Ecclesiastical court judgments – August (Part 1)

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during August 2019

Part 1 of this review includes the August consistory court judgments in August relating to Reordering, extensions & other building works. Part 2 considers Exhumation, Churchyards and burials, and will also include links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.

Reordering, extensions & other building works


Other building works, including re-roofing

Re St. Peter Church Lawford [2019] ECC Cov 4 The Rector and Churchwardens sought to replace the lead on the south aisle and vestry roofs with terne-coated stainless steel. The Grade II church had suffered from lead theft in the past and already had a terne-coated steel roof over the north porch. The remaining lead had been repaired a number of times in recent years and the professional advice it received assessed that after 100 years, the roof had reached the end of its serviceable life [3].

Historic England objected to terne-coated steel, and referring the court to the HE booklet Metal Thefts from Historic Buildings, stated that in this case there does not appear to be a particularly strong argument in terms of the need to replace the existing lead roof with another material such as terne coated steel [4].

The petitioners rebuffed these objections, stating [8]: HE appear largely to dismiss the risk of theft and the current situation faced by the church; they also consider that altering the roof profile would be relatively inexpensive and have little visual impact. They commented: “their architects have clearly not visited the site since they refer to ‘such a visible roof’. In fact the south aisle roof is not at all visible from the road or from neighbouring properties”; and “in terms of cost . . . the cost of a new lead roof with an altered profile is very considerably greater than that of retaining the existing profile and Terne coated steel.”

The Deputy Chancellor reminded himself of the contents of the document cited by HE, and observed that there is an endorsement of terne-coated stainless steel as an alternative to lead, if absolutely necessary [9]:

“there is information before the Court that shows lead is not the most suitable material for the roof as currently configured (presumably since 1872). The use of lead to re-cover this roof would necessitate change to the profile of the roof itself by adding a step to follow modern best practice for the use of lead roofing. No such alteration would be required for the use of Terne-coated stainless steel”.

The Deputy Chancellor determined that the Petitioners had shown good reason for the replacement of lead with terne-coated stainless steel, and he granted a faculty.

[Note: The CBC did not respond to the proposals, and its advice Guidance note Alternative roofing materials to lead (August 2016) was not considered by the court. Unsurprisingly, it echoes that of Historic England:

“For a great many roofing applications lead is the most appropriate roofing material for appearance, performance, ease of installation and lifespan. It is part of the heritage of our built environment. However, replacing like with like is not always realistic after lead has been stolen, in particular where there have been multiple thefts”.]

[Re St. Peter Church Lawford [2019] ECC Cov 4] [Back] [Top]

Removal and replacement of pews &c

Re St. John the Baptist Royston [2019] ECC StA 1 The Grade I church had been seriously damaged by fire in December 2018, and the petitioners viewed its restoration of as an opportunity to undertake some reordering to meet the future needs of the parish [1]. The present petition for faculty (dated 24 June 2019) is one of a series anticipated during the restoration process [2]. Following the fire, an interim faculty had been granted for the storage of the pews in the chancel until reinstatement or disposal.

The petitioners now sought a faculty for the removal of the fire and water damaged pew platforms, disposal of the pews and the installation of a new floor [4]. New seating would be the subject of a separate petition. The Victorian Society objected to the disposal of the pews. However, the Chancellor noted: “although the core of the 19th century scheme incorporating the Pews remained until the fire in December 2018, the full scheme had already been significantly reduced by removal and disposal of pews over time” [14].

The Chancellor granted a faculty, being satisfied that the benefits of removing the pews and pew platforms outweighed any harm to the church’s significance and its aesthetic and architectural qualities. [Re St. John the Baptist Royston [2019] ECC StA 1] [Back] [Top]

Re All Hallows Bardsey [2019] ECC Lee 3 The petitioners sought to remove a small number of pews and pew frontals from the Grade I church, install some handrails and improve the lighting. The controversial item was the removal of two pew frontals from the front of the church. Although there were no parties opponent, there were a number of observations by interested persons which were made in the course of consultation to which the Court was required to have regard when considering whether the burden of proof has been discharged in respect of proposed changes to a listed church [1]. The Chancellor reminded the present, and future, petitioners [13]:

“the purpose of the Consistory Court is not to rubber stamp a Notice of Advice from the DAC, which is advisory only. Further, litigation of the Consistory Court is not adversarial in the conventional sense. It follows that the absence of a party opponent does not lead inevitably to the petition being granted. The Court must still examine with care whether a faculty should be granted. In the absence of robust consideration and review by the court, the ecclesiastical exemption would become nugatory”.

The petitioners declined the Court’s invitation to respond to the written observations of those not wholly supportive of the proposal. This has delayed the disposal of the petition as the Chancellor sought to navigate and cross-reference the documentation created over a lengthy process of consultation [3].

The rationale for the proposals was to make areas of the church more accessible for people in wheelchairs and to extend areas where special events could be held, such as children’s events, music groups, serving of food, group meetings [4]. The Victorian Society [11,12] and Historic England [13] were concerned about the removal of the two pew frontals at the front of the nave; the Church Buildings Council indicated that it was content to defer to the advice of the DAC [14] which recommended the proposal and expressed its collective opinion that the work proposed is likely to affect the character of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest [15].

The Chancellor referred to his General Directions for the Diocese of Leeds (Issue 2) which summarise the legal test which petitioners are required to satisfy when pursuing a petition such as this [16], on which he commented:

“[17]. Whilst the petitioners choose not to take advantage of the opportunity which the Court afforded them to make systematic representations based on the Duffield approach, a thorough reading of the papers is just sufficient to enable the factors identified in the guidelines to be addressed and resolved.”

The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had made a case for the changes, but made it a condition of the faculty that arrangements would be made to store the frontals inside the church or elsewhere. Commenting on the Reverend Angela Hannafin’s inapposite addendum to the Statement of Needs [at 7], the Chancellor observed:

“[27]. Whilst the citation, without context, of a newspaper article (even one as reputable as the Church Times) in which a soundbite from the Archbishop of Canterbury is quoted, again without context, is an unconventional method of making representation to the Consistory Court, the petitioners can take comfort that reported archiepiscopal sentiment is consonant with the Duffield approach and the working of the faculty jurisdiction more generally. But each individual disposal is, of course, fact-specific.”

[Re All Hallows Bardsey [2019] ECC Lee 3] [Back] [Top]

Re St. Nicholas North Stoneham [2019] ECC Win 2 The PCC planned to undertake extensive repairs and reordering of the church for which the current petition dealt with the first phase for this Grade II* church [2]. The only controversial items were the replacement of the Bodley pews with upholstered, metal-framed chairs and the laying of carpet in the church nave. The Chancellor was satisfied that a case had been made for the replacement of the pews with chairs – there was no church hall and the PCC wished to provide a more flexible space to meet the needs of a new community of 1200 houses to be built near the church. However, he had reservations about the proposed metal chairs and required the PCC to propose a type of wooden chair. The Chancellor approved the carpet on the basis that it would be a temporary measure until some more satisfactory hard flooring solution could be implemented, as part of the overall scheme. [Re St. Nicholas North Stoneham [2019] ECC Win 2] [Back] [Top]

Re St. Laurence Lighthorne [2019] ECC Cov 2 In 2017 an Archdeacon’s licence for temporary reordering was granted to allow the removal to storage of four pews and one pew frontal from the west end of the north side of the nave of the Grade II listed church. The petitioners now sought permission to make the removal permanent, as it had facilitated use of the area for activities with children during services, for the taking of refreshments after services and for the positioning of wheelchairs. There was an objection from a parishioner. The Chancellor was satisfied that good reason had been shown to justify the proposal, and he accordingly granted a faculty. [Re St. Laurence Lighthorne [2019] ECC Cov 2][Back] [Top]


The Ecclesiastical Law Association notes that the title to the judgment Re St Chad, Longsdon [2019] Ecc Lic 5, which was reviewed last month, should read “Diocese of Lichfield” and not “Diocese of Coventry”. The link to the case has been changed to the revised judgment.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – August (Part 1)" in Law & Religion UK, 2 September 2019,

2 thoughts on “Ecclesiastical court judgments – August (Part 1)

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