Plaques, noticeboards and acknowledgements

Faculty jurisdiction and external signage

The commercial relationship between individual churches and external organizations frequently requires the display of clearly visible signage, often outside the church building. This was the substance of the recently-reported Re St Bartholomew Welby [2017] ECC Lei 1, in which the court considered how a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) might best be acknowledged without compromising the appearance of the Grade II* church.

However, this raises broader issues concerning the display of other external notices such as those relating to the application of forensic marking on roofing – a requirement of some insurance providers. Whilst the legislation is clear, one suspects that many such notices are appended to churches without formal faculty approval.

Re St Bartholomew, Welby

The web site of St Bartholomew describes the £180,000 renovation project which includes a new roof, drainpipes, heating and electrics; a total of  £140,000 is to be funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with £40,000 raised by church members. Acknowledgement of the HLF involvement in the projects is evident in the photographs of the renovation work and the presence of Fund personnel at the Open Day after its completion. However, additional acknowledgement was necessary on completion of the work.

The judgment in Re St Bartholomew Welby considers a petition seeking permission for the mounting of a standard plaque, obtainable from the Heritage Lottery Fund, on an inside wall of the porch of the Grade II* church; the proposed plaque is described as “Perspex…measuring 25 cm x 45 cm”. The Chancellor noted [emphasis added, excluding the capitalization]:

“[4] …on neither of [the earlier] faculty applications [relating to the renovation work] was thought given to the likelihood that HLF might require a plaque with its own logo to be attached to the church on a permanent basis, even if one was displayed temporarily during the works. I blame no-one for this oversight, but it has led to our present difficulties, and I suggest that in future any faculty applicants who seek permission for work which is to be supported by HLF grants, are warned to give thought to the question of any HLF plaque“.

[9] The plaque is of transparent Perspex on which is written (in cheerful blue) ‘heritage lottery fund LOTTERY FUNDED’. On the left side is the HLF logo or motif, a combination of a smiling face and a hand with fingers crossed. I believe that the crossed fingers are indeed a remote Christian reference, indicating prayer, and suggesting that punters might pray to be lottery winners. But I do not expect that the Christian reference will be noted by many. The real purpose of the motif is presumably to encourage those who buy lottery tickets to hope that they might thereby become rich, which is not a particularly Christian purpose“.

Applying Re St Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158, he considered that the fixing of the proposed plaque in the place suggested would cause serious harm to the building within the meaning of questions 1 to 3. He then considered questions 4 and 5, and the justifications for carrying out the proposal, i.e. the requirement for the PCC to “acknowledge” the support of the HLF publicly.

Advice of these requirements is given in the HLF Document Heritage Lottery Fund Guidelines, including details of the minimum size of the HLF logo relative to its use on signage of different dimensions. [Our reading of the Guidelines differs from that in paragraph 17(b) of the judgment, but this is not material to the court’s conclusions]. Noting that “what is absolutely mandatory is something to announce the HLF grant, and the HLF logo signage seems is the preferred option but not absolutely compulsory”, the Chancellor concluded:

“[19] …there seems to me to be no absolute requirement, and consequently little ‘justification’ within the meaning of Duffield for the installation a plaque as large and tasteless as the one proposed on any permanent basis.

[20]. Nor do I believe that it should be allowed to become an attachment to the church on a temporary basis as suggested in [Charles Mynors, Changing Churches (Bloomsbury 2016) p.85]

‘Works of art, pictures, posters, decorative flags and banners may usually be displayed without a faculty “on a temporary basis”. This allows for the display of children’s artwork and seasonable banners. However, it is usually wise to insist they are in fact removed reasonably promptly, so that they do not come to be seen as semi-permanent features in the church, whose later removal (or non-removal) may cause unhelpful controversy'”.

He noted, however, that in the instant case, the plaque is intended to be permanent [21]. The application was therefore rejected but the petitioners were given the opportunity to amend the petition to include one of the two smaller plaques suggested. However, if no such application was made within the time stated, then the petition would be dismissed without further order.

Other issues raised by the judgment

Acknowledgements for funding are not the only examples of notices being fixed to churches; increasingly, churches are recipients of significant sums from external sources; certain anti-theft devices are dependent in part upon the deterrent effect of clearly-visible notices; and other liability-related issues may require warning notices relating to health and safety:

  • Our post Lead theft – future threats in parishes and parliament observed that in its useful Check List, Ecclesiastical Insurance stated that the application and registration of SmartWater (or an approved alternative means of forensic marking), together with the display of prominent signage is a condition of its policies and “should this condition not be met, the church will not be covered for theft or attempted theft of metal, or the subsequent damage”.

Whilst “the application of forensic marking on roof lead or other material covering a roof or to rainwater goods or flashings” may be undertaken without the need for consultation, [A1(6) List A within Schedule 1], the Rules are silent on the associated signage and a strict reading suggests that a faculty would be required if this is to be fixed permanently to the church, or its noticeboard(s).

Notices required by the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules

In addition to the above, the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 (“the Rules”). themselves impose mandatory requirements on the display of public notices and other information relating to proposed works, Rule 6.3. The requirements for these are dependent upon the nature of the proposed work and its originator, but typically, they specify that public notices are displayed both inside the church, e.g. “on a notice board or in some other prominent position” and “on a notice board outside the church or in some other prominent position (whether on the church door or elsewhere) so that it can be read by the public”,  Rule 6.3(2)(e).

Church Notice Boards

A suitably-placed notice board is a potential site for such notices, and some dioceses such as Bristol and Leeds provide  guidance on the requirements specific to church noticeboard, and typically these indicate that there will be no need for a faculty provided:

i) the same colour (if painted) or finish (if oiled or waxed) is used; and

ii) the only alteration to the text will be changes to the details of an office holder or times of services.

List A within the Schedule to the Rules includes circumstances under which changes may be undertaken without the need for consultation:

A5. Church contents: (4)(c) The introduction, removal or disposal of free-standing noticeboards, providing no article of historic or artistic interest is removed or disposed of.

A7. Churchyard: (4) The carrying out of repairs to a notice board and the repainting of a notice board.

There are no relevant entries under List B. Noticeboards take many different forms;  the Leeds guidance demonstrates that some have provision for information on details on services times, incumbents &c, in addition to that which is subject to more frequent change. The latter would be inappropriate for the location of acknowledgements &c, and changes to the former would require a faculty.

With regard to notice boards, David Lamming comments (below):

“[s]trictly, the introduction to the church of … pictures would require a faculty (since they are not mentioned in either List A of List B), but, presumably, they would be lawful by implication if displayed on free-standing notice boards permitted by Class A5(4)(c) in List A or a permanent notice board that had been authorised by faculty.

“In fact, there seems to be no faculty (or other) control of what might be posted on a church notice board (whether as a permanent notice or temporarily).

With regard to permanent notices &c, it could be inferred from A7(4) and some of the available guidance that permanent notices would be restricted to details such as office holders, contacts or times of services &c. and for these no notification is required for change. However, other than rule 6.3, there appear to be no formal requirements for the posting of temporary notices on fixed- or free-standing notice boards.

“Stand-alone” plaques and memorials

Where the use of a noticeboard or other forms of acknowledgement is not appropriate, a “stand-alone” plaque may be necessary as in Re St Bartholomew Welby. Guidance on  all forms of Commemorative plaques and tablets has been provided by the Diocese of Coventry DAC, which states:

“In the case of special gifts or benefactions, these too should be recorded either by a suitable inscription attached to the item, if this is possible, or by recording in a book of gifts.  However it cannot be expected that for every intended gift or benefaction, faculty consent will be granted for an accompanying plaque:  demand would increase and the church would rapidly fill up with small and fairly unmemorable tablets”.

Much of the case law associated with plaques and memorials relates to the commemoration of individuals and events, from which it is difficult to evince many principles relevant to the present considerations. Nevertheless, for completeness, this is summarized in a footnote below.

Where there is a standard format for a plaque or notice which is used on a number of churches within a diocese, such as in the case of SmartWater, an “additional matters order” under Rule 3.4 might provide a mechanism for its use without a faculty.

Comment

Churches that accept any form of funding should be aware of the Chancellor’s comments in Re St Bartholomew, Welby:

“[15] …sadly the mere fact that the petitioners have agreed without faculty permission to do something which requires faculty permission, does not mean that faculty permission must be granted if other factors militate against such permission.”

A different approach is necessary in relation to items such as signage relating to fire safety which a church is obliged to display. Whilst there may be less freedom in the specification of the signage, aspects of its location nevertheless fall within the faculty jurisdiction.

Footnote

New memorials commemorating individuals and events are reviewed in section 13.7.5 of Charles Mynors’ Changing Churches, which cites Re St Margaret, Eartham [1981] Court of Arches and Re St Gwenfaen, Rhoscolyn [2014] Bangor Const. Ct, Doe Ch. In this context, such commemorations “should speak less of the benefactor and more of the person to be commemorated”, and “where a memorial is to be in some form other than a straightforward plaque, it would probably be appropriate for its design to be the subject of consultation with the CBC”.

More recent cases have included: Re St Michael Cornhill [2016] ECC Lon 4 (memorial plaque to former parish clerk); Re St Michael Grimsargh [2016] ECC Bla 1 (single lancet stained glass window in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of church and in memory of petitioners’ son); and Re St Mary the Virgin Fishponds [2016] ECC Bri 10 (blue plaque on outside of church to commemorate Gordon Welchman, a prominent at Bletchley Park during WWII).

Since first posting, the judgment Re St. John the Evangelist Read-in-Whalley [2017] ECC Bla 1 has become available, in which approval was given for a window, the gift to the church from the Rt Hon Lord Waddington GCVO, “a son of the village”. The Chancellor noted the general principle that living donors should not be commemorated in stained glass or other church artworks, but stated that this was “an appropriately exceptional case”.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Plaques, noticeboards and acknowledgements" in Law & Religion UK, 25 January 2017, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2017/01/25/plaques-noticeboards-and-acknowledgements/

12 thoughts on “Plaques, noticeboards and acknowledgements

  1. All of this very effectively describes a faculty system which brings itself into disrepute by the pettiness of its determination to exercise microscopic control over parish churches, some of which would not survive without an HLF grant.

    • If I may be so presumptuous as to comment as a non-Anglican: whatever the current imperfections of the faculty system, the alternative would be for churches to come under the local authority regime for listed building consent. Would that be an improvement on the current system?

      • Certainly not, if Re St Peter Bramley is typical of the legal understanding of local authorities, where in addition to its failings regarding the faculty jurisdiction, Leeds City Council demonstrated a “co-extensive lack of comprehension of the requirements of secular planning law for which it is itself responsible”.

  2. Thank you, David, for drawing attention to the Welby decision. A few comments, if I may:

    1. You quote the chancellor saying (judgment para 9) that it is his belief “that the crossed fingers [in the HLF logo] are indeed a remote Christian reference, indicating prayer, and suggesting that punters might pray to be lottery winners”, adding that he “[does] not expect that the Christian reference will be noted by many.” I would agree with that addition. Indeed, this is the first time I’ve seen it suggested that crossed fingers are indicative of prayer or that the HLF logo has any Christian content, whether or not intended! It would be interesting to know the basis for Mark Blackett-Ord’s belief. It is true that ‘drawing lots’ (which is what the lottery involves, albeit using a sophisticated machine using numbered balls), in its less-sophisticated biblical precedent, was preceded by prayer (Acts 1 vv 23-26), but it is significant, perhaps, that little is known of Matthias after the lot fell on him!

    2. You also quote, as follows, para 20 of the chancellor’s judgment and his reference to page 85 of Charles Mynors’s “Changing Churches”:

    “[20]. Nor do I believe that it should be allowed to become an attachment to the church on a temporary basis as suggested in [Charles Mynors, Changing Churches (Bloomsbury 2016) p.85]”

    However your quote omits the central words of the paragraph and the chancellor’s quote from Charles’s book, and this distorts what the chancellor said. The full paragraph 20, including that quote, is as follows:

    “20. Nor do I believe that it should be allowed to become an attachment to
    the church on a temporary basis. I am influenced by the useful
    suggestion of Chancellor Dr Mynors in Changing Churches (2006) p.85:
    ‘Works of art, pictures, posters, decorative flags and banners may usually be displayed without a faculty ‘on a temporary basis’. This allows for the display of children’s artwork and seasonable banners. However, it is usually wise to insist they are in fact removed reasonably promptly, so that they do not come to be seen as semi-permanent features in the church, whose later removal (or non-removal) may cause unhelpful controversy’.”

    3. Incidentally, what Charles Mynors says at the foot of page 85 is a gloss on Class A5(4)(i) in ‘List A’ in Schedule 1 to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015. Class A5(4)(i) permits the introduction, removal or disposal of “flags and banners used for temporary displays (but not the laying up of flags, or the removal or disposal of flags that have been laid up.”

    There is no reference there to “works of art, pictures, posters,” though there must be many churches where works of art (say, in a community art exhibition) or children’s artwork are displayed on a temporary and, no doubt in most cases, unobjectionable basis. Strictly, the introduction to the church of these pictures would require a faculty (since they are not mentioned in either List A of List B), but, presumably, they would be lawful by implication if displayed on free-standing notice boards permitted by Class A5(4)(c) in List A or a permanent notice board that had been authorised by faculty. In fact, there seems to be no faculty (or other) control of what might be posted on a church notice board (whether as a permanent notice or temporarily), so that perhaps the response to the HLF is to put a suitably-worded acknowledgment of their funding on the church notice board. That could still be the “high-impact visual acknowledgement” that the HLF seek (see their guidelines set out in para 16 of the chancellor’s judgment.)

    4. A footnote: Clearly Chancellor Blackett-Ord needs to be reminded of the Dean’s ‘Practice Note’ of 23 December 2015 (No. 1 of 2015) that “all final judgments and decisions in diocesan consistory courts (including the Commissary Court of the Diocese of Canterbury… should be issued with single spacing.”

    • Thank you for your comments, David. With regard to the origin of the crossed fingers, Wikipedia reviews the origins of the uses of crossed fingers, and is generally supportive of Chancellor Blackett-Ord’s comment – just don’t use the gesture in Vietnam.

      I agree with you observations re: the omission from Charles Mynors’ book, (though unlike the judgment, I did get the date of publication correct), and I will revise that section and make reference to “works of art, pictures, and posters”. I omitted this in the interests of brevity as it was not a critical part of the judgment. However, there is an obvious segue with the inclusion of the full quotation from the book.

      The issue of free-standing notice boards did cross my mind, but I decided not to pre-judge what the HLF’s opinion of what a “high-impact visual acknowledgement” might be. In relation to SmartWater warnings, pinning one to the inner door of the porch, as I observed on my run yesterday, does not appear to fit the bill.

  3. Lottery funding is based upon people gambling that they may win a substantial prize. I have secular friends who consider such an approach to be utterly distasteful. They also believe it is wrong to promote any form of gambling of any kind.

    Would a church accept a bequest from a well-known criminal? What really is the difference?

    • I happen to be one of those difficult people who believe that it’s wrong to promote gambling – not because gambling is wrong per se but because when it turns into a compulsion it wrecks people’s lives. There are several denominations – of which the Society of Friends is one – that will have nothing to do with Lottery funding as a matter of principle.

      That said, however, surely the difference is this: whether or not you approve of it from a moral standpoint, gambling, properly licensed, is a lawful activity: activities such as armed robbery or extortion are not.

  4. I believe it is not just the Society of Friends who are opposed to gambling or benefiting from the proceeds of gambling.
    At the very least, I believe the Wee Frees also consider it unholy and obscene to do so.
    David Lamming’s mention of ‘drawing lots’ must surely remind Christians that the personal effects of Jesus were distributed between the Roman soldiers upon his being crucified by lot – were they not?
    I believe this practice is named Cleromancy. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleromancy.
    If anything, ‘drawing lots’ must surely strike any Christian as one of the most un-Christian of actions, if not downright unholy, mocking of the Christ and obscene?
    Perhaps lottery funding would be better described as latter-day blood money?
    Reading a few words from the Koran in church pales into insignificance by comparison.

  5. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has recently affixed to our lych gate a permanent sign to indicate that war graves are present in the churchyard. This was after permission was sought and the siting agreed by the incumbent and wardens. This is part of a national scheme by the CWGC but should we have applied for a faculty?

    • It is probably worth checking with your archdeacon, particularly if the lych gate is listed or is in a conservation area. As I am sure you are aware, within the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules the “repair and maintenance of lych gates” falls within List B5(4), but in parallel with the provisions with noticeboards, there are no other mentions to changes/fixing of notices &c in List A or B.

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