Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Churchyards

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The Petitioners (the Rector and Churchwardens) sought a faculty to authorise the removal of a panel fence erected by neighbours on what was alleged to be churchyard land; to authorise the erection of a post and rail fence within the churchyard boundary; to give a direction as to the ownership of a stone retaining wall on the boundary and as to the responsibility for its maintenance; and to authorise the implementation of recommendations contained in a report from a company of tree consultants concerning trees and shrubs near the boundary. In the course of the proceedings the Objectors withdrew their claim that the fence they had erected was not on churchyard land and removed the fence. A declaration was given that the retaining wall belonged to the churchyard, and the petitioners were given leave to erect a post and rail fence and plant a double width yew hedge on the churchyard side of the new fence. At the end of the judgment is an additional judgment as to costs.

The Chancellor granted a faculty authorising the erection of an extension to the church to provide toilets and storage space. Access to the new facilities would be via the existing north door to the church and thus there would be no impact on the existing interior of the Grade I listed church.

The Parochial Church Council applied for an injunction to prevent the London Borough of Hounslow from developing a piece of land near the church, claiming that the land was consecrated, and historically had been part of the churchyard, notwithstanding that the Borough Council and its predecessor council had been registered with absolute title in respect of the particular piece of land for 69 years. The Chancellor dismissed the application.

This judgment arose out of a hearing before the Chancellor in Re St. George Hanworth [2016] ECC Lon 1. The issue of costs was referred to the Deputy Chancellor, who determined that the bulk of the costs of the London Borough of Hounslow should be paid by the Parochial Church Council.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought a faculty to authorise the laying of a drain under a path between the church and the public sewer (with a view to servicing  a new toilet in the church at some time in the future); improvements to the paths and driveway serving the church; and the moving of the seven memorials in the northern section of the churchyard, in order to allow that area of the churchyard to be used as an open space for community use. There were seven letters of objection, but no objector wished to be a party to the proceedings. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

Judgement following re-opening of case concerning notice boards outside a church, following complaints that Public Notices had not been published adequately. Per Dep. Chancellor, a Public Notice displayed outside a church, under Rule 6(4)(b)(ii) of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000, will not be considered to have been displayed properly if displayed on a noticeboard inside a locked porch, even if the public may be able to see into the porch through an iron grille door. There is also a useful obiter dictum on the relationship between the Faculty Jurisdiction and planning and advertising controls.

The proposal was to build an extension on the north side of the Grade II* church, linked by a corridor, to provide toilets, a kitchen and a community room/classroom. The Deputy Chancellor determined that a good case has been made for the proposed extension and that the public benefits of the proposals were sufficient justification, despite the harm to the significance of the Grade II* listed building.

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 Parochial Church Council wished to carry out works extending the church hall, next to the southern boundary of the churchyard, in order to improve the facilities that it affords for uses that are ancillary to the church and for wider community use. The proposed works included removal of two trees; relocation of memorials; removal and rebuilding gate post; resurfacing of the path. Letters of objection were submitted by eight parishioners, of whom one withdrew and two became formal objectors. The Chancellor stated that the test to be applied was not the test laid down in Re St. Alkmund Duffield [2012] (which applied to listed buildings) but the test set out by Lord Penzance in Peek v Trower [1881]: "All presumption is to be made in favour of things as they stand.  If you and others propose to alter them, the burden is cast upon you to shew that you will make things better than they are – that the church will be more convenient, more fit for the accommodation of the parishioners who worship there, more suitable, more appropriate, or more adequate to its purpose than it was before; and if you cannot shew this to the court, at least shew the court that a majority of those for whose worship the church exists desires the alterations which you propose." The Chancellor determined that the test had been satisfied. Faculty granted.