THE fact that part of a churchyard became waterlogged during the winter months, making visits to a grave upsetting for the family, was an exceptional circumstance that meant that the Consistory Court was justified in departing from the principle of the permanence of Christian burial and the presumption against exhumation, and in granting a faculty for the reinterment of remains in another part of the churchyard.
John Lloyd, with the unanimous support of the PCC and of his children, petitioned for a faculty to exhume the remains of his late wife, Angela Lloyd, who died in January 2013, and was buried in the churchyard of St Agatha’s, Woldingham.
Mr Lloyd wished the remains to be reinterred elsewhere in the churchyard. The ground around the current grave became extremely wet during the winter months, he said, and the water did not drain away for many weeks. That made visits to the grave difficult, and any planting was ruined.
Owing to the groundwater and the clay soil, extensive drainage works would have to be undertaken to reduce the problem, and even that might prove ineffective. Since it was a double grave, Mr Lloyd wished it to be moved to a more suitable position.
There were only a small number of grave plots in the churchyard that became waterlogged when the weather was particularly bad, but none of the relatives of those buried in other plots that were affected had raised any concerns. Consequently, the PCC had no plans to carry out any remedial work.
The Worshipful Philip Petchey said in the Consistory Court of the diocese of Southwark that he was satisfied that Mr Lloyd and his family found the current situation unacceptable, and their feelings were not unreasonable.
The fact that another family might not be concerned, either because their visits were not so frequent, or because they did not want to plant the grave, did not seem to be relevant.
There was, the Chancellor said, “an understandable reluctance in chancellors to grant petitions for exhumation based on suggestions that the condition of a churchyard or cemetery had deteriorated”, but, in “an extreme case, the deterioration of a churchyard or cemetery might well form the basis of a successful petition for exhumation.”
It was also pertinent that the petition concerned a double grave. If a faculty was not issued, the fact that the arrangements in a future burial would be unsatisfactory would be a cause of additional and continuing concern to Mr Lloyd and his family.
A faculty for exhumation and reinterment was therefore granted.