mormon or Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints in Sheffield in 1976. We loved our membership in the church and would travel over 200 miles and many hours to visit the only temple then in London.In 1989 we were unhappy with the Thatcher regime and wanted to emigrate to New Zealand or Canada. We chose New Zealand and with our six children have been here ever since. We love being in Hamilton with a population of only 110,000 and the sixth largest city in New Zealand. The real bonus is living only 10 minutes from the only L.D.S.Temple in NZ a great blessing.On the street where I live there are 9 mormon families so we are stronger here than in the UK. We visited the Salt Lake Temple last year on our way back from visiting family in England and can really appreciate the sacrifices made by those early saints( or Mormons). Eng! land is a beautiful country but the nick name for NZ is God's Own, so as we have only a total population of about 4.2 million, if anyone wants an exciting adventure , be a pioneer and come to beautiful New Zealand.Our daughter has married an English man and they are living her with our first grandchild , so we are very blessed. It is such a small world and we need to appreciate we are all God's children and all need peace outside and in our hearts. "

2 W Harding from Surrey - 3 November 2003
"It's amazing that all through history, and even today, people don't turn to religion, and remember who their maker is, until things aren't going well for them. There are people who didn't give two figs about their creator until they found they needed a bit of comfort. Not that I'm saying they shouldn't get it - just that we should learn our lessons from history and bare in mind that God is always with us - and we should praise him at all times, not just turn to him when we feel the need too. It's a worrying state of affairs, especially today, that churches are emptying - but I've no doubt in my mind that in the next few years we're all going to need to lean on the staff of the Lord."

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