Ecclesiastical court judgments – September

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during September 2021

The five consistory court judgments circulated in September featured reordering, extensions & other building works, churchyards and burials, and organs. This post also includes CDM Decisions and Safeguarding, Reports from the Independent Reviewer, Privy Council Business,  Other reports,  visitations, &c, and CFCE Determinations, as well as links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.


Reordering, extensions and other building works


Reordering and alternative uses

Re St. Philip & St. James Hallow [2021] ECC Wor 5 The Petitioners sought permission for the reordering of the north aisle of the Grade II* Victorian church by the removal of 10 pews and the introduction of 30 new stacking chairs and 5 new stacking tables. This would provide space for meetings for adults or children, the serving of food, musicians, parking of push-chairs and chair seating for services [1]. The petition follows an application for a faculty which was granted in 2018, providing for the installation of an accessible toilet facility, replacement servery and disposal of 3 pews only north aisle. This earlier petition also requested the removal of all the pews in the north aisle, but the faculty was restricted to 3 only, as at that time the then Chancellor had “seen no evidence to justify the removal of more than three” [2].

The Petitioners proposed to remove the remaining 10 pews in the north aisle “to increase the flexibility of use of the space within the church”. In addition, it was proposed to introduce 5 movable tables, and 30 moveable chairs so that the space can be used in the various ways, listed in [12]. The wooden floor under the pews was to be sanded and waxed, and the surrounding tiles  stabilised; the installation of carpet was not envisaged [13]. The Chancellor noted;

“[18]. The PCC resolution supplied with the original petition was inadequate, but following referring the petition back to the Petitioners, a PCC resolution dated 12 April 2021 [was] passed unanimously, supporting the application for a faculty for the removal of the remaining north aisle pews and the introduction of the furniture set out at paragraph 11”.

There was significant local support in letters from two individuals and three groups, all dated in 2018 [20]; the main thrust of the community support was that the village lacks space for smaller community meetings, for which the village hall was said to be unsuitable and was not always available [21]. The DAC recommended the works, subject to conditions, despite the objection of the Victorian Society and the comments from Historic England, neither of which became a party opponent, [22, 23].

Applying Re St. Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158, the Chancellor noted:

“[25]. Unfortunately, the Petitioners’ Statement of Significance does not properly assess the significance of the pews, nor their contribution to the overall significance of the church. To understand this, I am reliant upon the information provided by the Victorian Society and my own research and observations.”

and on this aspect she concluded:

“[33]. I find that the pews do indeed comprise an important element of the significance of the building. I therefore answer the first question of the Duffield test by finding that removing 10 rows of pews will result in harm to the significance of St Philip and St James Hallow as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

[34]. The next question is the third Duffield question, namely the level of harm. I find that removing the remaining pews from the north aisle will cause harm that it is not inconsiderable. The harm would be serious, but not exceptionally serious”

With regard to the justification for the proposed works – the fourth part of the Duffield test – she reviewed the position of the Petitioners [35 (a) to (d)] and noted these arguments clearly demonstrated the public benefit to the proposed works. being satisfied that the public benefits that would arise from the proposals would outweigh the harm they would cause to the significance of the building, the Chancellor granted a faculty. [Re St. Philip & St. James Hallow [2021] ECC Wor 5] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re Crowland Abbey [2021] ECC Lin 3 A faculty was sought to change the use of the parvise of the 15th century west porch of Crowland Abbey from a storage area to a chapel suitable for Eastern Orthodox worship; this is in anticipation of the completion of a sharing agreement between the priest in charge of Crowland Abbey and Archbishop Silousan Oner of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland [1,2].

St Mary and St Bartholomew and St Guthlac Crowland (Crowland Abbey) is grade 1 listed and a scheduled monument; it was formed from the north aisle of the former Abbey following the dissolution in 1539. It has an ancient foundation, but the present structure originates from the Norman period. The project required the construction of an iconostasis at the eastern end of the parvise, a new floor covering, a reliquary, credence table, reading stand and curtains for the external windows. (See Glossary)

Applying the test in Re St. Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158, the Chancellor was satisfied that there would be no harm to the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest [9,10]. He noted:

“[11]. It is clear that this is a reversible project and if the screen is to be fixed by clamps it will always be possible to review the appearance of the screen and how it relates to the rest of the building as the chapel is used, and if necessary my decision can be reconsidered. However, at present my view  is that this presumption against change should be rebutted by the merit of the proposal which contains spiritual, aesthetic and ecumenical advantages for this church and its wider mission.”

The Chancellor was content for the agreement to be completed and the works carried out. He accordingly granted a faculty, including a review of its use in five years.  [Re Crowland Abbey [2021] ECC Lin 3] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St Mary and St James Great Grimsby [2021] ECC Lin 4 The Petitioners sought “retrospective permissions for various works carried out during a reordering in the mid-1990’s’”. The Chancellor noted:

“[t]his very short schedule was the result of judgments I gave in earlier proceeding…Re All Saints Branston [2018] ECC Lin 2..during that faculty process that a large scale re-ordering of Grimsby Minster had taken place in the mid-1990s without a faculty in which many items of church furnishing which had been donated including a screen and reredos for the war memorial chapel after WW1 had been removed and none knew what had become of them [1].

As a result, the Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey undertook a search with others in an effort to locate what had become of these furnishings and other items that had been donated to the church [3]. In the subsequent judgment of 9 February 2019, the Chancellor required the PCC to: come up with imaginative proposals which properly record what was in the Minster before the re-ordering in the 1990s;  provide some recording of the donors’ names for items that had been removed or which were now located; and for the regimental banners to be properly displayed within the church or with the agreement of the Royal British Legion another solution found [4].

After reviewing the proposals and the views of the party objector [5] to [12], the Chancellor concluded:

“[13]. I do not propose to grant a retrospective faculty after this length of time for the reordering that took place in the 1990s: that aspect of the Petition is adjourned sine die. However, I will amend the schedule of works to include the following: (ii) to display Sir Charles Nicholson pen and ink drawings and other drawings…on the corridor wall identified by Revd Farrell in her email dated 30 June 2021; (iii) the regimental standards in the possession of the PCC and which had been laid up in St Mary and St James’s in perpetuity to be displayed (save for 1 standard which with the agreement of the RBL is to be disposed of).”

He concluded by reiterating para. 58 of his first judgment concerning this matter [2018] ECC Lin 2:

“[58].The consequence of failing to follow due process in the faculty procedures is that people feel pushed aside and unheard, and these feelings can be immensely damaging for those people but also for the life of the church over time….When views diverge about what should happen in church that is when the faculty process is needed more than ever because it provides a framework to hear people’s different, often conflicting, voices in a way that is not destructive but constructive.”

[Re St Mary and St James Great Grimsby [2021] ECC Lin 4] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Churchyards and burials

Churchyard Regulations

Re All Saints Calverton [2021] ECC Oxf 7 The Petitioner applied for a retrospective faculty to authorise the installation on a grave in the churchyard of what was described in the petition as a “grey plastic border and white gravel”, a memorial different from those permitted by the Diocese of Oxford Churchyard Regulations 2016. The Chancellor did not regard as determinative the petitioner’s contention that there were already a number of other graves with kerbing in the churchyard. The Parochial Church Council objected to the grant of a faculty, on the grounds that kerbs made maintenance more difficult, and that they had already been trying to get other families to remove similar embellishments on graves. The Chancellor determined that the Petitioner had not made a good case for a departure from the churchyards regulations and refused to grant a faculty. [Re All Saints Calverton [2021] ECC Oxf 7] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Environmental Permit

The Church of St Michael and All Angels Poulton: environmental permit application advertisement, GL7 5HX. The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 from The Church of St Michael and All Angels Poulton. Application number: EPR/UB3094EA/A001; Regulated facility type: Trench Arch system; Grid reference: SP 09887 00708. This is for the discharge of 0.3 cubic metres per day to groundwater at Location via a trench arch system.

PCC of All Saints Church Hanley. environmental permit application advertisement, ST1 3HH. The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. Application number: EPR/UB3696RQ/A001; Regulated facility type: Sewage treatment plant and infiltration system; National grid reference discharge point: SJ 88935 46678; Receiving environment: Groundwater via soakaway; Effluent type: Secondary treated sewage effluent; Volume; 0.01 cubic metres per day.



Re All Saints Bakewell [2021] ECC Der 4 The vicar and churchwardens sought a faculty for repairs and overhaul of the church organ. The cost of the work was estimated at £135,000. There were two letters of objection, but the writers did not wish to be parties opponent. One objector disapproved of so much being spent on the church building compared to the amount spent on mission and growth. The second objector also considered that the amount to be spent on the organ could not be justified when the organ was little used. The Chancellor granted a faculty: “In my judgment, issues relating to the cost of the works and the justification for spending money on the organ are primarily matters for the PCC, not for the Consistory Court.” [Re All Saints Bakewell [2021] ECC Der 4] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Privy Council Business

At the Privy Council met on 20 September 2021, the business conducted was related to new government appointments following the recent Cabinet reshuffle. A further meeting on 29 September 2021 included:

  • Order giving notice of the discontinuance of burials in: St. Helen’s Churchyard, Little Cawthorpe, Lincolnshire; Cross Stone Cemetery (St Paul), Todmorden, Leeds; and St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Merrow, Guildford, Surrey. Burial Act 1853 (Notice).
  • Order prohibiting further burials in: St Peter’s Cemetery, Carlton Colville, Suffolk; and Garden of Remembrance, Church Street, Whittington, Shropshire. Burial Act 1853 (Final).

Both meetings were conducted by video link.

Reports from the Independent Reviewer

Individual Reports from the Independent Reviewer are to be found at House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Independent Reviewer), scroll down.

CFCE Determinations

The dates of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England may be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the page Cathedrals Fabric Commission. The  applications that the commission examined on Thursday 22 July 2021 are summarized below. Those on 9 September 2021 have not yet been reported;  the next meeting of the CFCE is scheduled for 28 October 2021.

  • Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chester The installation of a new porch at the west end of the Nave. Changes to the West Steps and Font to accommodate that installation. Approved subject to conditions.
  • Cathedral Church of St Peter in Exeter. Lighting scheme throughout the cathedral interior. Approved.
  • Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Gloucester Conservation and repair of Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, 4th Folio (1685). Approved.
  • Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King, Hereford. Conservation of 1618 Grant of certain rights in the Forest of Dean by King James I (HCA 4253). Approved subject to conditions.
  • Cathedral Church of Lincoln. Carving of a copy of the West Front  Romanesque Frieze Panel 11 upper part. Rejected: “The Commission felt either that the copy must be scrupulously faithful (in which case the installation of a cast of the original might be considered as an alternative) or, if a free-hand copy is preferred, that it would have to be of greater artistic merit”.
  • Cathedral Church of Lincoln. Replacement of a hand to the statue of a bishop on the West Front of the Cathedral. Approved.
  • Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool. To install two glass panels in the archway into the Lady Chapel ante chapel, in association with the general refurbishment of the space. Approved.
  • Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Norwich. To loan the Lyhart Crosier to Norwich Castle from 1st July 2022 to 30th June 2027, and for Norwich Castle to undertake conservation of the crosier in readiness for its display. Approved subject to conditions.
  • Cathedral Church of The Blessed Virgin Mary of Salisbury. Temporary loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands of the sculpture Construction (Crucifixion) by Barbara Hepworth. The sculpture will be away from the Cathedral from 9 May to 22 November 2022. Approved subject to conditions.
  • Chapter of the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York. To place a statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the West Front of York
    Minster. Approved.

Other Reports, Visitations &c

Links to other posts

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




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

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – September" in Law & Religion UK, 30 September 2021,


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