Ecclesiastical court judgments – April

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during April 2018

April’s consistory court judgments have included:

This summary also includes links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.

Reordering, extensions & other building works


Reordering and alternative uses

Re All Saints Buncton [2018] ECC Chi 1 The rector and churchwardens of the parish of Wiston with Buncton sought a confirmatory faculty in respect of works, carried out at the church of All Saints during the period March to April of 2017, for which no prior authorisation had been obtained. The churchwarden (the first petitioner) stated: “we were advised by our church architect…that no permission was needed”. The principal issues for the Court were: how it came about that the unlawful works were undertaken (on which the petitioners’ case and that of the church architect were markedly different); and whether the materials used were suitable for the interior of this grade 1 listed church which was known to contain medieval wall paintings [4]. On the second matter, the Court had the benefit of expert opinion from the CBC.

The Chancellor noted:

“A full understanding of the contested events of 2017 requires knowledge of an earlier redecoration of the church, also unauthorised, which took place in 2013…Whilst this provides part of the unhappy background to the current petition, it is largely uncontroversial and can be summarised relatively shortly (i.e. in paragraphs [5] to [17]).

In 2008, the church architect sought formal advice from the Diocesan Advisory Committee for internal redecoration of the church. A revised request for formal advice was submitted in 2011. The DAC issued a certificate (with provisos) in respect of “a single coat of lime wash to the interior of the church”. Work started in 2013, although no faculty had been granted. By the beginning of 2017, the walls were discoloured with algae. The architect advised the PCC that any remedial work and repainting would be covered by the earlier faculty (which in fact did not exist). Repainting was carried out in 2017, but with white clay paint instead of lime wash. When it was discovered by the DAC Secretary that the work had been done without faculty, an application was made for a confirmatory faculty.

Despite advising on work in a number of dioceses, the chancellor suggested that the architect concerned seemed unable to differentiate between the advisory function of the DAC and the adjudicatory role of the chancellor [81]. Furthermore,

“[85]. In this instance, sadly, it is not the first occasion on which [this architect] has encouraged parishes to proceed with works in the absence of a faculty. He is a repeat offender and his attitude during the proceedings was not one of contrition but of arrogance”.

The Chancellor granted a confirmatory faculty for treatment of walls [79], and criticised the architect for allowing work to proceed without first making sure that a faculty had been granted. He directed that the architect: should pay two-thirds of the court fees; be given 21 days in which to make written representations as to whether the chancellor should recommend to the DAC that his name be removed from its list of approved architects. Also a copy of the judgment was to be sent to Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association and to the DAC secretaries, the registrars, and the chancellors of each of the dioceses in which the architect says he practises (or has practised), i.e. Guildford, Oxford, Rochester and Winchester. [Back] [Top]

Other building works, including re-roofing

Re St. Bartholomew Areley Kings [2018] ECC Wor 2 The church’s reredos comprises three painted panels. The central panel features ears of corn and a vine and grapes, and those to either side feature St Andrew and St Cecilia. The panel was originally placed under the east window in 1920, but during the intervening period had at various times been moved to other parts of the church. The petition proposed the conservation of the reredos and its reinstallation in its original position, but slightly higher on the east wall of the chancel, which would partly obscure the east window. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the conservation of the panels, but was not prepared to authorise the return of the reredos to the east wall until satisfied that there was a scheme for its location that worked in detail both when the altar table as up against the east wall and when it was brought forward. [Back] [Top]

Removal and replacement of pews &c

Re Holy Trinity Kirk Ireton [2017] ECC Der 5 A faculty was granted for the removal of 15 unfixed and damaged Victorian pine pews from the Grade I church with a view to providing more flexible use of the church for family services and community use; the pews would be replaced with 39 wooden chairs with upholstered seats. Surprisingly, the DAC did not consider publication of the proposals by a notice on the diocesan website as required under Rule 9.9 FJR. The Chancellor emphasised that in future, “the Committee should be aware that alteration to any part of a Grade I or Grade II* building to such an extent as would be likely to affect its character, requires publication on the diocesan website of the relevant details as set out in Rule 9.9(2)” [emphasis in original]. He was satisfied that the petitioners had made a ‘robust justification’ for their proposals. However, “unhappily this is a case that has gone far beyond the ordinary, and has not been assisted by the petitioners’ changes of mind”; this would be reflected in the petitioners’ costs. [Back] [Top]

Churchyards and burials

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. James Bulkington [2018] ECC Cov 2 The petitioner sought permission to erect a memorial of dark grey granite, polished on the face only, with silvered lettering within an incised design of an open book; the inscription included the words “Beloved Husband, Dad and Grandad”. The proposal also included kerb stones and a granite vase bearing the inscription “John” within the kerbs. The Deputy Chancellor determined that the memorial would not be out of place in this particular churchyard, bearing in mind other memorials nearby; also persuasive was the petitioner’s comment that the plot has in the past been used as a potential thoroughfare for individuals navigating their way around the churchyard. A faculty was granted, subject to the vase not bearing an inscription. [Back] [Top]


Re St. James Nunburnholme [2018] ECC Yor 1 The petitioners sought to fell a sycamore tree in the churchyard and replace it with smaller suitable trees further away from the church building. The tree was at least 10m taller than the church tower and 5.3m from the church building, resulting in moss on the church roof, black mould on the nearest church buttress and the blocking of gutters and fall pipes during the autumn. A tree specialist also advised that if no action were taken,  there was a risk of splitting of the four main boughs. The Chancellor was satisfied that there as a good case for removing the tree and granted a faculty. Although only minor objections were raised, the petitioners were required to pay the additional costs created by this being an opposed petition. [Re St James Nunburnholme, [2018] ECC Yor1][Back] [Top]

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.

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 – April" in Law & Religion UK, 30 April 2018,

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