Consistory court judgments – October

Overview

October’s judgments include a number of aspects of reordering, the creation of a family grave, and adherence to Churchyard Regulations. The case of Re Holy Trinity Cambridge concerns a substantial reordering project costing an estimated at £3.48M. Two different approaches have been adopted to the vexed question of the replacement of pews with upholstered chairs (and carpeting), and in Re St. Andrew Witchford HH Judge Leonard QC left the Diocese of Ely in no doubt by as to the responsibilities of incumbents, stonemasons and funeral directors in relation to ensuring that headstones conform to Churchyard Regulations. A similar strong message was delivered by the Worshipful Mark Hill, QC in Re St. George Donnington in relation to the preparation of material &c relating to a faculty application.

In Re St. Laurence Alvechurch, Deputy Chancellor Robert Fookes included a useful taxonomy of decisions relating to family graves; and in Re St. Mary Mappleton the medium-term use of Ubiflex roof covering following a number of thefts is considered. The earlier post Masonic symbol banned on headstone examined the issues raised in Re St. Oswald Dean.

The last meeting of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) was on 22 September 2016 and links to its determinations are here; the next meeting will be on 3 November 2016.


Consistory court judgments

Reordering

Major reordering

Re Holy Trinity Cambridge [2016] ECC Ely 1. This is an important demonstration of the approach taken by the consistory courts to the major reordering of a Grade II* listed church; Holy Trinity, Cambridge has 13th, 14th and 15th century origins but was much altered both in Georgian and Victorian times. More recently: the Chancel has been stripped of its stalls and pulpit steps; the organ and its casing have been removed and sold to a church in Germany; in the 2015 judgment, the Chancellor directed that any further for the re-ordering of the church must cover the full extent of the proposed works.

The rationale for this proposed major reordering was because ” …It is a church with a congregation bursting at the seams and which has, since 2010, been working to provide a scheme which will increase its seating capacity, provide appropriate facilities for what it sees as its mission and will create a welcoming atmosphere” [1].

Details of the “Transform Project” are on the churches web site, here. Following a site visit in relation to the instant case, the Chancellor commented:

5. … It is unarguable that the present state of the Church is a mess, in particular the Chancel which is dominated by a drum kit between the altar and the congregation with no room to store it in that area, and such furniture which remains in the chancel is scattered and without order. Tarpaulin covers the space left by the organ as they await permission to begin the internal reordering.

That is no criticism of the clergy, staff and congregation but the inevitable result of trying to make the best use of the existing building during five years of stagnation as the plans have been made and amended, and as they wait for a resolution of the matter.

The Chancellor did not set out the plans in extenso because many parts of the scheme are uncontroversial, noting “[s]ome of the more controversial plans, such as removing all the stained glass and doing away with the altar entirely have been abandoned. I am glad that they have”. The controversial items are listed in paragraph 13 (a) to (j) and included: replacement of the vestry with a four storey extension to the church; providing meeting rooms and offices; the removal of the pews and replacement with Howe 40/4 chairs; carpeting of the entire floor; and the creation of a kitchen. Unsurprisingly, the amenity societies objected to a number of aspects of the proposals, [14 to 22].

These were considered in relation to the guidance in Re St. Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158 as interpreted by the Arches Court guidance in Re St. John the Baptist Penshurst [2015] Court of Arches (Rochester). Noting the radical nature of the project, the Chancellor stated:

24. In my judgment, where I am faced with a wholesale reordering and restructuring of the church the need to have in mind the effect on the listed building overall rather than the effects of alteration, removal or disposal of a particular article is paramount. That said, where the work, as it is here, is to various delineable areas of the church, I ought, in addition, to have regard to the effect that the alterations proposed in any one area will have to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

The Chancellor did not permit the installation of carpet, except on the reduced raised floor of the chancel where there is already carpet and which will absorb some of the noise created by the instruments used to accompany worship. He stated:

36. I understand that the floors throughout are to be paved in stone. It is then the intention of the Petitioner to cover all the floors with carpeting, an example of which I have seen. The justification for that is to ensure that the church has a comfortable, welcoming and homely appearance and to avoid injury to the young and the infirm who may fall onto the stone floor. I have grave reservations about this plan. In my judgment it will alter the whole feel of the building turning it from a church into a domestic building. There is no evidence generally that stone floors in churches are a hazard causing injury to the users of the building.

He concluded:

42. It follows that I have been able to grant most of the alterations and additions which the Petitioner has requested. Where I have not, the Petitioner must bear in mind that they are custodians for future generations of a Grade II* listed building of substantial architectural merit. Some constraints are therefore placed on what is permissible to allow in respect of alterations to the historic fabric whilst allowing the Petitioner to fulfil their mission, an evangelical mission which has been evolving in this building for over 200 years.

43. The church has a history of constant change with schemes only surviving a very short time in the context of a building which has been on this site for more than 700 years. I hope that these radical alterations will not need to be revisited for many years to come.

Footnote

With regard to the (abandoned) proposal to completely remove the altar, Canon F 2 Of the holy table requires that “in every church and chapel a convenient and decent table, of wood, stone, or other suitable material, shall be provided for the celebration of the Holy Communion, and shall stand in the main body of the church or in the chancel where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said. Any dispute as to the position where the table shall stand shall be determined by the Ordinary. In Re: St Stephen’s (1987) 3 WLR 726, (1987) 2 ALL E.R. 578, summarized here, the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved examined the scope for Canon F2 with reference to the well-known Henry Moore altar. Further consideration on the requirement regarding an altar was given in Re St. Michael Cumnor below, at paragraphs 12 to 14.

Requirements for a pulpit, the removal of which was permitted by the court, are included in Canon F 6 Of the reading desks and pulpit and allow a degree of discretion: “In every church and chapel there shall be provided convenient desks for the reading of Prayers and God’s word, and, unless it be not required, a decent pulpit for the sermon, to be set in a convenient place; which place, in the case of any dispute, shall be determined by the Ordinary.

[Link to post] [top]

Re Christ Church Summerfield [2016] ECC Bir 2 The petition proposed an extensive reordering of the Grade II late Victorian church, although in comparison to those in Re Holy Trinity Cambridge above, these were relatively modest. The Chancellor noted:

4. The Petition…remains largely unaltered although I should pay considerable tribute to the flexibility shown not just by the Parish in being prepared to listen to objections from the heritage bodies, in particular Historic England and the Victorian Society but also in the sensitive and flexible approach shown by those heritage bodies in recognising that not only does Christ Church represent a building of significant architectural interest but it also has the potential to represent a focal point in the mission of the church in Summerfield.

5. The principal objections related to the re-ordering of the Chancel. Initially the Chancel furniture was to be removed in its entirety but after discussions that the Registrar and I had with the Parish an amended proposal was submitted which involved the retention of the pews in the Chancel albeit in a truncated form.

The petitioners sought changes which would “provide a more flexible space, improved facilities, proper disabled access, proper facilities for families and children, modern heating, modern lighting and a more attractive physical environment to develop the Parish’s mission.”

11. They wish to open up the Chancel to facilitate a diversity of use including ways that will serve the use of the Nave, e.g. a choir or musical group performing from the new platform area to the Nave area or a large piece of worship related art such as a cross. The Chancel will be for the most part a space for the church’s musicians, for the communion table and for smaller gatherings for prayer and worship.

A faculty was granted for the proposed works with the exception of the proposal to cover all the Victorian tiles in the nave with a wooden floor. The Chancellor stated that he would deal with the issue of the floor by way of an addendum to the judgment, after the parish had had a further opportunity to discuss the matter with the Victorian Society, who had objected to all the tiles being covered. [top]

Reordering, extensions & other building works

Re St. Mary Magdalene Ashton upon Mersey [2016] ECC Chr 1 A faculty was sought in relation to a number of items of reordering for the Grade II Victorian church, at an estimated cost of £320,000 for which funding was available or identified. The two contested items were the carpeting of the church and the choice of chair to replace the pews [2]. The petitioners brought forward “a certain amount of anecdotal information [of limited real assistance to the Chancellor] as to the positive and negative experience elsewhere – much of it highly subjective with various upholstered and non-upholstered chair [of which the Chancellor was familiar or had photographs]” [52].

The proposals were assessed following the guidance in Re St. Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158 as interpreted by the Arches Court guidance in Re St. John the Baptist Penshurst [2015] Court of Arches (Rochester). The Chancellor noted the fact and context specific decisions in Re Holy Trinity Long Itchington [2016] ECC Cov 7 and Re St Matthew Salford Priors [2016] ECC Cov 4. In the instant case, however, he was not persuaded that carpet in this Grade II building would cause the damaging “domestication” of the interior, or other significant harm, the objectors fear:

72. …”the proposed design will, to a degree, mitigate that. The vast majority of the church’s significant and attractive Victorian features will remain unaffected as indeed that have done in other listed churches in the diocese where carpeting has been approved and found to be largely acceptable, even successful”.

However, the choice of chair was more problematic [73-81], and the Chancellor determined that, on balance, the benefits of the proposed furnishings would outweigh any harm to the church. Faculty granted. [top]

Re St. Michael Cumnor [2016] ECC Oxf 4 A faculty was granted for re-ordering the Grade I listed building, the fabric of which is almost entirely mediaeval with various phases of work to the current structure beginning in the 12th century and ending in the 15th century; the fittings are largely early Georgian but the two decker pulpit and the chancel screen are Jacobean. Other than the porch, there were no material alterations to the church in the Victorian period; whilst font was introduced in the 19th century but it is unaffected by the proposals.

Interest in this case relates to the two different aspects which were subject to objections. A resident parishioner on the elector role and member of the St Michael’s Improvement Group – a group set up by the PCC – which has been actively involved in the development of the proposals which she supports with except to those relating to proposals for St Thomas’s chapel which occupies the large south transept. One aspect of this objection is proposed repositioning of the altar in the chapel towards the south wall, which would result in the people having their backs to the altar when the transept was being used for additional seating for the congregation for services taking place in the main body of the church. The Chancellor made the following comments, which are additionally of more general applicability:

“12. Although it is an ancient tradition of the Church for altars to be oriented – that is facing towards the east – and for the Holy Communion to be celebrated facing in that direction, there is no rule of law to that effect. Canon F 2 (Of the holy table) is concerned with the main altar rather than the altar of a chapel. Nevertheless its provisions are instructive: the holy table may stand in the main body of the church or in the chancel. Any dispute as to its position is to be determined by the Ordinary (i.e. the Chancellor). The rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer at the beginning of the Order for Holy Communion are to the same effect. There is no canonical or rubrical requirement that the Holy Communion be celebrated facing towards the east. (The rubric in the Prayer Book has the priest standing ‘at the North side of the Table’).

13. It would, therefore, be lawful for the altar to be positioned where proposed, towards the south wall of the transept with its long sides facing north-south. The altar would, in that position, continue to be associated – albeit less closely – with the stained glass window in the east wall of the transept. There is no reason why people should not be seated with their backs to that altar while it is not being used for the celebration of Holy Communion (which it would, presumably, not be while a service was taking place in the body of the church).

14. I accept that the proposed position of the altar would slightly obscure the recessed tombs in the south wall of the transept. But they would nevertheless remain both visible and accessible.”

The other major objection raised by the Victorian Society concerned the extension and alteration of the porch (added 1857-8) to provide a disabled access toilet. The Chancellor commented:

“28. … I consider that the architectural and historic significance of the church essentially lies in its being a fine and well-preserved example of a mid- to late-mediaeval church fabric with numerous fine mediaeval decorative features, and in its historic association with Abingdon Abbey and later with Cumnor Place and Robert Dudley. Its fine fittings also contribute significantly to its architectural and historic character.

29. Turning to the Victorian porch, the points advanced by the Victorian Society are almost entirely subjective. The statement that it is “a handsome addition to the main façade” which “elegantly marks out the entrance to the building” is really no more than an assertion, and one that is readily contestable. There is no evidence that the porch is the work of a Victorian architect of any note; nor is there anything else about its provenance which contributes to the church’s historic significance. And it is not suggested that the porch is of particular interest from an architectural point of view: it is not said, for example to be unusual, of special quality, or to carry significance in relation to the development of the architecture of the church or of architecture generally. (This is in contrast to the earlier features of this church, some of which are of specially fine quality and/or of relative rarity and which together produce an exceptionally fine ensemble.)

30. In seeking to arrive at an objective assessment of the porch’s contribution to the significance of the building I find myself in agreement with the view expressed by Mr Richard Peats of Historic England. In his letter of 27 May he says, “Given the porch, while handsome enough, is of limited significance in its own right we are content with the principle of its replacement … and with the design proposed.”

[…]

32. I accept that the Victorian Society has particular expertise which it can helpfully bring to bear in assessing the impact of proposals on listed buildings which are Victorian or which have significant Victorian features. But in the present case I do not find the views expressed by the Society carry much weight. The preponderance of opinion from the bodies which are charged with the preservation of built heritage is contrary to that of the Society. While a preponderance of opinion can be wrong, there is nothing in the Society’s representations in this particular case – which as I have said, I find amount only to a subjective view of the value of the porch – to call that preponderance of opinion into question”.

[top]

Re St. Mary Mappleton [2016] ECC Der 2 The church had a history of four lead thefts, and in 2011 the Derbyshire Dales District Council had given planning permission for the roof to be recovered with stainless steel, but with lead flashings. These lead flashings has subsequently been stolen, and as a temporary expedient (i.e. to make the church watertight), the PCC wished to replace them with Ubiflex, a material made up of reinforced aluminium mesh and a mixture of non-metallic materials. This later replacement of the stolen flashings is a smaller and more discreet component of the overall roof covering, and the Authority would not require further planning approval to be sought, and would defer to the views of Historic England and the DAC as to its acceptability.

The petitioners, DAC and particularly Historic England were agreed that Ubiflex was not the best solution to the present pressing problems at St Mary’s. The Chancellor agreed that there is no justification in replacing the stolen lead with lead, even if that were affordable; he also accepted the DAC view, confirming the petitioner’s contention, that security measures could not provide a useful way ahead to prevent or at least effectively diminish, the risk of further theft. He therefore agreed to the use of Ubiflex, but required the PCC within 4 years to submit to the Registry a report on fund-raising to provide for a much longer lasting solution. [Link to post on replacement of lead following theft] [top]

Re St. Michael Grimsargh [2016] ECC Bla 1 The petitioners sought to introduce into the church a new single lancet stained glass window, replacing an existing plain glass window, in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the church and in memory of their son. The Deputy Chancellor was satisfied that the proposals, if implemented, would not result in any harm to the significance of the Grade II church as a building of special architectural or historic interest, and accordingly granted a Faculty. [top]

Re St. George Donnington [2016] ECC Chi 7

In comparison to other reordering projects, the proposal itself was relatively modest; however, it had been in development since at least 2012 and the Chancellor did not find it easy navigating the voluminous material placed before him in no particular order spanning the intervening years [2] and “[s]omewhat unhelpfully, there is no Statement of Significance as such [3]”. He further noted [20] “…Notwithstanding the best attempts of the petitioners and inspecting architect to camouflage, conceal and confuse the situation, I have succeeded in finding amongst the jumble of papers a compelling need for the proposal to provide a modest extension with toilet facilities…”

In granting a faculty authorising the erection of an extension to the church to provide toilets and storage space, Chancellor Hill made a number of comments, which are reproduced in full below, for future reference by clergy, PCCs and others involved in the faculty jurisdiction:

25. This is an instance where a faculty will be granted in spite of, rather than because of, the presentation of the case by the petitioners and inspecting architect. I will not be this favourably disposed in the future and I wish to make a number of things clear:

(i) Consultation The fact that planning permission has been granted notwithstanding objections from amenity societies does not mean that a faculty will automatically follow. Rule 9.3 of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 provides that the consistory court is required to give special notice unless the consultee,

has previously been consulted on the works in question and has indicated that it has no objection or no comment to make. (emphasis in original).

It follows: (a) that consultation must be on actual works proposed in the petition not some earlier iteration; (b) mere consultation is not enough – the consultee must have indicated to chancellor’s satisfaction (whether expressly or by implication) that it has no objection or no comment to make; and (c) any intervening grant of planning permission does not invalidate.

(ii) Statements of significance and statements of need These are obligatory requirements, not optional extras.

(iii) Burden of Proof The burden of proof lies on the petitioners. The grant of planning permission does not constitute a pre-determination of the pending petition for a faculty. Petitioners have a tendency to invest time and energy in engaging with the DAC, whose function is merely advisory, and then dump a sheaf of disordered and incomplete papers on the registry in the hope that the DAC’s Notification of Advice be rubber stamped, and expecting the chancellor to absorb a six year unexplained history by some form of juridical osmosis. It is the chancellor’s decision which will prove determinative and time should be taken in presenting the petitioners’ case in ordered and orderly form. Fortunately not every case is as bad as this – and many are immaculately presented – but the sooner this misapprehension is comprehensively disabused the better.” [top]

Removal and replacement of pews &c

Re Holy Trinity Stockton on the Forest [2016] ECC Yor 2 There were various re-ordering proposals for the unlisted church. The main objections were to the removal of 10 pews and their replacement with folding chairs, and also to safety aspects of the proposed kitchen facilities. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had made out their case and directed the issue of a faculty. [top]

Re St. Gregory and St. Martin Wye [2016] proposals for the Grade I listed church included the removal fixed pews from the nave and north aisle, taking out the raised timber pew platforms and replace them with a level, under-heated floor and movable pews. In addition, the choir stalls are to be removed and replaced with new, more easily movable ones. The project was supported by the DAC and no objections were raised by the amenity societies and on this basis the petitioners had commissioned work which was to commence on a specific date. The Commissary General noted:

1.5 Notwithstanding the support of the DAC for the proposal and the absence of objection from any of the amenity societies, the Petitioners should not have assumed that a Faculty would be granted. The DAC’s Notification of Advice states as much in bold type and this procedural part of the advice must be noted by parishes as well as any positive substantive advice.

The Commissary General granted a faculty, but noted that the project cost is estimated at nearly quarter of a million pounds and at the date of lodging the Petition, some £43,000 remained to be raised. She therefore imposed a precondition requiring the Petitioners to send to the Registry, before work commences, a demonstration that they have enough money available to cover the initial phases of work and proposals and likely timescale for raising the rest of the money; the choice of the Luke Hughes benches was regarded by the amenity bodies as important and that aspect of the proposal played an essential part in her assessment to the effect that the overall effect of the scheme. The Commissary General therefore imposes a condition to the effect that the pews and stalls are to be replaced with Luke Hughes benches and no other form of seating, and expressed her willingness to examine the financial information as a matter of urgency.

The proposals for the Grade I listed church included the removal of the fixed pews in the nave, north aisle and choir, and their replacement with new moveable pew benches; also, the installation of underfloor heating. The Commissary General granted a faculty, but expressed concern that a contract had been signed with the contractor before the petition had been referred to her. [top]

Exhumation

Family grave

Re St. Laurence Alvechurch [2016] ECC Wor 3 The petitioners wished to have their father’s ashes (interred in 2004) exhumed and reinterred in the grave of their mother, whose body was buried in 2015. Considering the guidelines in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, “helpfully summarised in Re Mandy Ramshaw [2016] ECC Oxf 14 by McGregor Ch”, the Deputy Chancellor reviewed judgments relating to family graves which he had summarized in Re St. Mark, Fairfield, Worcester 2012. These were grouped in five categories: (a) transfer to existing grave or adjacent graves of more than one family member; (b) transfer to the existing grave of a single family member; (c) transfer to a newly created family grave; (d) transfer from existing family grave to proposed new family grave; and (e) transfer from an existing family grave to another family grave elsewhere. [This analysis continues where we left off in a post earlier this year, which will be supplemented at a later date]

The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty on the basis that: (i) the re-interment would be into a family grave and would free up a cremation plot for future use; and (ii) the mother had reluctantly had her husband’s ashes interred in 2004. At that time, the undertakers no longer wished to store the ashes, and in the absence of advice, she was of the mistaken belief that there would be no problem in having her husband’s remains transferred to the same grave in which her body was to be buried due course, which had always been her intention. [top]

With thanks to Robert Fookes for a copy of his judgment

Churchyards

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. Oswald Dean [2016] ECC Car 5* The Chancellor refused a petition for the addition of a Masonic symbol to a memorial to the Petitioner’s late husband, which already had three “unusual features”, some of which were contrary to Churchyard Regulations. The Chancellor considered three aspects of the application: Churchyard Regulations [13-20]; the reasons for the application [21-27]; and the issue of Freemasonry [28-37]. In declining decided to grant a faculty to allow the Petitioner to add to such existing memorial on the Deceased`s grave an engraving of a set square and compass, the Chancellor stated:

  • what is sought by the Petitioner is not permitted by Regulation 5.1 [h] of the Churchyard Regulations which expressly prohibits “any arms, crests, badge or insignia” except in certain circumstances for an insignia of the Armed Forces of the Crown;
  • Although Regulation 2.5.6. of the Regulations permits “representations of objects or motifs appropriate to the life of the deceased or of accepted Christian symbols” such provision was not intended to allow multiple representations of objects or motifs appropriate to the life of the deceased;
  • On the facts of this case there are already [too] many “objects or motifs appropriate to the life of the deceased” on the Deceased`s memorial and … it would be wholly inappropriate that there should be yet another representation.

The Chancellor did not accept that what is proposed is an accepted Christian symbol; was satisfied that the Masonic symbol of a set square and compass is considered to be in-Christian by some Christians [39.5]; and did not think that it appropriate that a memorial should contain a symbol which will not be recognised or understood by many, a fact acknowledged by the Petitioner [39.6]. He made no judgment as to whether Freemasonry is compatible with Christianity, but noted that the General Synod debate in 1987 decided by a very sizeable majority, that there were a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity. Moreover this approach appears to be shared among other Christian denominations [39.7].[Link to post] [top]

Re St. Andrew Witchford [2016] ECC Ely 2* The Chancellor, HH Judge Leonard QC, was faced with that familiar dilemma, a petition for a memorial that was clearly outside the Churchyard Regulations in terms of the proposed material, dimensions, and inscription [6]. This was compounded by: unanimous support from the PCC, [8]; other headstones, both in the churchyard and within the Diocese, erected without a faculty and in contravention of the Regulations, [4, 11]; petitioner’s desire for stone similar to other members of the family [11]; and advice from a stonemason which “displays a worrying ignorance of the Regulations which apply in an area in which he provides his services” [29].

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty, but “formally stayed the order of the court for two months to allow time for a variation of the application to be lodged. If there is no application for a variation, then a headstone can be erected which conforms to the Regulations, having received [the priest’s] agreement that it does so conform, save for the permission I have granted for the stone to be up to 60” wide (the petitioner’s deceased husband was a large man, the grave covers two plots, [5]), and the petition will otherwise stand dismissed” [35].

In addition, he outlined his approach to other headstones in the Diocese that do not conform with the regulations [36 to 41] indicating that he did not intend to take such action of his own volition in respect of offending headstones in this graveyard or elsewhere which are already in place, but would consider any application for a restoration order by an Archdeacon or by any other person appearing to have a sufficient interest in the matter (see §16.1 of The Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015); “That would include an incumbent” [39].

41. In future if any headstones are erected in contravention of the Regulations and without a faculty, I will in appropriate cases invoke my power to remove the offending headstone. It remains the duty of incumbents to bring the Regulations to the attention of the family of the deceased and to warn them of the consequences of not adhering to the Regulations or of erecting a memorial without a faculty where one is require”.

The responsibilities of incumbents were spelled out in detail [41 to 50] and concluded by stating:

51. I will be looking at other ways, in consultation with, amongst others, the Archdeacons, to support the incumbents in what can be a particularly difficult area of ministry. This will include considering what steps can be taken to inform the monumental masons and funeral directors who serve the diocese of the Regulations and to remind them of the financial consequences to them of permitting a headstone to be erected without a faculty where it does not conform to the Regulations.

[top]

Re St. John the Baptist Berkswell [2016] ECC Cov 8* In recent years the Rector and Parochial Church Council had discouraged the use of grey granite for memorials in the churchyard, even though there were already a few such stones in the churchyard. The petitioner had in fact already had a honed grey granite memorial made by a stonemason in a neighbouring diocese. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for a further grey granite memorial. In his analysis, accepted that the situation had been brought about by an honest and genuine error: “this is not a case where there has been an attempt to steal a march or to create a fait accompli. [The Petitioner] has made a mistake and he (or his father’s estate) will have wasted the cost of the memorial if permission is not given” [19].

However, the circumstances did not constitute a good reason for departing from the approach laid down in the Churchyard Regulations and that the petition was dismissed: the situation arose from a failure to check with the Rector or the parish office before having the memorial prepared: “that was an error made in good faith but it was an error. There was a failure to take the simple precaution of checking what the applicable rules were before commissioning the memorial”.

The approach of the Rector and PCC is an entirely appropriate one, particularly so given the grade I listing of the church and the appearance of the surrounding area –“[t]t is not appropriate that the Petitioner’s error should be allowed to undermine it [20]. The Chancellor was also conscious of the need for fairness to those other persons whose preference was to install granite memorials to their loved ones but who checked with the Rector or the parish office before commissioning a memorial [21]. [top]


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 – October" in Law & Religion UK, 1 November 2016, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2016/11/01/consistory-court-judgments-october/

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