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‘Dad’ allowed on memorial stone in Lichfield churchyard

30 September 2022

Vicar had refused permission on grounds of the wording, irregular shape, and colour

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THE Consistory Court of the diocese of Lichfield has granted permission for an irregular-shaped memorial stone with the word “Dad” to be installed in the churchyard of St James the Apostle, Newchapel, despite objections from the incumbent and the PCC.

The family of the deceased, Kevin Frederic Brookes, who was buried in the churchyard on 19 May 2021, wished to erect a memorial. The Vicar, the Revd Sister Janet Arnold CA, refused permission on several grounds, including the use of “Dad” when “Father” was the preferred word; the irregular shape of the memorial; and the use of blue pearl granite with gold lettering. The PCC discussed the memorial and unanimously decided that it did not agree to variations in headstone shape and the use of informal language such as “Dad”.

The family responded by producing photographs of gravestones of identical style and colour of gravestones in the graveyard, some inscribed with “Dad” and also not in regulation shapes: for example, a heart. The family also pointed out that the chosen shape of the headstone had been used in the graveyard as a memorial for other members of the Brookes family, and it had been the wish of the deceased to have it.

The shape was not proscribed by the Churchyard Regulations, they said, and the word “Dad” was common in the graveyard, and reflected what the deceased was called by his daughter. Marion Brookes and Jodie Brookes, the widow and daughter of the deceased, applied to the Consistory Court for a faculty permitting the memorial. The DAC, having considered the objections from the incumbent and the PCC, approved the family’s proposals.

The Chancellor, the Worshipful Dr Anthony Verduyn, observed that graveyard memorials were “always matters of great sensitivity, and it is possible for the incumbent and PCC to come to distinct views of their own which can change over time”. The Chancellor’s part was to assess the situation in the round.

The Churchyard Regulations were there as a guidance and not a straitjacket, he said, and they identified what might be permitted without the need for an application to the Consistory Court. It was an entirely respectable view that Regulations should be adhered to as a matter of fairness to all families visiting the graveyards; departures from the Regulations could disrupt the broad consistency of memorials and the equality of those memorialised.

In the present case, however, there had been several departures from the Regulations, and the memorial proposed was in keeping with those departures rather than extending them. The irregular shape of the memorial appeared elsewhere and near by, and it could be harsh to deny the erection of a similar stone. The same considerations applied to its colouring, lettering, and the reference to “Dad”.

The proposed memorial would not jar visually or in sentiment in this graveyard, the Chancellor said, and therefore the faculty was granted.

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