Ecclesiastical court judgments – February 2018

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during February 2018

Although there have been a lower than average number of judgments reported this month, a number of interesting issues were considered in those that were; these formed the basis of “stand alone” posts, below.In addition, readers should be aware of the revised neutral citation: Re All Saints Bransgore with Thorney Hill [2017] ECC Win 3. Also, a new version of Re St. Luke Middlestown [2018] ECC Lee 1 has been issued.

February’s consistory court judgments have addressed the following areas:

Reordering, extensions & other building works


Substantial reordering

Re St. Alphege Seasalter [2017] ECC Can 2. The proposed works included: glazed frameless inner doors; a new limestone floor with under-floor heating; the removal of a plywood ceiling, the oak reredos on the east wall, 1950s pews, a replacement organ, lighting and cables; the provision of new lighting and projection facilities; the introduction of chairs; and the construction of a freestanding ‘extension’ building in the churchyard. Five objectors did not wish to be parties opponent. The Deputy Commissary General deemed the changes wholly appropriate and granted a faculty. [Back] [Top]

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Other building works, including re-roofing

Re St. Luke Middlestown [2018] ECC Lee 1 A faculty was sought for the reordering of the unlisted church built in 1974. The petitioners proposed the removal of 18 pews and the introduction of 100 wooden chairs upholstered in red upholstery. The proposal was not recommended by the Leeds DAC, who opined that the chairs were heavy and would be difficult to move, and the dark red upholstered chairs would be detrimental to the light levels and appearance of the church interior.

However, at a visit to the church, and to a neighbouring church, which already had the proposed type of chair, the Chancellor was satisfied that they were not too heavy or difficult to stack. Moreover, the existing pews (acquired from another church) were painted with a yellowish colour and were looking chipped and tired, and they easily slid on the parquet floor (if leaned on). Following the visit, Chancellor Mark Hill QC pondered “whether perhaps the DAC’s ultimate conclusion might have been different had its membership visited the church”. He was satisfied that the chairs were a better and more comfortable alternative to the pews and he granted a faculty. The judgment concluded with the observation “Stand Up for Jesus” but also sit down in comfort…“. [Back] [Top]

Re St. Mary Magdalene Adlestrop [2017] ECC Glo 2 The Rector and Churchwardens petitioned to install an heraldic hatchment with the coat of arms of the Collins family of Adlestrop Park in the nave or in the north transept of the church. There were already in the church three hatchments of the Leigh family, who had owned Adlestrop Park from 1553 until it was sold to the Collins family during the last century. One parishioner, with interests in the Jane Austen associations with the village, objected that “Church hatchments were to mark the death of a ‘Lord of the Manor’ … only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.”  The Chancellor was satisfied that hatchments, if displaying legally authorised Coats of Arms, can still with sufficient reason be introduced by Faculty. She also observed “The Jane Austen connection does not preserve in aspic this Church. As the Leighs succeeded Evesham Abbey, so the Collins family is now in residence. Another layer has been added to the life and continuity of this village”.  [Re St. Mary Magdalene Adlestrop [2017] ECC Glo 2][Link to post] [Back] [Top]

Re St. Mary the Virgin Wotton-under-Edge with Ozleworth [2017] ECC Glo 3 The propose reordering works included removal of some pews; alterations to the low wall between nave and chancel; creation of storage units in the Berkeley Chapel; raised platform in front of the choir and new nave altar; display cabinets near font; servery; toilets; glazing of tower arch and a new screen wall in front of the tower. The object was to provide a more welcoming and useful space, especially for large gatherings. There was a number of objectors to the proposals, but no parties opponent. The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty for all the works.  [Link to post] [Back] [Top]

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Removal and replacement of pews &c

Re St. Luke Tutshill [2017] ECC Glo 1, The main proposals included the replacement of the nave pews with chairs; new flooring and underfloor heating; rewiring and lighting; and the introduction of a servery within the nave. The Victorian Society objected to the removal of all the pews and the use of upholstered replacement seating. Historic England, the Ancient Monuments Society and the Tidenham Historical Group also expressed some reservations about certain aspects of the proposals, but there were no formal parties opponent, and there were no objections from parishioners. The Deputy Chancellor gave an interim judgment approving the majority of the works, but requiring the petitioners to carry out further investigations or provide further information and/or justifications for the remaining items. [Link to post] [Back] [Top]

Re Holy Trinity Sittingbourne [2018] ECC Can 1* The proposals were to replace the pews with metal-framed, upholstered chairs; removal of the clergy stalls; and alterations to floor levels and the heating installation. The Victorian Society indicated that it would not oppose the removal of the pews if appropriate wooden, unupholstered chairs were to be provided by way of replacement. A private objector objected to the removal of the clergy stalls and the pews. The Deputy Commissary General dismissed the petition. He determined that the removal of all of the Victorian pews would adversely affect the character of the Victorian church. He also did not consider that the replacement steel-framed, upholstered chairs would be likely to be an appropriate replacement for the pews in this particular church, if the pews were to be removed. [Back] [Top]

Audio Visual Equipment

Re St. Mary Chartham [2017] ECC Can 1, The petitioners wished to install two closed circuit television (“CCTV”) cameras in the church and a recorder in the vestry, to enable the church to be left open during the day. The Commissary General granted a faculty (subject to conditions) and set out in her judgment the principles and guidelines to be followed in respect of future applications for the installation of CCTV equipment. [Back] [Top]


Errors in burial

Re South Stoneham Cemetery [2018] ECC Win 2 In 1999 the petitioner reserved a grave in the cemetery next to the grave of his late sister. He was given a deed recording the reservation. In 2016 he discovered that someone had been buried in the grave he had reserved. He complained to the burial authority, who said the register had been amended to record a different grave number. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner had not agreed to a change of reserved grave. The petitioner, first directly and then through solicitors, failed to persuade the burial authority to arrange an exhumation and reinterment in another grave. He therefore applied for a faculty. Whilst accepting that there had been an administrative mistake by the burial authority, the Chancellor decided not to grant a faculty, because of “the possibility of real consequences” for the family of the person buried in the grave and the alternative possibilities for the petitioner to be buried in another nearby grave, or in the same grave as his sister, or “the prospect of exhuming [his sister’s] remains so that they could be reburied in a plot with space to the side”. [Back] [Top]

Churchyards and burial

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. Leonard Birdingbury [2018] ECC Cov 1 The petitioner’s mother died when she was 16 years old, and five years later she wished to install a memorial over the grave. She had been unaware that permission was needed to erect the memorial, and the mason did not check that permission had been obtained before erecting the memorial. The memorial was contrary to the Churchyard Regulations of the Coventry Diocese, and the petitioner sought a faculty authorising the retention of the memorial.

The memorial is an oval shaped stone on a rectangular base. Although said to be a blue-grey slate, the Chancellor considered that it gave the appearance of being black or charcoal grey in colour. The base contains an incised planter trough. At one side of the base is an image of a bumble bee (associated with the petitioner’s memories of her mother) and on the other side a Celtic cross, reflects the Irish heritage of the deceased, as did the inscription “I thought her the Queen of the Land”.

The approach taken was to require a substantial reason to be shown before a faculty will be granted for a memorial which requires a faculty because it falls outside the scope of the Regulations and cannot be authorised by an incumbent [16 to 19]; this accords with the approach the Chancellor has adopted consistently with slight differences of language in both Coventry and Lichfield [18]. There followed a lengthy and detailed analysis of the rationale adopted by other Chancellors in relation to memorials falling outwith the Churchyard Regulations of their respective dioceses [20 to 48]. Significant were the observations:

 “[26] Arlow Ch considered this question in St Andrew, Buxton [2017] Ecc Nor 4. [and] concluded, at [11], that “there is no presumption against memorials which fall outside the regulations”.

“[29] … as there is no statutory basis for the use of churchyard regulations I respectfully accept that it is entirely proper for a chancellor to adopt the approach taken by Chancellors Bullimore, McGregor, Hill, and Arlow”.

HH Judge Eyre QC therefore concluded

“[56] It follows that I remain of the view that it is not only legitimate but also desirable that I should continue to require a “substantial reason” before granting a faculty for a memorial falling outside the scope of the Churchyard Regulation”.

The Chancellor refused permission for a retrospective faculty, but stated that approval would be given to a memorial meeting these requirements, and to the use (in quotation marks) of “I thought her the Queen of the Land” and other symbols reflecting the Irish Heritage of the deceased. He noted that the quotation was taken from “a traditional Irish folk song popularised by the Dubliners group” [6], which can be readily identified as The Black Velvet Band;. However, we have suggested that that the quotation should be probably be used at face value and not in the context of the song. [Back] [Top]

Links to other posts

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

Reordering, extensions & other building works






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.

Citation of judgments

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 2015 and Practice Note No 1 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 – February 2018" in Law & Religion UK, 3 March 2018,

3 thoughts on “Ecclesiastical court judgments – February 2018

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