Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Graves

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The PCC had passed a resolution in 2009 that it would not support future applications for the reservation of graves, as it was estimated that the churchyard would be full within ten years. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for the reservation of a grave for a parishioner and his wife, who wished to be buried in a grave next to the Pet‭itioner's mother: "I have no doubt that the policy adopted by the PCC since 2009 is capable of being justified on reasonable grounds and is not inherently unreasonable. It is designed to achieve fairness to all who have a right to be buried in the churchyard and the absence of any faculties being granted to reserve grave spaces suggests that the policy has been accepted by others since such time."

The four petitioners (one of whom wished to be cremated) petitioned to reserve exclusive rights of burial for 30 years in a triple-depth grave next to their parents' grave. The churchyard only had space for burials for 20 years. The Chancellor granted a faculty, but limited the reservation to 20 years.

Application for a restitution order granted where vault constructed in a churchyard without faculty. Discussion of the nature of rights of burial.

The Court refused to grant leave to appeal in respect of the judgment of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Chester, dated 4 August 2015, when the Chancellor refused to grant a faculty giving the petitioner the right to have her ashes interred in the grave of her late partner, the wife and two daughters of the deceased partner having objected to the grant of a faculty.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty giving the petitioner the right to have her ashes interred in the grave of the late partner she had been living with for 2-3 years. The wife and two daughters of the deceased partner had objected.

The petitioners wished to reserve a grave in the churchyard of Hulme Walfield. They did not live in the parish. In Schedule 2 of the petition it was indicated that the incumbent and Churchwardens did not consent to the reservation. The Chancellor declined to grant a faculty on the basis that a burial of a non-parishioner could only take place with the consent of the incumbent, who should have regard to any general guidance given by the PCC (s 6(2) of the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1976). So to grant a faculty would be to subvert the purpose of Section 6(2) of the 1976 measure, since the reservation of a grave by faculty would override the minister’s power to give or withhold consent to the eventual burial of non-parishioners.

Faculty refused for the reservation of a grave space, where few empty graves remaining.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for the reservation of a double grave, as there were very few empty grave spaces left in the churchyard.

In 2010 the petitioner had approached the then Rector regarding the reservation of a grave for himself and his wife. The Rector subsequently wrote to the petitioner to say that the grave in question had been reserved, though in fact no faculty had been granted. In 2015 the PCC refused to support another application for the reservation of a grave, and the Chancellor had refused a faculty in January 2016, on the grounds that the churchyard was almost full of burials and closure was contemplated. When the present petitioner became aware in 2017 of the PCC's refusal to support a faculty in 2015, he was upset, firstly, that he had not been advised in 2010 that a faculty was required, and, secondly, that a ‘precedent’ appeared to have been set by a refusal of a reservation in 2015/16. He applied nevertheless for a faculty. The Chancellor granted a faculty in the special circumstances of the case, making it clear that he did not do so as a result of the petitioner's position as a reader in the parish, but because since 2010 the petitioner and his wife had entertained a reasonable expectation that their burial arrangements had lawfully been approved.