Lottery plaque judged too tasteless for church porch

17 February 2017

ALAN MURRAY-RUST/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

No logo: St Bartholomew’s, Welby, where an HLF plaque was refused

No logo: St Bartholomew’s, Welby, where an HLF plaque was refused

THE Chancellor of the diocese of Leicester refused a petition for a faculty to permit the mounting of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) plaque on an inside wall of the porch of St Bartholomew’s, Welby, in Lincolnshire. The church, a Grade II* listed building, had recently been improved by substantial repair works and upgrading with assistance from the HLF.

In January 2014, a faculty had been obtained for investigatory works necessary to comply with a grant offer from the HLF, and, in November 2014, a faculty was granted for the consequential repairs and installation of facilities. At that time, no thought had been given to the likelihood that the HLF might require a plaque with its own logo to be attached to the church on a permanent basis, even if one was displayed on a temporary basis during the works.

The conditions of the HLF grant were set out in its guidelines, “How to acknowledge your grant”. It stated that the HLF “will expect to see acknowledgment of our funding . . . by using the acknowledgement logo”, which “must be visible in public areas, both during your project and after its completion”. Applicants were asked to be “creative”, and “use our logo imaginatively and in the best ways suitable for your project”. The logo was to be reproduced in only black, white, or the HLF blue.

The plaque for which the faculty was sought was of transparent Perspex with lettering in “cheerful blue”, acknowledging the funding. It contained the HLF logo of a smiling face and a hand with fingers crossed. Chancellor Mark Blackett-Ord said that the crossed fingers were “a remote Christian reference, indicating prayer, and suggesting that punters might pray to be lottery winners”, but it was not expected that the Christian reference might be noted by many. The real purpose of the motif was presumably to encourage those who bought lottery tickets to hope that they might become rich, the Chancellor said, which was not “a particularly Christian purpose”.

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There was, he said, “a violent contrast between the jaunty motif and colours on the Perspex plaque and the sober interior decoration of the church and its porch”: the fixing of the proposed plaque in the place suggested would cause serious harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

What was important from the HLF guidelines was that it did not make mandatory the particular plaque for which the faculty was sought. The guidelines mentioned alternative size, colour, and wording. What was mandatory was something to announce the HLF grant. The logo signage seemed the preferred option, but was not obligatory.

That being so, there was little “justification”, the Chancellor said, for the installation of a plaque “as large and tasteless as the one proposed”. Therefore the application for a faculty was rejected in its present form.

The Chancellor said, however, that he wanted “to help the petitioners out of the unfortunate position” in which they found themselves. He was therefore interested by the DAC’s suggestion that a smaller plaque might be more suitable, and he was prepared to accede if the petitioners applied for an adjournment to amend the petition to seek permission for either a plaque in “compact” form, but in black and white only (no blue), and no larger than 12 centimetres in height; or a plaque in different form, agreed with the HLF, but no larger than 12 centimetres.

The smaller the plaque, the more acceptable it would be, he said.

If no application for an adjournment was made within that time, the petition was dismissed.

The Chancellor also suggested that, in future, any faculty applicants who sought permission for work that was to be supported by HLF grants should be warned to give thought to the question of an HLF plaque, which would be required. That oversight had led to the difficulties in the present case.

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