Consistory court judgments – September

Relatively few consistory court judgments were published in September. These include: the substantial reordering of a Grade I church; the installation of mobile telephone antennae and dishes in the church tower; and the exhumation of a Chinese national and reinternment in a family grave. In addition, an amended version of Re St Michael and St Lawrence Fewston [2016] ECC Lee 7 was circulated. This included subsequent correspondence on the artefacts from the exhumations associated with the excavation for the Washburn Heritage Centre, and the Chancellor’s decision on which of these could be placed on public display. This round-up also summarizes the current position regarding the Bishops’ Visitations undertaken at Peterborough and Exeter Cathedrals, and lists the applications considered by the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England on 22 September.  

Consistory court judgments


Substantial reordering

Re Holy Trinity and St Oswald Finningley [2016] ECC She 2 The Chancellor granted a faculty for a major re-ordering, being satisfied that the benefits of the proposed works would outweigh any the harm to the significance of the Grade I listed church as a building of architectural or historic interest. The proposed works included a new kitchen and two new toilets (to replace the existing kitchen and single toilet); the replacement of the pews with chairs; and new screening for chair storage at the tower.  [top]

Re St Michael and All Angels Highworth [2016] ECC Bri 8 The petition proposed an extensive re-ordering of the Grade I listed church, including an extension to the north side of the church, to house WCs and a room for boilers; glazed doors for the porch; a new floor with underfloor heating; replacement of pews with chairs; re-siting of the rood screen and font; replacing the organ; new lighting; and creating a new kitchen with meeting room over it. The acting Deputy Chancellor approved the proposals, except for: outer glazed doors to the porch (whilst allowing inner glazed doors); the creation of a meeting room above the new kitchen; and the introduction of steel framed chairs with wooden seats and backs, (although he indicated that approval would be given for all-wood, stacking chairs). [top]


Re St Thomas and St James Worsbrough Dale [2016] ECC She 1 A faculty was granted authorizing a twenty-year licence to Net Coverage Solutions Ltd (NET) which permitted the installation and maintenance of mobile telephone antennae and dishes in the tower of the Grade II listed  church. All installation costs are to be met by NET, and the Parish is expected to” receive £6,000 per annum.

The inevitable discussions on the long-settled issues of health effects and transmission of “unlawful and immoral material” took place at a meeting of the PCC, where one member objected to the proposal. The Chancellor cited  Re St. Margaret Hawes [2003] 1 WLR 2568 (cited with approval in Re Emmanuel Bentley [2006] 1 Fam 39 (Court of Arches)), in relation to health issues and St Peter and St Paul Chingford  [2007] 1 Fam 67 in relation to the possible transmission of unlawful and immoral material. Faculty granted. [top]


Family grave

Re Sam Tai Chan [2016] ECC Dur 2 A faculty was granted for the exhumation of the cremated remains of a Chinese national, and their re-interment in another cemetery, in an area reserved for members of the Chinese community. Explaining these special circumstances, the Chancellor said: “If my decision were otherwise, the Chinese Christian Church might well feel deeply aggrieved that exhumations may be allowed for non-Chinese Christians for burial in family surroundings (albeit in one grave) while for cultural reasons that possibility is denied to their own community.”

Reviews of the court’s detailed discussion of the decisions of the appellate courts and the rule of precedent are published here and here.  [top]

Exhumed artefacts

Re St Michael and St Lawrence Fewston [2016] ECC Lee 7 [Amended version] Paragraph 23 of the substantive judgment, dated 17 August 2016, included the conditions [emphasis added]:

(3) That the petitioners lodge with the registry a list of all artefacts removed from the burial ground which it is proposed will form part of a permanent exhibit at the Washburn Heritage Centre; and

(4) Save for those items on the list as may be approved by the chancellor for inclusion in the exhibit, all artefacts and other items removed from the burial site be returned to the churchyard and buried in the mass grave along with the remains of the unidentified individuals;

An addendum to the judgment, dated 5 September 2016, lists these artefacts as submitted to the registry on behalf of the petitioners [paragraph 1 of the addendum]. The petitioners noted that displays of similar excavated items were on public display a number of English cathedrals. However, they were unable to direct the Chancellor to any legal precedent for such displays and it was unclear whether these items resulted from exhumations from consecrated ground, with or without authority of a faculty.

“Not without considerable reservations”, the Chancellor indicated that he was prepared to consent to coffin plates, windows and handles being put on display as well as the silver coin, pottery fragments and animal bone. However, he regarded the buckle, button, shroud pins and bead to be personal to the deceased. These were consigned to ‘God’s acre’ in perpetuity along with the corpse of the deceased, and but for the excavation that is where they would have remained. He stated that they should be seemly reinterred with the human remains at the earliest opportunity in a seemly and dignified manner.

Although there was not explicit direction relating to “Skeleton 088”, believed to have been a sailor in the Napoleonic Wars, it is evident from paragraph 23(4) of the judgment that this too was required to be reinterred. [Link to initial post] [top]


Peterborough Cathedral

On 22 July 2016, the Bishop of Peterborough announced his intention to institute a formal Bishop’s Visitation of the Cathedral “to solve current problems and prevent future ones”. The announcement indicates that “the Cathedral is going through a cash flow crisis. It is taking too long to pay some bills, and paying the staff at the end of the month has been a close thing twice recently”. The Visitation empowers the bishop to bring in outside experts to report and advise, and suitable people were approached for the task of investigating and reporting on the financial management and the overall governance of the Cathedral. Furthermore, it gives the bishop the power to issue specific directions to the Cathedral Chapter and staff, which they are required to follow. [top]

Exeter Cathedral

In September the Bishop of Exeter published his  Charge following the Cathedral Visitation which was undertaken at the request of the Chapter and initiated by letter dated 17 November 2015. The main areas explored were finance, health and safety, safeguarding, management, governance and leadership. Given the complexity of the organisation, the dispersed nature of the Cathedral community and the scope of the task, Bishop appointed three Episcopal Visitors to undertake the Visitation on his behalf: The Rt Hon the Baroness Butler-Sloss, Dame Rosemary Spencer and Mr Keith Robinson. Their findings are reported in the Charge [top]

Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England

The Commission met on 22 September 2016 to consider the following. Links to the determinations will be included in the next round-up:

Copies of judgments

As explained in our index of 2018 judgments, copies of the above judgments are now available via the web site of the Ecclesiastical Law Association.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Consistory court judgments – September" in Law & Religion UK, 30 September 2016,

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