Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Reordering

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This was a determination of two faculty petitions in respect of the unlisted church building: (1) the replacement of the organ with a modern instrument, and (2) a major reordering scheme, to incorporate community facilities. The Parochial Church Council was proposing to partly fund the work from the sale of the adjoining dilapidated church hall. There were three parties opponent, including two employees of the Town Council. Faculty granted.

The petitioners proposed the removal of 15 unfixed and damaged Victorian pine pews with a view to providing more flexible use of the church for family services and community use, the pews to be replaced with 39 wooden chairs with upholstered seats. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had made a ‘robust justification’ for their proposals and granted a faculty.

The petitioners sought permission to remove four pews from the back of the church, in order to provide more room for the serving of refreshments and for accommodating buggies and wheelchairs. The church is Victorian and unlisted. There was one objector, who did not become a party opponent. The Chancellor, being satisfied that the works were both needed and appropriate, granted a faculty.

The petitioners wished to remove the Victorian pews from a Grade II* listed church and replace them with wooden upholstered chairs. The Victorian Society and Historic England both accepted that the pews were of no particular merit, but objected to them being replaced with upholstered chairs, though they did not wish to be parties opponent. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the removal of the pews, on condition that the replacement chairs should be unupholstered and of a design to be agreed between the petitioners and the Diocesan Advisory Committee, and in default of such agreement to be decided by the Court.

The petition related to the south transept of the Grade I church and the installation of underfloor heating beneath a new stone floor; the provision of a discreet tea point; and the introduction of heritage boards. The historic memorial slabs laid into the floor would be left in situ, covered by the heating elements and the new floor. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings entered an objection and became a party opponent. The Chancellor dismissed the petition. He took the view that the proposals were unlikely to achieve what the parish seemed to want, namely, to heat the whole church which is ‘intolerably cold’ for several months of the year. The proposed underfloor heating in the south transept would only provide a partial solution, and one which would be largely compromised due to the inability to isolate the south transept as a sealed environment.

Faculty granted for replacement of pews with new seating, and carpetting of nave.

The proposals were to replace the pews with metal-framed, upholstered chairs; removal of the clergy stalls; and alterations to floor levels and the heating installation. The Victorian Society indicated that it would not oppose the removal of the pews if appropriate wooden, unupholstered chairs were to be provided by way of replacement. A private objector objected to the removal of the clergy stalls and the pews. The Deputy Commissary General dismissed the petition. He determined that the removal of all of the Victorian pews would adversely affect the character of the Victorian church. He also did not consider that the replacement steel-framed, upholstered chairs would be likely to be an appropriate replacement for the pews in this particular church, if the pews were to be removed.

The works proposed comprised a number of non-contentious repairs and a major reordering. The reordering included the creation of toilet facilities at the north-west porch and the creation of a two-storey 'pod' in the north transept, to accommodate two meeting rooms; an area for children and parents during services; a servery area for refreshments; a space for community use; a small enclosable room for counselling; and two offices for clergy use. Historic England and the Victorian Society had objections and reservations about these items, but did not become parties opponent. The Chancellor was satisfied that it was appropriate to grant a faculty, stating that, "the need for these facilities, and the benefits respectively enuring to them, are sufficient to justify this intrusion on the character and significance of the building as a whole."