A SUFFICIENTLY good reason had to be made out to overcome the ordinary presumption against any change to a church building and in favour of keeping things as they stood; but the Consistory Court of the diocese of Oxford ruled that this test was satisfied when granting a faculty to permit two heraldic banners, belonging to the late Lord Carrington, to be hung in the Grade I listed church of Holy Trinity, Bledlow.
The petition for a faculty was presented by the current Lord Carrington DL, the 7th Baron, to install two heraldic banners belonging to his late father, the 6th Baron (1919-2018), at the west end of the nave so as to face each other on either side of the nave arch, and to be supported by wrought-iron poles attached to the walls by brackets.
One banner, which dated to about 1958 and had previously been displayed at St Paul’s Cathedral, was the late Lord Carrington’s banner as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG). The other one was his banner as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG). It dated back to about 1985, and had previously been displayed at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. He was Chancellor of the Order of the Garter from 1994 to 2012.
Holy Trinity, Bledlow, began as a 12th-century Norman church, and is set on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It forms the focal point of the conservation area of Bledlow, and is a well-preserved medieval village church of exceptional architectural and historic interest. It is included in the most significant 2.5 per cent of listed buildings.
The application for a faculty had the full support of the PCC. No objections had been received in response to public notices. The DAC did not consider that the proposal was likely to affect the character of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest. But the banners were clearly a secular item, and the DAC did not consider the banners to have a pleasing design in keeping with the church interior.
Members of the DAC were mindful, however, that introduction of the banners was reversible, and so would not cause lasting damage to the church.
The Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 required the court to seek the advice of the Church Buildings Council (CBC) on any proposal that involved the introduction of any article (including a fixture) of special historic or artistic interest into the church. The CBC stated that it had no objection to the hanging of the banners; the only concern would be the presence of medieval plaster that could possibly contain wall paintings that were later obscured by lime wash.
As a matter of caution, the CBC recommended checking the area thoroughly, but, if the parish could provide the necessary assurances, then the CBC had no objection to the hanging of the banners in the proposed area.
Since the banners were to be hung in the church to commemorate the late Lord Carrington, the court had to consider whether the requirement of exceptionality relating to the character or service of the person to be commemorated, which would apply in the case of the erection of a monument memorial plaque, applied also in the case of the present petition.
Having considered previous decisions of consistory courts, the Chancellor of Oxford, the Worshipful David Hodge QC, concluded that the appropriate test to be applied was whether, during his lifetime, the former holder of the banner had made an outstanding contribution to the life of the church, the local community, or the nation, and (if the latter) he had enjoyed a sufficiently close connection to the church or the local community.
The Chancellor was satisfied that during his life Lord Carrington had made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation, and that he had enjoyed a sufficiently close connection to the village of Bledlow, where he had lived and been a patron of its church. In a long and distinguished life of public service, he had been Leader of the House of Lords (1963 to 1964), Defence Secretary (1970 to 1974), and Foreign Secretary (1979 to 1982).
He was Foreign Secretary when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982, and he resigned from that post on 5 April 1982, taking full responsibility for the complacency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its failure to foresee the invasion, and for the misleading signals sent out by the Foreign Office about Britain’s intention to retain control of the Falklands. Since his resignation in 1982, no other member of the House of Lords had held any of the four Great Offices of State.
On the international stage, Lord Carrington had been Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988, and, in 1979, he had chaired the Lancaster House conference that brought an end to the Bush War in Rhodesia.
The Chancellor said that Lord Carrington was a statesman of the first order. His decision to resign as Foreign Secretary over Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands was “generally regarded as an inspirational model of integrity in public life and as an example to others in public service.
“By any measure, the test of exceptionality [was] more than satisfied,” the Chancellor ruled. When worshippers in, and visitors to, the church viewed Lord Carrington’s heraldic banners, they “should feel inspired that a local person should have achieved so much in life, having served his country so selflessly, and having behaved with such integrity”.
Installation of the two heraldic banners would not harm the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest. Although the DAC did not consider the banners to have a pleasing design in keeping with the church interior, it was not the intrinsic design of the banners, but their association with the late Lord Carrington, which gave them their significance, the Chancellor said.
The faculty was granted, subject to the condition that the petitioner or the PCC satisfied officers of the DAC that no fragments of medieval or Reformation wall paintings or fragments of medieval plaster would be affected by the hanging of the banners.