Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Memorials

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The Parochial Church Council applied for a faculty to authorise the sale of a helmet which, since the early 17th century had hung over the tomb of the first Duke of Bedford. The Chancellor determined that he was unable to grant a faculty, for two reasons. Firstly, the PCC had no title to the helmet, as it belonged in law to the descendants of the first Duke of Bedford. Secondly, section 3 of the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964 provides: "A Court may grant a Faculty to which this section applies (1) although the owner of the monument withholds his consent thereto or cannot be found after reasonable efforts to find him have been made... (3) no faculty to which this section applies shall be granted if the owner of the monument in question withholds his consent thereto, but satisfies the court that he is within a reasonable time willing and able to remove the monument … and to exercise such works as the Court may require to repair any damage to the fabric". In this case there was no evidence at the hearing as to who was or were the heir or heirs at law, and no evidence as to whether they gave or withheld their consent.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise a proposed memorial which was outside the Churchyards Regulations by reason of size (base width 60ins and stone 48ins high on top of a plinth 14ins high); type of stone and finish (blue polished granite); and inscription (overly long and sentimental message addressed by the family to the deceased). The Chancellor made it clear that the presence of other memorials in the churchyard which were outside the regulations and installed without faculty did not oblige him to authorise further similar memorials.

The Chancellor considered two petitions: (1) a petition by the deceased's partner to replace a memorial installed without authority by the deceased's son, and (2) a petition by the Archdeacon to replace the existing memorial with a memorial containing only the names and dates of birth and death of the deceased. The Chancellor had asked the Archdeacon to petition, so that, in default of an agreement between the parties as to a replacement memorial, the Chancellor was able to grant a faculty for a memorial with no contentious inscription. The Chancellor granted a faculty on petition (1), on the basis of an amended inscription agreed by the parties, and granted a faculty in relation to petition (2) in case the proposed memorial approved under petition (1) was not installed.

The petitioner sought to install a memorial of York Stone (and within the diocesan churchyards regulations) into an area of the churchyard known as the Croft. The Rector, PCC and a number of private individuals objected to York Stone, because allegedly the PCC had made a decision in the past that only grey granite stones should be allowed in that particular area. The PCC was unable to produce any evidence of a decision by the PCC to limit stones to grey granite, though most of the stones in the area were of that type. The Chancellor pointed out that a PCC can only have a variation to the diocesan regulations if such variation is approved by the Chancellor of the Diocese. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the memorial of York Stone.

The petitioner wished to erect a memorial on his mother's grave. The proposed memorial was of Portland Stone, 18ins high and with raised kerbs around the grave. The intention was to mirror another memorial to a relative, which was a few yards away. The memorial was outside the Churchyards Regulations in terms of minimum height and the laying of kerbs. The Chancellor saw no objection to the height of the proposed memorial. But he gave permission for kerbs only if they were to be laid flush with the level of the ground.

The petitioners wished to install a plaque, 25cm by 45cm, at the entrance to the church in order to comply with their commitment to acknowledge a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Chancellor felt that the fixing of such a relatively large plaque to one side of the main door of the church would cause serious harm to the building within the meaning of questions 1-3 in Re St. Alkmund Duffield (2013) Fam 146. He determined to dismiss the petition, unless within one month the petitioners applied for an adjournment in order to amend the petition and seek permission for the adoption of either of the smaller alternative plaques suggested by the Chancellor in his judgment.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to allow a coloured engraving of Thomas the Tank Engine on a memorial to a three year old child.

The widow of the former priest who died in office applied for permission to have her husband's ashes interred in a granite casket resting on a concrete slab below the base and to the west of the newly re-positioned font in the baptistery at the eastern end of the south aisle of the church and to erect a white marble plaque set within a timber surround above the casket, which would sit flush with the surrounding timber boarded floor. The Chancellor was satisfied that (1) the interment inside the church would not set a precedent, as the PCC would only support interment in church in the case of the death of a priest in office and (2) the priest's service and the affection in which he was held satisfied the test applicable to the introduction of a memorial plaque into the church.

A parishioner had died and her cremated remains were interred in the churchyard extension. The family applied to have a "desk style memorial" placed over the grave. Being informed that such a memorial would not be allowed under the Churchyards Regulations, the family agreed to a flat stone. By mistake the stonemason prepared a stone according to the original specification. On realising his error, the stonemason offered to replace the stone with a flat stone, but the family would not allow him to do so. The Archdeacon applied for a faculty to have the desk style memorial replaced with a flat one. The Chancellor determined that it was appropriate to grant a faculty to the Archdeacon.