Lawyer’s bid to reserve a grave upheld by judge

St Wilfrid's Church, Standish

St Wilfrid's Church, Standish

A high-flying lawyer has overcome the objections of local residents and won the right to reserve grave space in his favourite churchyard for himself and his wife to be buried in when their time comes.

John Richard Jones QC, 58, and his wife Heather of Wrightington want to be buried in St Wilfrid’s churchyard at Standish where Mr Jones was baptised and confirmed and where he and his wife married in 2000.

He also lived in the parish between 1959 and 1995. His grandparents and father are buried in the same churchyard.

However, his controversial application to reserve a double grave space there brought a string of protests from local residents.

But now a Church of England judge has granted the wishes of Mr Jones and his wife and granted their application despite objections from 12 locals.

Objectors wrote to John Bullimore, Chancellor of the Diocese of Blackburn, claiming that among other things the grant of such permission would, open a “floodgate” for other similar applications and cause “upset and division” among parishioners. They also complained that there is insufficient space to reserve grave plots, that Mr Jones does not attend church as much as he claimed and that the couple do not live in the parish.

But Mr Bullimore said that the QC, who wanted to reserve spots for him and his wife, should not be penalised even if they do not attend the church regularly.

Mr Bullimore said there were “no extra Brownie points” to be gained by frequent church attendance.

He pointed to the testimony of the Standish rector, Reverend Canon Andrew Holliday, who said the couple had gone from being “occasional” to weekly attenders since their son was confirmed.

The churchyard has around 90 grave spaces left which, at the current rate of around 20 burials a year are likely to be exhausted in around four and a half years.

One objector argued that if the application was granted it would prejudice the rights of parishioners and lead to many other requests and all remaining plots being reserved.

Others said that there was a policy in place that no grave spaces could be reserved.

However, in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court which has to approve matters such as this the Chancellor has over-ruled the objections and held that Mr Jones and his wife are entitled to reserve the space they want despite the views of the locals.

In granting consent he said that because the couple were on the parish electoral roll, they had the same rights to be buried in the churchyard as those who were resident there, and added that villagers’ belief that the parish had a policy against reserving grave spaces was “mistaken” and that there was “no such policy that I can implement.”

He said it was vital that his judgement be “carefully explained” to the congregation to avoid further misunderstanding.

Canon Holliday was unavailable for comment.