Ecclesiastical court judgments – March

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during March 2017

March’s consistory court judgments have included:

This summary also includes links to other posts relating to the faculty jurisdiction.

Reordering, extensions & other building works

Substantial reordering

Re St. Botolph Longthorpe [2017] ECC Pet 1 The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise a major scheme of reordering which included: the removal of pews and their replacement with hardwood chairs and benches; moving the font and the organ; replacing the altar against the east wall and installing a free-standing altar at the west end of the chancel; and removing the rood screen. Notwithstanding the objections of ChurchCare, Historic England, and the Victorian and Twentieth Century Societies, the Chancellor was “satisfied that the reordering is part of an overall holistic scheme for a thriving church community, which will be a major public benefit outweighing any harm.” [Back] [Top]

Re St. Luke Maidenhead [2017] ECC Oxf 1 Despite concerns that there was inadequate consultation during the faculty process, the Chancellor granted a faculty for reordering, including: the creation of a new vicar’s vestry in the Parish Centre; rearrangement of the west end of the church, including the removal of 6 pews, to provide additional storage, the serving of refreshments after services, and a larger meeting space. The Chancellor commented: “[49]. Consultation is not a strict requirement of law: a failure to consult will not automatically result in a petition being dismissed. But the question of consultation is one which the court should take into account in the exercise of its discretion. [Back] [Top]

Reordering and alternative uses

Re St. Margaret of Antioch Rainham [2017] ECC Roc 2 The petitioners applied for permission to carry out some reordering works, which included the removal of three areas of pews, additional storage cupboards and the introduction of stackable chairs. The Victorian Society (which did not seek to be a party opponent) objected that the stackable chairs would “cause gratuitous harm” to the Grade I listed church. However, the Chancellor noted:

“[14]. It appears that The Victorian Society has not visited the church or entered into any direct discussion with the petitioners, and have made their submissions based in the photographs included in the faculty application. This it is said [by the petitioners] that they [The Victorian Society]: ‘do not realise that the chairs will normally be stored and only set out for major services and concerts and similar high attendance events such as funerals of the order of 10 occasions per year’. The pews that are being removed are effectively redundant”.

The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had made a good case for the proposals and accordingly granted a faculty. He also stated:

“[20]. In passing I observe that had the Victorian Society been able to visit the church and see for themselves what had been done elsewhere, and been able to engage with the petitioners on what was proposed and needed, much time and expense might have been avoided. I appreciate that there may be financial constraints at work here, but communication is seldom costly and rarely creates problems”.

A virtual tour of St Margaret’s is here. [Back] [Top]


Re St. Peter & St. Paul Heydon [2017] ECC Nor 2 The Team Vicar and the church fabric officer petitioned for a faculty to authorise the installation of wireless broadband equipment in the tower of the church, situated in a remote and beautiful village where broadband speeds were extremely poor. The PCC voted on the proposals on three occasions; finally approval was given, 7 votes for and 2 against, the two dissenters being the two churchwardens, who became parties opponent. The Chancellor stated that as a “largely democratic body, the PCC had decided to pursue the application”; the vote of each PCC member was of equal value, whether the voter in question is the churchwarden, resident in the village or even the incumbent is irrelevant [8].

The relative merits of the proposed WiSpire service against those of a suggested satellite option were considered, and whilst the latter was cheaper for relatively modest usage, for users who wished to stream or download significant amounts of date, the WiSpire service was likely to cost much less.

Unusually, the potential adverse health effects of the proposed installation were not raised by the objectors. The physical and aesthetic impacts on the church would be minimal, and the advantages of the installation would be of great benefit to the rural community. In granting the faculty, the Chancellor notes that as an “amber area” under the Better Broadband for Norfolk classification fasted broadband would eventually be available in the Heydon area. [Back] [Top]

Re St. James Kidbrooke [2017] EACC 1* The Dean of Arches refused to grant leave to appeal to the sole party opponent against judgment of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Southwark in Re St. James Kidbrooke [2016] ECC 16. At first instance a faculty was granted to permit the installation of twelve antennae and two dishes behind GRP replacement louvres in the tower of the church, and for the Rector to enter a licence agreement for a term of 20 years with the telecommunications company. The Dean rejected all six grounds of the appeal under both limbs of rule 22 of the FJR 2015, noting “for the avoidance of doubt there is no appeal from this decision”. [Back] [Top]


Errors in burial

Re St. John the Baptist Boldre [2017] ECC Win 1 The petitioner’s father’s body had been buried in the churchyard in 2014. A double depth grave had been requested, but it had not been possible as the ground was too wet. At the time it was agreed between the churchwarden, funeral director, grave digger and the petitioner, that the deceased [the petitioner’s mother] would be buried in a space next to her late father in due course. However, the grave space was not formally reserved.

When the petitioner’s mother died in 2017, a request was made for burial in an adjoining grave, but the petitioner was informed that it would not be possible, as there were tree roots in the way. The timing of the imminent funeral precluded a challenge to these concerns, and  the petitioner’s mother was buried elsewhere in the churchyard [4].

The petitioner subsequently sought advice from the Local Planning Authority and an arboriculturist, both of whom were in agreement that it would be possible to dig an adjacent grave without harm to the tree [5]. The Petitioner therefore sought permission to exhume her mother’s body and inter it in the grave next to her father. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty for exhumation and re-interment, although this was dependent upon the necessary permission on severing the tree roots from the Local Planning Authority. [Back] [Top]

Churchyards and burials

Development of churchyard

Re Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries [2017] ECC Swk 2 The London Borough of Southwark presented two faculty petitions containing landscaping proposals for consecrated areas of the Camberwell Old Cemetery (“Areas Z”) and the Camberwell New Cemetery respectively (“Area D”). The proposals were designed to provide additional burial space, essentially through landscaping; the proposals do not involve the physical disturbance of any grave or the exhumation of human remains from any grave. 660 people submitted objections in writing and a further 318 people objected by email. Three objectors became parties opponent, but later withdrew as formal objectors. The Chancellor was satisfied with the proposals and granted a faculty. [Link to post] [Back] [Top]

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. Mary the Virgin Eccleston [2017] ECC Bla 4 Chancellor Bullimore granted a petition despite the opposition of the incumbent which was made with the support of the PCC, (although it did not discuss the petition in detail [9]),  and of the DAC which changed its mind following a meeting with the incumbent. The basis of the Churchyard Regulations was forcefully questioned [28]:

“there is no statutory basis for creating Churchyard Regulations, from which we could discover their intended purpose(s). They are essentially a creation of the Chancellors themselves over the years. There is no reason to suppose that Chancellors as a body or individually have any particular expertise in judging what is good design or good taste, in the matter of memorials… in most dioceses the DAC is consulted, and possibly other interested parties, including some representative(s) of memorial masons in the area or nationally, before the final terms of the Regulations are adopted, but ..Regulations relate primarily to the issue of the limits of the authority to be delegated, rather than wider questions of taste and acceptability”.

Contrasting the approach of Chancellor Hill in Re St John the Baptist Adel etc [2016] ECC Leeds 8 with that of Chancellor Eyre in Church Lawford St Peter [2016] ECC Cov 3, Chancellor Bullimore preferred the former; in the instant case, the test he applied was to ask the simple question: “In all the circumstances, is the proposed memorial suitable?”

The Chancellor was critical of the unhelpful change of mind of the DAC, and queried that the approach of the incumbent, doubting whether: “most clergy would have taken the view he has, not from lack of attention or conscientiousness on their part, but simply because it would not overall strike them that the proposal fell outside the Regulations”.

The judgment includes a discussion of two subsidiary issues: (1) do the petitioners need to show some exceptional reason for the proposed memorial; and (2) is it open to the Diocesan Advisory Committee to change the advice it proffers to the parties and to the Chancellor and, if so, in what circumstances? [Link to post] [Back][Top]

Re All Saints Honington [2017] ECC SEI 3 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission wished to replace a memorial to an airman from the local airfield, who with his fellow crewmen had died during the Second World War. The crew had all been buried together in the churchyard. The reason for wanting to change the memorial was that the original bore an inscribed cross, whilst the deceased was found to be of Jewish descent. The Chancellor decided that it would not normally be appropriate to allow in a churchyard a memorial bearing a Star of David, or a symbol of any other religion inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church of England, but he determined that there were exceptional circumstances in the present case to justify permitting a Star of David to be inscribed on the proposed replacement memorial. [Back] [Top]

Re St. Helen Welton [2017] ECC Yor 2 The Archdeacon applied for a faculty for the removal of a “desktop” style memorial marking the interment of cremated remains as it did not comply with the current Churchyard Memorial Rules; the family of the deceased objected. When they first applied for a memorial, the family accepted that it should comply with the Rules; a mistake was made by the stonemason and the “desktop” style introduced. The stonemason subsequently reported the mistake to the Archdeacon.

After this was pointed out to the family, they were unwilling to agree to its removal, despite the cost being met by the stonemason; they did not accept that to allow it to remain would be unfair to others who have been prepared to accept and live within the rules. The Chancellor determined that there were no exceptional reasons why the memorial should remain and granted a faculty to authorise its removal and its replacement with a memorial which complied with the Rules. [Back] [Top]

Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE)

Determinations – January 2017

The last Commission meeting was on 26 January 2017 and considered the following applications.

The Commission meeting held on 16 March 2017 considered the following new applications.

Links to other posts

Recent summaries of specific issues that have been considered in the consistory courts include:



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.


Clicking on “top” will return the view to the groups in the main menu, above; Clicking on “back” will return the view to the sub-headings within each of these groups. [Clicking on the citation will link to the L&RUK summary of the case]. “Link to Judgment” is self-explanatory, and “Link to post” is used where there is a stand-alone post on the general issues raised in the judgment.


As from 1 January 2016, judgments in the ecclesiastical courts have been allocated a neutral citation number under the scheme described in Practice Note No 1 of 2016 and Practice Note No 2 of 2016. In addition, it was necessary to assign a neutral citation for the Diocese of Sodor and Man, here. The Diocese was deliberately excluded from the list of neutral citations in the earlier Practice Directions on citation because it is not part of England.


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – March" in Law & Religion UK, 31 March 2017,

5 thoughts on “Ecclesiastical court judgments – March

  1. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 2nd April | Law & Religion UK

  2. Pingback: Differing perspectives on pew replacement | Law & Religion UK

  3. Pingback: Consistory court evidence or “Call My Bluff”: Episode 1 | Law & Religion UK

  4. Pingback: Consistory court evidence or “Call My Bluff”: Episode 2 | Law & Religion UK

  5. Pingback: Ecclesiastical court judgments – 2017 | Law & Religion UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *