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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 20 January 2022

Index by Dioceses of 2021 judgments on this web site.

Memorials

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Faculty granted for the removal wooden and plastic kerbs from a number of graves.

The petitioner applied for approval of a memorial stone for the grave of his father, a former builder and stonemason, with inscriptions on both sides of the stone: on the front, the names and dates of birth and death of the deceased and the word 'Beloved'; and on the back a quotation from a poem by Rudyard Kipling ('Till the master of all good workmen shall set us to work anew') and an engraving of a trowel. The PCC objected to inscriptions on both sides of the stone, saying that it would set a precedent. The Team Rector, who had originally been happy with the proposal, later suggested that the trowel was inappropriate, as it was a symbol of Freemasonry, which might offend some people. The Chancellor determined that the design had artistic merit; that it would not establish a precedent, as there were already several stones in the churchyard with inscriptions on both sides; that the poem extract would look out of place on the front; and that the trowel was a symbol of the lifelong work of the deceased as a builder and stonemason, who had no connection with Freemasonry. Accordingly, the Chancellor granted a faculty.

In 2012, memorial kerbs had been removed from the churchyard without the authority of a faculty, causing distress to several family members of those buried in the churchyard. The Chancellor directed that the Team Vicar and Churchwardens should apply for a confirmatory faculty, in order that objections could be properly dealt with. Faculty granted, subject to conditions, including a requirement that kerbs should be reinstated, but laid flush with the ground.

An urgent faculty was sought for the temporary removal of two headstones from the churchyard to a place of safety. They had been erected in 1962 on the graves of music hall performers whose stage names incorporated a term which is a derogatory and offensive reference to black people. That word was included in the inscriptions. The chancellor granted the faculties, as a temporary expedient to protect the headstones from damage, noting the current Black Lives Matter movement. He gave directions for the future disposal of the matter, particularly the tracing of the respective heirs-at-law, who are the legal owner of the headstones. The Chancellor would determine at a future date whether the headstones be re-introduced, either unaltered or with the offensive wording erased or obscured; whether alternative headstones be substituted; or whether there should be some other resolution.

In 2020, the Chancellor gave a judgment concerning the temporary removal of two memorials from the churchyard. There had been complaints that the inscription on each memorial contained the same allegedly offensive or derogatory word. (SeeĀ  Re St. Margaret Rottingdean [2020] ECC Chi 4) In the present case, the vicar and churchwardens applied for a faculty to authorise the re-cutting of the stones, so as to omit the offensive word from the inscriptions, and the return of the stones to the churchyard. The families of those commemorated by the stones supported the application. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

The petitioners applied to reintroduce into the churchyard a memorial to their father, which had been placed on the centre of the grave of the petitioners' parents, but had been removed because it had been installed without authority. The grave already had a memorial to the petitioners' mother. The additional memorial to the petitioners' father was in the shape of a small cylinder, with names and dates around the circumference and a Maltese Cross on the top surface. The design was outside the churchyards regulations, though it was noted that most of the memorials nearby breached the regulations in some way. The Chancellor determined that "the memorial proposed is attractive and complements the original memorial in place" and he therefore granted a faculty.

The petitioners, who were the Team Rector, Team Vicar, Vice-Chair of the Parochial Church Council and a Churchwarden, sought a faculty to install a wall-mounted monument commemorating the Hoare Family of Barn Elms on the north wall of the Langton Chapel in the church. This was to replace a previous Hoare family memorial commemorating sixteen members of the Hoare family whose remains were buried in the vault of the church. The former memorial had been destroyed by a fire in the church in 1978. The Hoare family had for three centuries been benefactors of the church. However, although there were no objections to the proposal, the Chancellor felt that, in the current climate of "public interest in contested heritage issues", he had to address the issue of the connection of the Hoare family with the slave trade in the early 18th century. Having considered any potential arguments which could be raised, he decided to grant a faculty. None of the family members to be commemorated had links to the slave trade, but only a member of the family two generations earlier than the oldest of those to be commemorated.

The Chancellor refused to permit a memorial bearing the masonic symbol of a square and compasses, because he considered that "wording or symbols which give rise to a real risk of offence or upset to a significant body of those visiting the churchyard will not be permitted."

The petitioner sought permission to erect a memorial to her late father. The design comprised a tapered four-sided stone surmounted by a Celtic cross. (Her father was a Catholic of Irish descent.) The overall height of the memorial would be 43 inches. The PCC felt that the proposed stone was too tall (though the maximum height specified in the churchyards regulations was 48 inches), and that the design would be out of keeping with the rest of the memorials in the churchyard. The Chancellor considered that the design was within the regulations, and that uniformity was not to be sought in itself. Applying the test of 'suitability', he granted a faculty.

The Chancellor considered three petitions relating to memorials. The first petition sought retrospective approval of a memorial (already erected) in the shape of an open book. The second petition, by the Archdeacon, sought the removal of the memorial. The third petition was for a further memorial in the shape of an open book. The Chancellor decided to authorise the first memorial and the erection of the second and to refuse the Archdeacon's petition.