Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Graves


In December 2015 the Chancellor granted a Faculty reserving a gravespace for the petitioners, who were not residents in the parish. The Chancellor placed a limit of 12 years on the reservation, as it was expected that the churchyard would be full within 12 years, and the Chancellor did not wish to prejudice the rights of burial of parishioners and others with a right to be buried in the churchyard who might predecease the petitioners. The Faculty invited the petitioners to make written representations if they felt a long period than 12 years should be allowed. Upon considering written representations from the petitioners, the Chancellor declined to grant a longer period of reservation.

Faculty refused for the reservation of a grave space for the petitioner's mother (not a parishioner), there being only four or five empty grave spaces left in the churchyard.

The petitioner applied for a faculty giving her the right to be buried in the same grave as her former partner, with whom she had lived for 25 years until his death in 1986. The family of the deceased's first partner, who died in 1957, objected to the petitioner having the right to be buried in the same grave as their father, there having been a division between the two families. The Chancellor declined to grant a faculty: "In my judgment the dispute between the parties weighs in favour of non-intervention."

The petitioner wished to reserve a grave in the churchyard. She had lived in a house overlooking the churchyard for 51 years. Her mother was buried in the churchyard and it was proposed that in due time her father would be buried in the same grave as her mother. In February 2017 the Parochial Church Council had resolved unanimously that it would not support any further applications for the reservation of gravespaces in the churchyard, as the churchyard was getting full. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. He considered that the PCC's policy was reasonable in the circumstances, and that the personal circumstances of the petitioner and her connections with the churchyard did not amount to exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of a faculty.

Objections were made to the granting of three faculties to reserve graves in a churchyard which appeared to be almost full. The Chancellor was satisfied from evidence and his own inspection of the churchyard that there were at least 40 grave spaces still available. Faculties granted.

The petitioner wished to reserve a grave next to that of her late husband. Since before the interment of the petitioner's late husband, the Parochial Church Council had had an informal policy of not supporting any further reservations of graves, in view of the small number of available grave spaces left in the detached burial ground. The Chancellor decided that this was not a case where there were special circumstances to justify him in acting against the established policy of the PCC. He therefore refused to grant a faculty to reserve the grave next to the petitioner's late husband's grave. However, in a note attached to the petition, the Chancellor recorded that he had had a discussion with the parish priest with a view to seeing what could be done by way of pastoral provision. The parish priest agreed that the grave space next to the grave of the petitioner's husband would be the last space to be used in this burial ground, unless before then it came to be used for the interment of the remains of the petitioner.

Faculty refused for the reservation of a grave space for the petitioner's children, none of whom had a legal right to be buried in the churchyard. The PCC objected on the ground that the grave would be in the way of a proposed extension to the churchyard, and the Team Rector, for the same reason, would not give consent. The Chancellor stated that, where a person does not have a legal right of burial, the consent of the incumbent is required.

The Petitioners sought to reserve a grave in the churchyard next to the grave of their daughter. The priest in charge and churchwardens became parties opponent, objecting to the reservation on the grounds that the PCC had for many years had a policy of resisting the reservation of gravespaces and of operating a “first come first served” approach, which many parishioners had followed. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty on the basis that, where there was a long-standing PCC policy in place, he should not override that policy unless there was an exceptional reason for doing so. To grant a faculty in this case "would be to create the risk of real injustice to others who in circumstances of loss have themselves accepted the existing policy".

The petitioners, who had lived in the parish since 1978, applied to reserve a double grave. At an unspecified date since 1978, the PCC had adopted a policy of not supporting future grave reservations. The Chancellor granted a faculty, as he was satisfied that the couple had been given the impression before the policy was adopted that they would be able to be buried in the churchyard: "It would be unreasonable, in my view in all the circumstances not to honour that indication."