AT a packed memorial service in the Temple Church on 6 December, we gathered
to give thanks for the life of David Calcutt and, in the terms of the service
sheet, “for the love he gave us all”. This was a man with no personal vanity, a
man of natural charm and affability, who did, indeed, have a big heart, as well
as enormous ability.
His successful career at the Bar, as the chairman of numerous inquiries and
tribunals, and as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, has already been well
documented elsewhere. There are, however, two other aspects of his life
that warrant recognition.
Music, and particularly choral music, was very important to David, from his
schooldays as a chorister, and then as a choral scholar at King’s College,
Cambridge. It was in 1956, the year after he was called to the Bar, that he
started the Edington Music Festival, bringing together six former choral
scholars and four cathedral trebles to sing the daily services in the Priory
Church at Edington, Wiltshire.
This festival will mark its 50th anniversary this year. It attracts people
from all over the world to join in the worship, now led by three choirs at four
daily services. David, its founder, saw it as “a festival in which God is
worshipped through beauty — beauty of sight, shown or seen in stone or
ceremony, beauty of sound, made or heard in the word sung or spoken”.
It is not surprising that this churchman became involved as a lawyer in the
care of church buildings. In 1970, he was appointed Chancellor of the diocese
of Bristol, in 1971 to Exeter, and in 1983 to the newly formed diocese of
Europe. All three offices he held until his death, aged 73, on 11 August 2004.
Europe, of course, presented a different challenge to that of the
well-contained dioceses of Bristol and Exeter, and he entertained his friends
by pointing out that geographically the Pope was within his jurisdiction as
The consistory-court judgments in Bristol and Exeter, which he gave over
many years, are in the collection of consistory- and commissary-court cases now
held in the Middle Temple library. They all reveal the clarity of thought and
expression for which he was so well known, together with the degree of firmness
that is sometimes necessary, and which on occasions he was prepared to use.
Thus, in a judgment shortly before his death, he granted a faculty to the
rector and churchwardens to remove kerbstones and chippings from a grave that a
lady had decided to embellish in breach of the churchyard regulations. David
pointed out that the churchyard is maintained by the parochial church council
for the benefit of the whole community, “and variations from the norm, save in
exceptional circumstances, would be bound to be seen as unfair.”
A much earlier example of firmness occurred in 1983, in the case of
St Michael and all Angels, Great Torrington, where the new incumbent
had introduced an icon, popularly known as “the Black Madonna”, and other
items, without permission, and had removed a painting and chairs to make way
for them. The appeal from his refusal of a faculty became the first appeal to
the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. No “matter of doctrine, ritual or
ceremonial” was in the event argued before the Court, although that was the
reason for convening it. Somewhat disappointingly for the spectators, the
appeal was dealt with as an ordinary faculty case, allowed in part, and
remitted back to the Chancellor.
David’s most dramatic decision was probably the grant of a faculty, in 1989,
for the sale of two very large paintings by Edward Burne-Jones, which had
previously hung high up in the sanctuary of St John’s, Torquay. To the
amazement of the Vicar and churchwardens, who attended the auction sale, the
paintings achieved a figure more than double the estimate, and well in excess
of £1 million.
David has left a fine record of service to the Church and to church music,
and we are privileged to have known him.