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Exhumations

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Faculty refused for the exhumation from a cemetery of the cremated remains of a child buried in 1960, and reinterment in the churchyard of a parish to which the parents had moved. The Chancellor took into account the time since the interment, and also did not accept the Petitioner's argument that the deterioration in the care of the cemetery justified him in making an exception to the presumption against exhumation.

The petitioner wished to exhume the remains of her baby daughter (who died in 1948) and of her husband (who died in 1989) from Bingham Cemetery, a few miles from her home in the nearby village of Gamston. At the time of the interments, Bingham was the place where people from Gamston were normally interred. The petitioner and her daughter and son-in-law had purchased two plots in Wilford Hill Cemetery, about one mile away from Gamston.  The intention was that the petitioner’s daughter and son-in-law should in due course be buried in one of the plots at Wilford Hill and that the petitioner’s husband’s and infant daughter’s remains should be transferred to the other grave, in which the petitioner would eventually be buried. The Chancellor considered that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify the exhumations, and he accordingly refused to grant a faculty. This was not a case of a desire for remains to be moved to a family grave, but to exhume from a family grave, in which it was possible for the petitioner’s remains to be interred in due course.

This was an appeal from a decision of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Bath & Wells, who refused to grant a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of Steven Whittle from Blagdon Cemetery, Somerset, with a view to their re-interment in Stowmarket Cemetery, Suffolk. The deceased's parents had difficulty in travelling from Suffolk to Somerset to visit their son's grave, and wished for his remains to be moved near to their permanent home and placed in a family grave. The judgment discusses the theology of burial and sets out various factors which should be considered before a decision is made as to whether an exception should be allowed from the general presumption of permanence arising from the initial act of interment in consecrated ground. The Court directed that a faculty should be granted by the Consistory Court. The Court made its decision on a number of grounds, one being that the remains were to be reinterred in a family grave in Stowmarket.

The petitioners wished to have the cremated remains of their father exhumed from Bourne Abbey and reinterred in a cemetery in Harlow, where their mother's cremated remains had been interred following her recent death. Upon consideration of the guidelines laid down in the Court of Arches decision in Re Blagdon Cemetery 2002 Fam 299, the Chancellor determined that this was a case where an exception could be made to the presumption that burial should be treated as final, as the remains of the petitioners' father would be reinterred in a family grave.

A faculty was granted for exhumation of a body from one part of a cemetery, where it had been interred contrary to the wishes of the deceased's wife, and reinterment near other family graves in the same cemetery. The Chancellor found that there had been "an error in administration", which justified him in granting a faculty.

The petitioner wished to move her mother's cremated remains from Calverley churchyard to Otley Cemetery. The Chancellor could find no special circumstances to enable him to grant a faculty.

The Petitioner and his wife, having moved from Castle Bytham to Grantham, wished to exhume the cremated remains of their late son and re-inter them in Grantham Cemetery. The grounds for making the application were: (1) the petitioner and his wife, due to their age and frailty, were unable to visit the grave at Castle Bytham; and (2) the Petitioner and his wife had purchased a grave at Grantham Cemetery with the intention that their son's remains should be placed their and their own cremated remains would be placed in the same grave in due course. The Chancellor stated that, following the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], he could not grant a faculty on the first ground, but he granted a faculty on the second ground, because a family grave had been established.

A Faculty was refused for the exhumation from the local cemetery of the cremated remains of the petitioner’s late husband, for re-interment in the same grave as the petitioner’s late son in the St. Mary’s churchyard, Bognor Regis. The Chancellor could find no special reason or circumstance to justify him overriding the normal presumption that burial should be final. 

The Petitioners' daughter died aged 10 in 1982 in tragic circumstances, and the petitioners had no part in the funeral arrangements, which included interment of ashes in a consecrated part of Cheshunt Cemetery. Upon making enquiries in 2017 about the possibility of having her remains buried next to those of her daughter, the mother discovered that the ground in which her daughter's remains were interred was consecrated. The petitioners, both atheists, would not have agreed to the interment of their daughter's remains in consecrated ground, had they been aware of the situation at the time of their daughter's death. And in view of her atheistic beliefs, the mother could not contemplate being buried in consecrated ground next to her daughter. The Deputy Chancellor determined that, notwithstanding the passage of time since the interment in 1982, this was a case of exceptional circumstances based on a fundamental mistake at the time of the interment. The Deputy Chancellor therefore granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment in an unconsecrated part of another cemetery.

The petitioners' baby had tragically died aged two days in 2004. The child's cremated remains had been interred next to the graves of other children in a consecrated area of Cheshunt Cemetery. The petitioners had been happy with the location of their baby's grave and with a Christian service conducted by a priest, though they stated in papers before the hearing that they were "from non-religious families". The petitioners were now planning to move to a town 28 miles away and had in mind moving abroad in 5 or 6 years' time. They now regretted the decision to have the baby's ashes interred and wished to have the ashes exhumed, so that they could keep the ashes with them wherever they moved. The mother intended in due time to be buried with her baby's ashes.  Following the guidance of the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299 (“….a change of mind as to the place of burial on the part of relatives or others responsible for the interment should not be treated as an acceptable ground for authorising exhumation ...” and “... remains are not to be regarded as 'portable' at a later date, because relatives move elsewhere and have difficulty visiting the grave ...”), the Deputy Chancellor could find no special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty.