Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Memorials

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The petitioners wished to erect a memorial on the grave of two family members. The Incumbent, churchwardens and PCC did not support the application. The Chancellor granted a faculty. The judgment includes a discussion of two subsidiary issues: (1) do the petitioners need to show some exceptional reason for the proposed memorial; and (2) is it open to the Diocesan Advisory Committee to change the advice it proffers to the parties and to the Chancellor and, if so, in what circumstances?

The Chancellor granted a faculty allowing a blue plaque to be placed on the outside of the church to commemorate Gordon Welchman, who had played a significant role in code-breaking at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and whose father had been Vicar of the Parish.

The priest in charge, a churchwarden and the Chairman of the Tutbury War Memorials Preservation Committee petitioned for a faculty to place two metal wreath holders near to the war memorial in the churchyard. Historic England and the Parish Council objected, the former becoming a party opponent. Historic England felt that the proposed structures were not of sufficient aesthetic merit for the churchyard of the Grade I listed church. The Chancellor, however, was satisfied that what was proposed was of an appropriate quality, and accordingly he granted a faculty.

Faculty granted by the Chancellor, authorising the removal of kerb stones from the churchyard, being satisfied that the proposal had been sufficiently publicised and no memorial owner had expressed objection to the works being carried out.

The Petitioner sought a faculty to erect in Maughold churchyard, forthwith and before his death, a memorial in the shape of a Buddhist stupa. The memorial was to include the inscription: 'He wanted green dandelions', a statement described as a Buddhist 'koan', an illogical statement designed to aid meditation. The Vicar General refused to grant a faculty to permit the petitioner to place the stupa in the churchyard in advance of his death, and stated that the inscription would have to be considered when and if an application for a faculty was made after the Petitioner's death.

The Chancellor declined to allow the addition of an inscription on a floor tile in the sanctuary of the church in memory of a former parish clerk, but instead allowed a memorial to be placed on the wall at the west end of the nave, opposite a plaque in memory of another former parish clerk.

The petitioner applied for approval of a memorial in memory of her late husband. The proposed memorial was to be 6 feet wide and 4 feet 6 inches high on a 7 feet wide base, so that it would cover not only the head of the grave of the deceased, but also the head of the adjacent grave reserved for the petitioner. The headstone would take the form of two large interlocking heart shapes, each of which would be flanked by two smaller heart shapes. The stone would bear gold lettering and images of a horse's head and a riverbank scene, to reflect the life of the deceased, a leading member of the local traveller community. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for the memorial as proposed, because its size was considerably larger than the churchyards regulations would normally allow, and it would dominate the area of the churchyard where it would be erected. He permitted a smaller memorial in the style requested, provided that it did not exceed 4 feet 4 inches in height and 4 feet in width.

Mr. Gordon Mills died in 1983 and was buried in the churchyard at Welcombe. A memorial had been erected over his grave, leaving room for a further inscription. Some years before, his marriage had broken down, and following separation from his wife had lived with Mrs. Margaret Walker. Following Mrs. Walker's death in 2000, one of Mr. Mills's daughters and a granddaughter applied for permission to add the following inscription to the memorial: "Also his beloved Margaret (Walker) much loved Mum and Nan 31-12-1915 - 24-2-2000". Four of Mr. Mills's children objected to the inscription. The Chancellor decided that "Mum and Nan" might be misleading, as Mrs. Walker was not the natural mother and grandmother to all Mr. Mills's children and grandchildren. He also thought "loved" and "beloved" was repetitious. He therefore granted a faculty authorising: "Also his beloved companion Margaret Walker 31st December 1915 - 24th February 2000".

The Chancellor refused to allow a design of the Masonic square and compasses to be added to a memorial to the Petitioner's late husband, who had been a Freemason for forty years, latterly holding high office in Freemasonry.