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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

Memorials

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The churchwardens wished to remove from the churchyard a headstone placed on a grave after permission was refused by the Area Dean. The owner of the memorial (himself a stonemason) claimed that he did not receive notice of refusal until after the memorial had been installed. The memorial was of black or very dark grey polished stone and comprised an upright stone with kerbs and a ledger stone covering the grave. The Chancellor decided that, if the owner of the memorial had gone about things correctly, she would have authorised the stone. Therefore she dismissed the petition for its removal, but required the owner of the memorial to pay the costs of the proceedings.

The Rector and Churchwardens petitioned to install a heraldic hatchment with the coat of arms of the Collins family of Adlestrop Park in the nave or in the north transept of the church. There were already in the church three hatchments of the Leigh family, who had owned Adlestrop Park from 1553 until it was sold to the Collins family during the last century. A parishioner objected that "Church hatchments were to mark the death of a ‘Lord of the Manor’ ... only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.”  The Chancellor was satisfied that hatchments, if displaying legally authorised Coats of Arms, can still with sufficient reason be introduced by Faculty. [Note: Jane Austen is believed to have regularly visited Adlestrop.]

The Dean of Arches allowed an appeal against the decision of the Chancellor of the Diocese, who refused to grant a confirmatory faculty for a memorial placed inside the church. The Dean pointed out that a faculty for a memorial inside a church should only be granted in exceptional circumstances. He found that in the present case there were exceptional circumstances, as the persons commemorated had been substantial benefactors of the church and the village over many years.

Faculty granted for the removal wooden and plastic kerbs from a number of graves.

In 2012, memorial kerbs had been removed from the churchyard without the authority of a faculty, causing distress to several family members of those buried in the churchyard. The Chancellor directed that the Team Vicar and Churchwardens should apply for a confirmatory faculty, in order that objections could be properly dealt with. Faculty granted, subject to conditions, including a requirement that kerbs should be reinstated, but laid flush with the ground.

An urgent faculty was sought for the temporary removal of two headstones from the churchyard to a place of safety. They had been erected in 1962 on the graves of music hall performers whose stage names incorporated a term which is a derogatory and offensive reference to black people. That word was included in the inscriptions. The chancellor granted the faculties, as a temporary expedient to protect the headstones from damage, noting the current Black Lives Matter movement. He gave directions for the future disposal of the matter, particularly the tracing of the respective heirs-at-law, who are the legal owner of the headstones. The Chancellor would determine at a future date whether the headstones be re-introduced, either unaltered or with the offensive wording erased or obscured; whether alternative headstones be substituted; or whether there should be some other resolution.

In 2020, the Chancellor gave a judgment concerning the temporary removal of two memorials from the churchyard. There had been complaints that the inscription on each memorial contained the same allegedly offensive or derogatory word. (See  Re St. Margaret Rottingdean [2020] ECC Chi 4) In the present case, the vicar and churchwardens applied for a faculty to authorise the re-cutting of the stones, so as to omit the offensive word from the inscriptions, and the return of the stones to the churchyard. The families of those commemorated by the stones supported the application. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

The Chancellor refused to permit a memorial bearing the masonic symbol of a square and compasses, because he considered that "wording or symbols which give rise to a real risk of offence or upset to a significant body of those visiting the churchyard will not be permitted."

The petitioner sought permission to erect a memorial to her late father. The design comprised a tapered four-sided stone surmounted by a Celtic cross. (Her father was a Catholic of Irish descent.) The overall height of the memorial would be 43 inches. The PCC felt that the proposed stone was too tall (though the maximum height specified in the churchyards regulations was 48 inches), and that the design would be out of keeping with the rest of the memorials in the churchyard. The Chancellor considered that the design was within the regulations, and that uniformity was not to be sought in itself. Applying the test of 'suitability', he granted a faculty.

The Chancellor considered three petitions relating to memorials. The first petition sought retrospective approval of a memorial (already erected) in the shape of an open book. The second petition, by the Archdeacon, sought the removal of the memorial. The third petition was for a further memorial in the shape of an open book. The Chancellor decided to authorise the first memorial and the erection of the second and to refuse the Archdeacon's petition.