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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 4 June 2020

Index by Dioceses of all judgments on this web site, as at 4 June 2020

Churchyards

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The Archdeacon of Dorking applied for a restoration order in respect of a vault, covered by a marble slab, constructed in the churchyard by the previous incumbent as a place of interment for himself and his mother. The grounds for the application were that the place in question was subject to a closing order rendering future burials unlawful, that the construction of the vault was in contravention of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 and that the placing of the memorial was performed without the sanction of a faculty. The Archdeacon therefore sought an order for the removal of the vault. The respondent claimed that he had acquired rights of burial from the successors of the person to whom rights were originally granted by faculty in 1915, and that those rigths were unaffected by the closing order. The Chancellor determined that the respondent did not lawfully have the rights originally granted and that the marble slab shold be removed and the vault filled in with earth, rather than have the vault dismantled.

Faculty granted by the Chancellor, authorising the removal of kerb stones from the churchyard, being satisfied that the proposal had been sufficiently publicised and no memorial owner had expressed objection to the works being carried out.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought permission (1) to install four timber bollards along the boundary of a cobbled approach to the churchyard and (2) to install an iron gate and fence within the church boundary to prevent entry of livestock. The bollards would prevent parking on a cobbled area between the road and a cottage, through which passed a passage to the churchyard. The owner of the cottage objected. The Chancellor granted a faculty. As regards the bollards, the Chancellor gave the petitioners a period of 20 years in which to install the bollards, if parking on the cobbled access continued to be a problem.

The incumbent applied for a Faculty to authorise him to enter into a deed of release of rights to light on two sides of a church, in order to allow a developer to carry out development on adjoining land, 'subject to "the Church" being paid £20,000'. The Chancellor decided that an Incumbent had no power to grant a legal easement, and therefore no power to enter into a deed of release of an easement. However, the Chancellor said that the matter could be dealt with by "the incumbent licensing the construction on land adjoining the church of a building which will obstruct the light to the church".

The Chancellor granted a faculty to permit the installation of external floodlighting. The judgment contains a discussion of the effect of floodlighting on the carbon footprint of the church.

In 2008, a faculty had been granted for the demolition of a building in the churchyard and the construction of an extension to the church, which had necessitated the exhumation of 154 sets of skeletal remains (the ‘Fewston Assemblage’) which were removed from the graveyard during excavations for the erection of the Washburn Heritage Centre. A new petition was presented in 2016, seeking authority to reinter the skeletal remains in the churchyard and the erection of three memorials to record the reinterments. Whilst noting that the petitioners in 2008 should have applied for a Ministry of Justice licence, as the remains had not immediately been reinterred in consecrated ground, the Chancellor granted a faculty for the reinterment of the Fewston Assemblage and the erection of the three proposed memorials.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought authority to conduct a survey of, firstly, the area of churchyard added in 1926 and currently in use and, secondly, the older part of the churchyard, in order to ascertain by rodding where further burials could take place, including burials in the older part of the churchyard over existing graves. A neighbour, whose house windows looked out directly on to the older part of the churchyard, objected to its re-use and the possible disturbance of existing graves, stating that interments carried out near his windows would be distressing and affect his enjoyment of his property. He claimed that such re-use would amount to a nuisance and also blight his property. The Deputy Chancellor determined that the PCC were legally entitled to re-use old burial ground until such time as the churchyard was formally closed, and that such re-use would not amount in law to a nuisance. A faculty was granted.

Faculty Petition for various works to a redundant chapel vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and the adjoining chapelyard, including improved access within the chapelyard and into the chapel, various rainwater and foul water drainage improvements, the creation of a rubbish and recycling area, and the removal of the modern metal security gates from the entrance to the south porch and their replacement with the Victorian gates which previously hung there. There was one objector, whose objection was in respect of the replacement of the porch gates. Finding by the Chancellor that the gates, being part of the redundant chapel, were not within the Faculty Jurisdiction (though the chapelyard still was). Faculty granted for all the works.

A Faculty had been granted in 2013 for the felling of some trees in the churchyard. On the date when the contractors started work, an objection to the work was made on site, as a result of which the work was suspended. The faculty subsequently lapsed. A new petition was presented and the same objector wished to become a party opponent. The Chancellor issued directions dealing with, inter alia, (a) an allegation by the objector that the Chancellor should recuse himself; (b) an application by one of the petitioner's for an extension of time in order to respond to the objector's particulars of objection; and (c) the need for an arboricultural report. The Chancellor also directed that the Ancient Yew Group should be invited to comment on the proposals.

During the parish priest's absence, whilst attending a course, a burial took place in the closed churchyard. Prior to his absence, the priest had told the funeral director and the family that a burial could not take place, unless in accordance with one of the exceptions in the Order in Council closing the churchyard for burials, namely: (1) where a grave had been reserved by faculty; (2) where a person could be buried in the same grave as a relative. (Also, cremated remains can be buried in a closed churchyard.) The funeral director arranged for the deceased to be buried next to the deceased's brother in a tight space between two graves. The Chancellor determined that the interment was unlawful, and could not be made lawful retrospectively by the Ministry of Justice or the court, but he decided that no action should be taken to disturb the burial or to refer the matter for police investigation.