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Faculty granted for ashes to be re-interred 

08 December 2023

JONATHAN THACKER/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

The church garden at Holy Rood, Edwalton, photographed in 2020

The church garden at Holy Rood, Edwalton, photographed in 2020

A PETITIONER whose father’s ashes were interred in a plot of unconsecrated land adjacent to the churchyard of the Holy Rood, Edwalton, has been granted a faculty by the Consistory Court of the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham to have the ashes exhumed so that they can be interred with his mother’s ashes.

The plot of land, referred to as “the church garden”, was conveyed to the church by Deed of Gift in 1960. Over the years, a group of talented and enthusiastic parishioners carried out work on the land and created the garden that was now in place. The petitioner’s parents had been keen supporters of that garden project and had made generous donations towards it. They had also bought a small statue for the church garden. When the petitioner’s father died in 2002, the then Vicar, the Revd David Bignell, had consented to the interment of the ashes in the church garden. They were interred by Mr Bignell by being poured into the brick base under the statue.

The petitioner’s mother died in 2020, and she had expressed a firm wish that her ashes be interred with those of her late husband. The present Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Mark Fraser, had not granted permission for her ashes to be buried in the church garden, because he took the view that it was not consecrated land.

The Deputy Chancellor, Judge Murch, concluded from the evidence that the church garden had not been consecrated. The question that then arose was whether unconsecrated land fell within the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court. If the Consistory Court had no jurisdiction, the question of exhumation from unconsecrated land would have to be dealt with by the Secretary of State for Justice.

The Deputy Chancellor ruled that the effect of section 5 of the Consecration of Churchyards Act 1867 under which the land had been gifted by Deed of Gift was to add the church garden to the churchyard. Therefore, the Consistory Court did have jurisdiction over the church garden, which was now vested in the person or corporation in whom the churchyard was vested.

The Deputy Chancellor said that, given the apparent involvement of the then incumbent at the time of the interment of the late Mr Slaney’s ashes, the presumption of the permanence of Christian burial applied. The Deputy Chancellor concluded that this was a case in which permission should be granted for the exhumation. There was clearly a misunderstanding at the time of the interment, and, when that became apparent, the petitioner had acted sufficiently promptly.

The petitioner was granted a faculty for the removal of his father’s ashes from the church garden. The PCC and Mr Fraser had consented to that. If it proved impractical to remove his father’s ashes from the position where they were interred under the statue, the petitioner was granted an alternative faculty for his mother’s ashes to be interred alongside those of his father.

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