Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Memorials

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When the petitioner was 16 years old, her mother had died. Five years later she wished to install a memorial over her mother's grave. She approached a local stonemason, chose a design, and the stone was erected at the grave. The petitioner had been unaware that permission was needed to erect the memorial, and the mason did not check that permission had been obtained before erecting the memorial. The memorial was an oval shaped grey slate stone on a rectangular base with an incised trough planter. At one side of the base was an image of a bumble bee and on the other side a Celtic cross. There were objections to the stone. The petitioner applied for a faculty to retain the stone. The two churchwardens became parties opponent. After considering the approaches of other Chancellors in a number of other judgments, the Chancellor decided not to grant a faculty and that the stone should be removed. He indicated that if the petitioner chose a stone within the churchyards regulations, he would permit the designs of the bumble bee and Celtic cross and the same inscription, subject to part of the inscription being in quotation marks (for reasons which will be apparent from the judgment).

The petitioner wished to introduce into the churchyard a polished dark grey granite memorial in the shape of a traditional Gypsy caravan. On the front would be a representation of the double doors of such a caravan with blank windows and the doors flanked on either side by the engraved representation of a lit hurricane lamp. An inscription would be placed on the left-hand door, with the right hand door capable of bearing a further inscription following a later interment in the grave. It was also proposed that on the reverse of the stone there would be a representation of the rear window of a Gypsy caravan, with curtains at the window and a suspended cage containing two songbirds visible through the window. It was also requested that below the window there should be etched a representation of a horse-drawn two-wheeled waggon. It was proposed that the etched designs and inscription should be silvered. The deceased had lived all his life in a traditional Gypsy caravan. The Deputy Chancellor approved theĀ  memorial, with the exception of the representation of a waggon on the reverse side.

The Dean of Arches allowed an appeal against the decision of the Chancellor of the Diocese, who refused to grant a confirmatory faculty for a memorial placed inside the church. The Dean pointed out that a faculty for a memorial inside a church should only be granted in exceptional circumstances. He found that in the present case there were exceptional circumstances, as the persons commemorated had been substantial benefactors of the church and the village over many years.

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

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 petitioner wished to erect in the churchyard a memorial of black polished granite with matching kerbs filled with grey granite chippings. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty as the proposed memorial was outside the churchyards regulations and he also considered it inappropriate for the particular churchyard. He also made it clear that the unlawful introduction of unsuitable memorials of a similar type in the past did not justify the current proposal.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to allow kerbs to be placed around a grave. Kerbs were not permitted under the Diocesan Churchyards Regulations, and the Chancellor could find no strong reason to depart from that policy in relation to this particular application.

The petitioner applied for a confirmatory faculty to allow the retention of gravel placed over his late wife's grave. The gravel was placed over a membrane and retained by metal edging. Neither the Diocesan Advisory Committee nor the Parochial Church Council supported the work. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty on the grounds of potential future maintenance problems and the fact that to allow the gravel to remain might encourage others to wish to lay gravel in the churchyard. The Chancellor directed that the gravel was to be replaced with turf by the petitioner within three months, failing which the churchwardens were authorised to do the work.

The Parochial Church Council petitioned for permission to remove all toys, ornaments and other memorabilia and edgings from 67 graves within the churchyard, many of which items had been in the churchyard for a considerable time. The Chancellor considered all written objections, including a claim that to remove such items would be in breach of the law relating to human rights, but decided that the PCC was entirely within its rights in wishing to enforce the Churchyard Regulations, and accordingly a faculty was granted.