Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Churchyards

Display:
Sort By:

The petitioners wished to obtain permission to remove from the churchyard all items that were not allowed under the churchyards regulations, such as "figurine gnomes, garden gnomes, figurine angels, cupids, balloons, and solar lamps, etc." together with rose bushes and other shrubs planted on graves. There were several letters of objection, but no objector became a party opponent. The Chancellor granted a faculty: "As a matter of logic and common sense, since there are regulations in force, it would be manifestly absurd to have them broken as each person deems fit ... In my judgment it is not proper for a person to take the law into his own hands, and then cry 'foul' when action is taken against him."

Application for a Faculty for the replacement of existing structures in the churchyard of a redundant church appropriated by a pastoral scheme for the use of an Oxford college. The work to include a new gardener’s office, greenhouse and cold frames and three storerooms and the removal of existing sheds and other structures, new bicycle stands to replace old ones, new fencing and the relocation of six monuments. Faculty granted for relocation of memorials and for only such other items as could not be regarded as "buildings" within the meaning of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, which prohibits the erection of buildings within a disused burial ground.

The proposal was to construct a ramp at the front of a 1960s church, facing an access from the road, in order to allow step-free access to the front of the church for the disabled. Objections were based on the design of the ramp, the possibility of its use by skateboarders and consequent safety issues, the fact that there was step-free access to the church from the car park at the rear, and difficulties of loading and unloading at the front of the church. Faculty granted.

The Chancellor determined to grant a faculty to allow part of the churchyard to be reused for burials, but proposed to stay the issue of the faculty until the parish had considered whether to ask for a set of bespoke churchyard regulations limiting the types of stone which could be used for memorials, in order to preserve the character of the unique setting of the small country church set in the middle of a field.

The petition related to the proposed construction of a new extension to the north of the west end of the church, to provide a meeting room, an accessible toilet, a store, and a kitchen. These facilities would replace those provided by a temporary portacabin in the churchyard. The decision turned on the impact of the proposed extension on a yew tree thought to be 700-750 years old. The Chancellor was unwilling to grant a faculty: "It seems to me that the total loss of an ancient or veteran yew ... is equivalent to serious harm to a grade I or II* building, and should only be exceptionally allowed.  In the present case, I accept that it is by no means certain that the new building will cause the loss of the yew, but I consider that the risk of its loss, and the harm that would result if it were to be lost, are sufficiently great that they are not justified by the benefit that would undoubtedly arise from the new building".

The incumbent and churchwardens applied for a faculty to approve a local variation of the Churchyard Regulations. The Chancellor was satisfied that it was appropriate to approve a local set of regulations on aesthetic and practical grounds and to enable better management of the churchyard. It would be a condition of the faculty that families would be required to sign a notice confirming that they would comply with the regulations.