Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Reordering

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Faculty granted for the rebuilding to a new design of a church almost completely destroyed by fire. Objections were lodged by the Victorian Society, and the decision was made on written representations, without a hearing.

The petitioners wished to remove a stone font introduced in the early part of the 20th century to the Grade II* listed church, which dates from around 1300. The proposal was to replace the stone font with a new font of modern design. The new font was to be movable, so as to permit the freeing up of space at the west end of the church, when required for activities other than baptism. Despite reservations as to the design, and the fact that the new font had been made and used before the matter got to a hearing, the Chancellor granted the faculty.

Extensive reordering works were proposed for the Grade I church. There were several written objections, but none of the objectors wished to be a party opponent. There were no objections from the amenity societies consulted. The Chancellor, being satisfied that the petitioners had made out a good case for the works (" ... the proposed changes will result in greater liturgical freedom, pastoral well-being, involvement of the congregation, opportunities for mission and use of the church generally"), granted a faculty.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise a major scheme of reordering, which included the removal of pews and their replacement with hardwood chairs and benches; moving the font and the organ; replacing the altar against the east wall and installing a free-standing altar at the west end of the chancel; and removing the rood screen. Notwithstanding the objections of ChurchCare, Historic England, and the Victorian and Twentieth Century Societies, the Chancellor was "satisfied that the reordering is part of an overall holistic scheme for a thriving church community, which will be a major public benefit outweighing any harm." The Victorian Society subsequently sought leave to appeal, which the Chancellor declined to grant. The Victorian Society then sought leave to appeal from the Dean of Arches, who granted leave to appeal on limited grounds.

A re-ordering project included the removal of all of the nave pews and their replacement with chairs; the installation of a new kitchenette and chair store at the west end of the building; the relocation of the font; and replacement of the dangerous wooden pew platforms with a simple engineered timber floor. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty: "... the circumstances and needs of the parish relied upon at present do not justify the changes sought because those needs can be met with a less harmful scheme."

The Priest in Charge and the churchwardens petitioned for a faculty to remove the existing Victorian storm porch and to replace it with a porch consisting of glass doors in a timber frame. The Diocesan Advisory Committee and English Heritage supported the proposals. The Victorian Society felt that the new doors would be too reflective. The architect explained that the doors would be set back and would therefore not have the reflective appearance the Victorian Society feared. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

In 2013, an Archdeacon's Licence was granted for a temporary reordering of the church by the removal of up to 10 pews at the rear of the church in order to create the opportunity for the Parish to experiment with the more creative and welcoming use of the space created. In 2014, an application was made for a faculty to authorise the permanent removal of the 10 pews, together with other works including installing a retractable projection screen and wiring for a portable projector; replacing the wooden panels in internal porch doors with clear safety glass panels etched with St. Cuthbert's cross; the installation of some stacking chairs; electrical works; and works outside the church. One objection was received. Faculty granted.

Faculty granted for the following works in respect of a late 19th century Grade II* church: “to take up and relocate the font; to introduce a new altar and Ambo; to remove and dispose of the existing nave altar and Lady Chapel altar; to install additional lighting; to remove and dispose of seven high-level metal halide light fittings; to box in the electrical services in the baptistery.” Faculty granted. The Chancellor determined that the proposed works would affect the character and significance of the building. However, he was satisfied that, in conjunction with the proposed liturgical development, the effect of the works would be to enhance that character and significance.

The petitioners sought a faculty for a re-ordering of the chancel and north aisle, to include work to the floor, the removal of the choir pews and the relocation of some solid oak screens from the chancel to improve sight lines. The amenity bodies, for the most part, did not approve of the removal of the choir pews and relocation of the screens. The Chancellor found that, on balance, the public benefit would outweigh the likely harm that would ensue from the proposals and that it was therefore appropriate that a faculty should issue. 

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A more comprehensive collection of Consistory Court judgments is held at the Middle Temple Library.