Ecclesiastical court judgments – August (Part 2)

Second part of 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. This Part considers Exhumation, Churchyards and burials, and will include links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law. 



Re Lambeth Cemetery [2019] ECC Swk 5 The petitioner wished to exhume the remains of her father from the consecrated part of Lambeth Cemetery, where he was interred in a double depth grave in 1987, and their re-interment with those of his widow now buried in a double plot in Beckenham Cemetery. The family is not Christian, but was assumed to be Taoist [2]; it was not known at the time of his interment that the grave was consecrated. Furthermore, there as misunderstanding regarding the terms under which the right of burial was granted. When the petitioner’s mother died in 2018, the petitioner felt that she could not have her mother’s remains buried in the same grave as her father, owing to the Taoist cultural tradition prohibiting a female being buried on top of the head of the family [8].

There was no available space for interment of her mother’s remains next to those of her father, so the petitioner arranged for her mother’s remains to be interred in a double plot in Beckenham Cemetery, assuming that she would be able to have her father’s remains exhumed and reinterred in that grave [9]. The Chancellor considered that there were exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of a faculty [11]. [Re Lambeth Cemetery [2019] ECC Swk 5] [Back] [Top]

Re George Henry Humphreys deceased [2019] ECC Man 1* The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her father (d. 2007) exhumed from Dean churchyard, near Bolton, and reinterred in the churchyard at Warburton with the as yet uninterred cremated remains of her mother (d. 2018), because the petitioner’s parents had started life as a married couple in Warburton and a number of members of the family lived there.

The position of the Team Rector of Deane Parish Church was outlined in paragraph 7; his overriding position was that there is a “presumption that once someone is laid to rest in consecrated ground that is permanent”, but beyond that overriding assumption he confirmed that he had no objection to the Deceased`s cremated remains being exhumed “if permission is granted under faculty’”.

The Chancellor could find no exceptional circumstances to justify embarking from the general principle that burial should be regarded as permanent.

Amongst the seven grounds for refusing to grant a faculty, [20] to [28], the Chancellor observed that the Petitioner’s mother had chosen to have her husband’s remains interred at Dean and had regularly visited the grave there until her death. He concluded:

[29]. … to allow this application would be to approve a practice of regarding cremated remains as ‘portable’ and that to do so would encourage such applications, which I am not willing to do. I echo and adopt the dicta of George Ch, as he then was, in Re South London Crematorium (27 September 1999, unreported): that to do so might result in a flood of similar applications”,

[Re George Henry Humphreys deceased [2019] ECC Man 1] [Back] [Top]

Churchyards and burials

Development of churchyard

Re St. Laurence Ansley [2019] ECC Cov 5

Alongside the north wall of the grade II* church is an Area for the Burial of Cremated Remains consisting of several rows of memorials. A large number of these take the form of wedge-shaped memorials fixed on stone slabs. The curate in charge and the churchwardens petition with the support of the Parochial Church Council for a faculty allowing the introduction of a series of sandstone slabs into the Area for the Burial of Cremated Remains.

The intention is that these will mark out and occupy the spaces on to which future memorials are to be positioned. The aim is to address the problem of memorials being introduced into the churchyard on incorrectly-sized bases as described below. The DAC has not recommended approval saying that the proposed works would have an unusual appearance and that the problem could be better addressed in other ways [2]. It commented that the PCC should “reinforce with the stonemasons their rules on appropriate stones and save the money on the slabs” [7].

In granting a faculty, the Chancellor accepted that there is a genuine problem to be addressed and that remedial action after incorrectly sized slabs are installed can involve a disproportionate amount of time and energy; this can run the risk of jeopardizing pastoral work with the bereaved. In those circumstances He had no hesitation in approving the proposed works which involve prevention of the problem at the price of a very modest expenditure in a case where those works will create a somewhat unusual appearance but one which is neither disfiguring nor inappropriate. [Re St. Laurence Ansley [2019] ECC Cov 5] [Back] [Top]

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. James Ravenfield [2019] ECC She 2 An unnamed Petitioner sought permission to install a kerbset and desk memorial at the site of his family’s burial plot which will match and incorporate an existing headstone and cube memorial. The proposal appeared to be prima facie incompatible with the Sheffield Churchyard Rules: kerbstones are forbidden except where they are already common in that area; the material proposed, dark grey granite, is discouraged except in areas where the use of such material is already common [1].

Non only did the DAC object to the Petition, it gave a full explanation which “usefully sets out the relevant paragraphs of the Chancellor’s Churchyard Rules and explains the link between this church and churchyard and the traditional yellowish brown sandstone quarried locally which fortunately still holds the numerical ascendancy in the churchyard and was historically generally used in the area and the churchyard” [2]

The grave of the petitioner’s maternal grandparents was marked by a dark grey granite memorial in 1985; subsequently, the cremated remains of the petitioner’s aunt and her husband were buried in the plot and a dark granite cube memorial was installed [5]. The petitioner’s father and mother died in 2018 and 2019 respectively; a large donation to the maintenance of the church and churchyard was made from the collections at their respective funerals. The petitioner now wished to place dark grey granite kerbs around the grave and add a desk-type memorial within the kerbs [6].

Whilst the Chancellor considered it “aesthetically unfortunate” that a dark grey granite memorial had been erected on the grave, a number of other dark grey granite memorials had been introduced into the churchyard [8]:

“However, as the evidence submitted by the Petitioner demonstrates, there are more than several headstones and memorials made of that material in the churchyard including some in the vicinity of the family plot. The use of it in the proposal under scrutiny is to match the material of the existing headstone installed in 1985.

If a decision were made to enforce the use of traditional yellow sandstone: either the memorial for the Petitioner’s parents would not match the existing memorial features at the plot, or the Petitioner would be obliged to replace the headstone and memorial cube to avoid this. Such a result not be respectful to the memory of the Petitioner’s parents who visited and cared for the plot and would also oblige the Petitioner to be responsible for the correction of arguably erroneous decisions made more than thirty years ago.

Neither consequence would be acceptable or fair and for this and the other reasons set out in this judgment and the permission sought by this Petition was granted [9].

In a footnote, Chancellor Sarah L Singleton QC added the clarification:

“The Petitioner is a circuit judge who sits, I think, as a criminal judge in Sheffield. In addition to holding this office in the Diocese of Sheffield, I am also a circuit judge and I sit in the Family Court and Court of Protection in Lancashire. I have not, to my knowledge, met the Petitioner. I include these facts in this footnote for the purpose of transparency.

[Re St. James Ravenfield [2019] ECC She 2] [Back] [Top]

Re St. Andrew Chinnor [2019] ECC Oxf 4 The petitioner wished to place a ‘desk type’ ledger stone in the churchyard. The Rector had indicated that she would object, as the type of stone was not covered by the churchyards regulations, which require ledger stones to be laid flush with the ground. However, the incumbent had recently approved such a stone, and there were other examples of the type of stone in the same area of the churchyard. Following the departure of the rector, one of the churchwardens objected to the stone. The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty on the basis that (a) there was nothing offensive about the desk-style ledger stones which populate the particular area of the churchyard; (b) there were already several examples of the type of stone in that area; and (c) he was concerned that the church should be seen to be acting consistently towards applicants. [Re St. Andrew Chinnor [2019] ECC Oxf 4] [Post] [Back] [Top]

Environmental Permit

St. Martin’s Parochial Church Council: environmental permit application advertisement, PE9 4RA, (9 August 2019). The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 from St. Martin’s Parochial Church Council. Application number: EPR/NB3594VN/A001. This is for the discharge of 0.1 cubic metres per day to groundwater at TF 09004 10991 via a trench arch system.

Parochial Church Council of St Paul’s Church: environmental permit application advertisement, LA11 6RS (16 August 2019). The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 from Parochial Church Council of St Paul’s Church. Application number: EPR/PB3097VC/A001. This is for the discharge of 0.11 cubic metres per day to groundwater at SD 43156 84189 via a trench arch system.

Parochial Church Council of St Mary the Virgin Church: environmental permit application advertisement MK17 9AG (16 August 2019). The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 from St. Martin’s Parochial Church Council. Application number: EPR/NB3899DC/A001. This is for the discharge of 0.23 cubic metres per day to groundwater at SP 90097 30797 via a trench arch system.

Links to other posts

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



CFCE Determinations

The next meeting of the CFCE is scheduled for Thursday 19 September 2019. At its last meeting in July it considered: the installation of a 3-metre bronze sculpture of Saint Chad located in the precinct of Litchfield cathedral; and the exhibiting of a design drawing by Christopher Wren & Nicholas Hawksmoor showing a half-elevation, half- section and half-plan of a proposed rotunda or mausoleum (SPCAA/7/1/3) in a forthcoming exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery.

The dates of future Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England may be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the page Cathedrals Fabric Commission. This also includes the applications that the commission examined, View form 8s, the decisions made by the commission, View form 10s.

Notes on the conventions used for the navigation between cases reviewed in this post are summarized here.


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