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Changing Approaches to the Bishopsgate Questions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2008

Will Adam
Affiliation:
Priest-in-Charge of Girton and Ely Diocesan Ecumenical Officer
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A glance at the Case Notes section of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal over the last few years points the reader to a flurry of activity in alteration of listed church buildings. This is spurred on by (among other things) changing views and practice of liturgy, access for the disabled, repair of damaged buildings. replacement of worn fabric, making a building multi-purpose, comfort and audibility in worship, the incorporation of new technology, providing space for hospitality, accommodating children's work and commemorating the turn of the Millennium. Chancellors have had to strike a delicate balance between two opposing and contradictory points of view. On the one hand the view of some petitioners that ‘any alteration which is seen by the incumbent and congregation to be desirable in order to encourage and assist true worship should be permitted without outside restraint’. On the other hand the view of the heritage lobby and others that ‘most of the churches in this land are national treasures of which the present incumbent and the present congregation are merely temporary occupiers and custodians with no right to make unnecessary or, as some would seem to argue, any alterations’. Whilst the ecclesiastical courts have at times placed a restraining hand on those seeking to alter church buildings, there is ‘no requirement in law either that a church should be maintained for all time in the state in which it happens to be at present, or that it should automatically be changed in accordance with the latest liturgical fashion’.

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Copyright © Ecclesiastical Law Society 2003

References

1 Re St Luke the Evangelist, Maidstone [1995]Fam 1 at 4, [1995] 1 All ER 321, [1994] 3 WLR 1165, (1994) 3 Ecc LJ 351. 13 CCCC No 19. Ct of Arches.Google Scholar

2 Although this is by no means all the amenity societies in all cases.Google Scholar

3 Re St Luke the Evangelist, Maidstone [1995] Fam 1 at 4, [1995] 1 All ER 321, [1994] 3 WLR 1165, (1994) 3 Ecc LJ 351. 13 CCCC No 19. Ct of Arches.Google Scholar

4 Re Holy Cross, Pershore (2001) 6 Ecc LJ 86, 19 CCCC No 35, Worcester Cons Ct (quotation from p 24 of the original judgment)Google Scholar

5 I am grateful to the Rt Worshipful Dr Sheila Cameron QC, formerly Chancellor of the Diocese of London, for lending me a copy of the unreported judgement in this case.Google Scholar

6 Re St Helen's Bishopsgate, 26 November 1993, 12CCCC No 23, London Cons Ct, p 26. The case was noted in (1993) 3 Ecc LJ 256, but not on the three Bishopsgate questions.Google Scholar

7 Re St Mary, Banbury [1987] Fam 136, [1987] 1 All ER 247, [1987] 3 WLR 717. (1986) 1 Ecc LJ (2) 33, 7 CCCC No 11, Ct of Arches.Google Scholar

8 Re All Saints, Melbourn [1992] 2 All ER 786, [1990] 1 WLR 833, 8 CCCC No 23, Ct of Arches.Google Scholar

9 Department of the Environment Circular 8/87 on Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas, para 91. Cf Re St Helen's, Bishopsgate, p 11 (12CCCC No 23).Google Scholar

10 Re St Helen's, Bishopsgate, p. 15.Google Scholar

11 Re St Luke the Evangelist, Maidstone (cited in note 1 above).Google Scholar

12 Re St Mary the Virgin, Sherborne [1996] Fam 63, [1996] 3 All ER 769, [1996] 3 WLR 434, 15CCCC No 10, sub nom Re Sherborne Abbey (1996) 4 Ecc LJ 685. Ct of Arches.Google Scholar

13 At least in the Province of Canterbury. In Re Wadsley Parish Church (2001) 6 Ecc LJ 172, 20 CCCC No 11, Sheffield Cons Ct, Chancellor McClean stated that he too considered himself bound by this approach.Google Scholar

14 Re Wadsley Parish Church (cited in note 13 above), per McClean Ch, at para 20 of the full judgement. Cf e.g. Re St Michael the Archangel, Newquay (1995) 4 Ecc LJ 526. 14 CCCC No 15, Truro Cons Ct; Re St Chad, Romiley (Chadkirk) (1997) 4 Ecc LJ 769, 16 CCCC No 9, Chester Cons Ct; Re Emmanuel, Northwood (1998) 5 Ecc LJ 213, 17 CCCC No 18, London Cons Ct; and Re St Paul, Birkenshaw (2001) 6 Ecc LJ 170, 20 CCCC No 10, Wakefield Cons Ct.Google Scholar

15 E.g. Re St Gregory, Offchurch [2000] 4 All ER 378, [2000] 1 WLR 2471, (2000) 6 Ecc LJ 82, 19 CCCC No 21, Coventry Cons Ct; Re St Mary the Virgin, Sherborne (cited in note 12 above).Google Scholar Quotations in this article from Hill, , Ecclesiastical Law (2nd edn) (Oxford, 2001), pp 690700.Google Scholar See also Re St John the Evangelist, Blackhealth (1998) 5 Ecc LJ 217, 17 CCCC No 25, Southwark Cons Ct; Re All Saints, Hough on the Hill (2001) 6 Ecc LJ 414, 20 CCCC No 38, Lincoln Cons Ct; Re St Mary the Virgin, Essendon (2001) 6 Ecc LJ 415, 20 CCCC No 40, St Albans Cons Ct: Re Dorchester Abbey (2002) 7 Ecc LJ 105, Oxford Cons Ct.Google Scholar

16 E.g. Re Holy Cross, Pershore (cited in note 4 above); Re Wadsley Parish Church (cited in note 13 above); Re St Nicholas, Stillington (2000) 6 Ecc LJ 80. 19 CCCC No 13, York Cons Ct.Google Scholar

17 Re St Mary the Virgin, Sherborne (cited in note 12 above).Google Scholar

18 Sir John Owen, Dean, and Cameron and McClean Chs.Google Scholar

19 Hill, , p. 699.Google Scholar

20 Re St Helen's, Bishopsgate, p 12 (12 CCCC No 23).Google Scholar

21 Re St John the Evangelist, Blackhealth (cited in note 15 above).Google Scholar

22 Re St John the Evangelist, Blackheath, at pp 28–31 of the original judgment (17 CCCC No 25). The relevant secular guidelines were contained in Department of the Environment Circular 8/87 and the Secretaries of State for the Environment and National Heritage publication PPG15. The chancellor also relied on the judgement of McCowan LJ in Sharkey v Secretary of State for the Environment [1992] 2 PLR 11 at 19. CA.Google Scholar

23 Re St John the Evangelist, Blackheath, at p 31.Google Scholar

24 E.g. Re Holy Cross, Pershore and Re St Mary the Virgin, Essendon (cited in notes 4, 15 above).Google Scholar

25 I.e. in Re St Helen's, Bishopsgate and Re All Saints, Melbourn (cited in notes 6, 8 above).Google Scholar

26 Re Holy Cross, Pershore (cited in note 4 above).Google Scholar

27 Re Holy Cross, Pershore (cited in note 4 above) at p 30.Google Scholar

28 E.g. Re St Mary the Virgin, Essendon and Re St Nicholas, Stillington (cited in notes 15, 16 above).Google Scholar

29 Re Wadsley Parish Church (cited in note 13 above).Google Scholar

30 Re Wadsley Parish Church at para 24.Google Scholar

31 Re St Gregory, Offchurch (cited in note 15 above).Google Scholar

32 Re St Gregory, Offchurch [2000] 4 All ER 382.Google Scholar

33 Re St Gregory, Offchurch.Google Scholar

34 Re All Saints, Crondall (2002) 6 Ecc LJ 420, Guildford Cons Ct.Google Scholar

35 Re Dorchester Abbey (2002) 7 Ecc LJ 105, Oxford Cons Ct.Google Scholar

36 Re St Peter's, Walworth (2002) 7 Ecc LJ 103, Southwark Cons Ct.Google Scholar

37 Re St Thomas, Stourbridge (4 December 2001), 20 CCCC No 39, Worcester Cons Ct.Google Scholar

38 Re St Peter's Walworth at pp 27–28 of the original judgment, quoting from Re St Thomas, Stourbridge at pp 12–13 of the original judgement.Google Scholar

39 Re St Peter's, Walworth, p 28.Google Scholar

40 Re St John the Evangelist, Blackhealth (cited in note 15 above).Google Scholar

41 Re St John the Evangelist, Blackhealth, at pp 31ff of the original judgment (17 CCCC No 25).Google Scholar

42 Re St Peter's Walworth, p 28. The quotation is from Re St Mary the Virgin, Sherborne [1996] Fam 63 at 77.Google Scholar

43 In Re St Thomas, Stourbridge (cited in note 37 above), Chancellor Mynors stated that there is no presumption against change where the effect of the proposed works on the building is beneficial or neutral. Generally speaking, however, other chancellors have maintained a presumption against all change which is more easily rebuttable in cases where the effects are beneficial or neutral.Google Scholar

44 Hill, , p 699.Google Scholar

45 Hill, , p 699.Google Scholar

46 Re Holy Cross, Pershore (cited in note 4 above).Google Scholar

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