The name “Graves” is well known to anyone familiar with the City of Sheffield. Graves Art Gallery, Graves Park, Graves Trust Homes and Graves Tennis Centre are some of the well known gifts to the City which bear the name of the donor. There are, however, many more which do not carry such an obvious indication of their connection with Mr Graves, for example Blacka Moor and Ecclesall Woods.
John George Graves was not a Sheffielder by birth but moved to the city aged 14 to commence his working life as an apprentice watchmaker. He started his own watch making business aged 20 and gradually expanded it, adding to the range of goods it sold. A major move forward occurred when he started to sell goods by mail order and this was soon a very successful and profitable activity which enabled him to amass a considerable fortune.
Mr. Graves became involved in the municipal affairs of his adopted city and performed the roles of City Councillor, Lord Mayor and Alderman. His life was always influenced by his Methodist upbringing and affection for his adopted city. He was greatly enthused by the public ownership of open spaces. Whatever his motivation, there can be little doubt that he was one of the Sheffield’s great benefactors.
He made his first gift in 1903 and made many others subsequently in a personal capacity before the formation, on 7 August 1930, of the Charitable Trust bearing his name which endures today.
The initial funding for the Trust was from shares in his business and this has been carefully nurtured by successive Trustees. The funds have been enhanced over the years by legacies
and gains from property transactions, one being truly a “windfall”.
The Trust was chaired and dominated by Mr Graves until his death in 1945. The work has been carried on by the Trustees since his death under the guidance of succeeding Chairmen.