IT WOULD be inappropriate to inscribe the words "Free Spirit" on
a memorial in consecrated ground in a Christian churchyard, the
Worshipful Mark Hill QC ruled last month, in the Consistory Court
of the Diocese of Chichester. He was refusing a faculty for the
introduction of a headstone at a grave in the churchyard of St
The petition for the faculty was brought by Lucy Crammond, in
respect of a memorial to be placed at the grave of her mother,
Vicky Hammond, who was buried on 25 November 2011. The proposed
memorial was in the form of a Celtic cross, with the inscription
The inscription generated some debate in the PCC, but it was
agreed to be acceptable. The DAC, however, did not support the
proposed design, and said that it was "fundamentally and
spiritually inappropriate", and lacked "any Christian substance".
The Celtic-knot design was, the DAC said, "weak, and below the
standard expected in a rural churchyard".
The Churchyard Regulations state: "A headstone is a public
statement about the person who is being commemorated. . . The right
choice of stone, design, and inscription is important, not only to
the relatives and friends who are going to provide the memorial,
but also to the wider community, because of the effect which the
headstone may have upon the appearance of the churchyard . . .
"Epitaphs should honour the dead, comfort the living, and inform
posterity. They will be read long after the bereaved have
themselves passed away."
The design of the Celtic cross did not come within the classes
of memorial permitted under Churchyard Regulations. Nevertheless,
the Chancellor said that he was satisfied that it would not look
out of place in its setting, "bringing some individuality to what
is all too frequently bland and homogeneous".
The greater difficulty was in the inscription "Free Spirit", the
Chancellor said. Although those words appeared in combination in
various places in the Bible, they did not convey anything of
Christian belief, nor the hope in the resurrection, as was
appropriate in a consecrated burial ground.
The petitioner was advised to have a discussion with the Rector
or the Archdeacon in order to explore what other inscription might
be considered appropriate.
The Chancellor indicated that, if a more appropriate inscription
was proposed - or no inscription at all - he would sanction the
unorthodox inscribing of the deceased's dates of birth and death on
the left and right tips respectively of the cross.