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Exhumations

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The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her late father and reinter them elsewhere in the same churchyard in the grave of her mother, who died one year after her father. The Chancellor considered that there were special circumstances which allowed him to grant a faculty.

The petitioner had discovered that the memorial to her husband had not been laid directly over the casket containing his ashes, when she had previously been assured by a churchwarden this that was not the case. (She in fact had taken it upon herself without faculty to move the casket under the memorial.) The petitioner felt that she had been deliberately misled, and she wished to have her husband's ashes exhumed and reinterred in a local cemetery. This had given rise to a breakdown in relationships between the petitioner and the vicar and churchwardens. The petitioner claimed that every time she visited her husband's grave she felt anger and grievance towards the vicar and churchwardens. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment: "The fact that the widow or widower of a person whose remains have been interred in a particular churchyard has strong feelings of anger and grievance towards the incumbent and churchwardens of the particular church cannot justify the exhumation of the remains in question."

Faculty granted for exhumation fromĀ  a husband's grave in England and reinterment in the grave of his wife in Australia. The judgment contains a discussion of the decisions in a number of "portable remains" and "family grave" cases.

The Petitioner wished to have her late husband's remains exhumed and reinterred in a churchyard nearer to where she now lived, her reason for the request being that she now found it difficult to visit her husband's grave. Applying the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor refused to grant a faculty.

An application was made for a faculty to exhume the cremated remains of James Thomas Padgett (interred in 1988) from the churchyard of St. Helen's Edlington, with a view to the remains being reinterred with the ashes of his wife, which were interreded in 2007 in Newport Cemetery, nearer to the home of the deceased's daughter, who also wished to have her ashes interred in due course in the same grave in the cemetery. The applicant stated that her osteo-arthritis now prevented her from travelling long distances. The Chancellor, applying the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], did not find any special circumstances to justify him granting a faculty.

The petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the remains of her daughter and husband from Bulkington churchyard, in Warwickshire, with a view to them being reinterred in the churchyard at Bacton in Norfolk. The petitioner's daughter had lived only one day and was buried at Bulkington fifty years ago. Her husband's cremated remains had been interred there nineteen years ago. Seven years ago, the petitioner, who had suffered serious health issues, had moved to Bacton to be near her family, and she wished in due course to be buried with the remains of her daughter and husband at Bacton, where her remaining family would be able to maintain the grave. She was concerned about being unable to visit the churchyard in Warwickshire regularly and maintain the grave there. The Chancellor, applying the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, could not find sufficient exceptional grounds in this case to justify the grant of a faculty.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise a shallow excavation in and around a late nineteenth century grave in Gorton churchyard, in order to establish whether the Moors Murderer Ian Brady buried something in a hessian sack in the grave.

The petitioners wished to have the cremated remains of their mother exhumed from the grave of her parents in one part of the churchyard and reinterred with the remains of the petitioners' father in another part of the same churchyard. Their father had expressed a wish to be buried with his wife, but the petitioners felt there would be difficulties in interring their father's ashes into the grave containing the remains of their mother and her parents. The Chancellor could find no special reasons for allowing exhumation. It would be possible to inter the ashes of the petitioners' father in the existing grave where his wife's remains were interred, thus fulfilling his wishes. Although there was insufficient space on the existing memorial to add the petitioners' father's name and dates of birth and death, the petitioners could lay a plaque in memory of their father on the grave, or else replace the existing memorial with a new one containing inscriptions in respect of the four people whose remains were interred in the grave. The petition was dismissed.

The petitioner's father's body had been buried in the churchyard in 2014. A double depth grave had been requested, but it had not been possible to dig double depth. When the petitioner's mother died in 2017, a request was made for burial in an adjoining grave, but the petitioner was informed that it would not be possible, as there were tree roots in the way, so the petitioner's mother was buried elsewhere in the churchyard. The petitioner subsequently sought advice from an arboriculturist, who advised that it would be possible to dig an adjacent grave without harm to the tree. The Petitioner therefore sought permission to exhume her mother's body and inter it in the grave next to her father. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty for exhumation and reinterment.

The petitioner (aged 98) and her late husband had lived in Belgium but had regularly travelled to Felixstowe over many years to visit the petitioner's mother. The petitioner's husband had died in 1992 and his ashes had been interred in Felixstowe Cemetery. The husband had no religious faith and the petitioner believed at the time of interment of his ashes that the ashes were being interred in an unconsecrated part of the cemetery, though it was eventually discovered that the whole of the cemetery was consecrated. The petitioner now wished to exhume her husband's ashes, and after her death to have his ashes and her own ashes scattered on the seashore in Felixstowe, in order to fulfill their long-held wish. In 1993, at the time when it was thought that the grave was unconsecrated, the petitioner had obtained a Home Office Licence to exhume her husband's ashes, but she had allowed the licence to lapse. The Chancellor, in the very special circumstances of this case, decided to treat this as an exceptional situation where he felt justified in granting a faculty.