OctoberMagazine leader

From the Vicar

One of my interests is in genealogy. I got the bug in my teens when I inherited my great, great grandfather’s notebooks on our family history. Since then the internet has been a treasure trove of information in filling out the family tree. I note, for example, that my great, great, great, great grandmother was Elizabeth Caroline Dawson-Damer. All this came to mind recently, as I was looking into the legal history of St John’s. Elizabeth’s first cousin was Lionel Dawson-Damer. Vicar of Canford Magna, who founded St John’s. The foundation stone was laid by his wife on 24th June 1887, which is the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. The church was dedicated on 21st April 1888. It became a parish church in its own right when it was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury on 23rd February 1907.

I was looking all this because we wondered why the grounds of the church were never used for burials. The answer is that they form the curtilage of the church, part of what has been consecrated, but not legally set apart as a burial ground in its own right. If it had been set up as a churchyard, then everyone in Broadstone would have had the right of full burial and by now the ground would be covered in graves and memorial stones. One can only wonder why things should have been done in this way. Perhaps the decision was taken to keep burials at Canford Magna, or perhaps it was considered that another burial ground was not needed when Broadstone Cemetery is just round the corner.

At a later date an area was set up for the burial of ashes. Any such scheme needs permission from the Consistory Court and comes under faculty jurisdiction. Many of our churches are buildings of historic interest and would fall completely under local authority planning procedures. One can imagine conflicts arising when a congregation wants to reorder the inside of their church, but then comes up against a local authority with no understanding of worship, but rather a desire just to preserve their village church unchanged. The Church of England is privileged to have its own planning process, known as faculty jurisdiction, which comes under Judge Wiggs, who is Chancellor of the Salisbury Consistory Court. He is advised in his decisions by a body called the Diocesan Advisory Committee, which includes people who are expert in heritage, conservation, architecture, worship, ministry and mission. They are very much in tune with what churches are for and how their building needs to evolve and change to serve the life of their congregations and the wider community.  But we have been warned by the Government. We must be shown to be using this faculty process properly, or else it will be abolished and we will simply come under local authority planning.

This is a rather laboured way of saying that we do need to abide by the rules. The burial of ashes is governed by the faculty process. In our small plot we allow the burial of ashes, to which a memorial can be added in the form of one small tablet set into the ground. Strictly speaking, an application needs to be made to the Consistory Court for the addition of such a memorial. In practice, we can avoid such a bureaucratic approach by locally approving such memorials, provided that they comply with regulations provided by the Consistory Court. A small flat memorial tablet is permitted, but no other forms of memorial. Any such items as vases or crosses might be added by the family on a temporary basis, but they can never be part of the permanent or long-term memorial. Eventually they will be removed.

Why has all this become an issue now? The answer is that the area set aside for the burial of ashes will be full before long and the PCC will be obliged to declare it closed, apart from the addition of ashes to existing plots.  We cannot extend the area for such internments without a faculty and there is a strong chance that we would not be granted such permission.  We might well be obliged to start up a memorial garden, elsewhere in the grounds, which could be properly and beautifully landscaped, but without individual memorial stones. In such an arrangement it is usual to install a Book of Remembrance in the church to record the names of those whose ashes have been interred. The PCC has not begun to address this situation, but we will need to start doing so, as space in the existing plot is rapidly filling up. I wanted to explain the situation to you and to invite you to share with me any thoughts you might have or ask me any questions. We want to consult local opinion in this way before we come to consider the best way forward.

Nigel LLoyd

 


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