Woman’s determination to be buried next to late father stirs controversy among villagers

Alison Allen has petitioned to the consistory court of the Ely diocese to be buried next to her late

Alison Allen has petitioned to the consistory court of the Ely diocese to be buried next to her late father in St Mary’s churchyard in Doddington. Picture: DAN MASON - Credit: Archant

A woman’s determination to be buried in a village churchyard next to her late father has prompted a petition to the Church of England’s own court.

Alison Allen of Wimblington was refused permission by the parochial church council (PCC) in Doddington to be buried alongside her father Rob Jones.

Now she has petitioned the consistory court of the Ely diocese that has the powers to overturn the PCC’s decision.

The Ven Hugh McCurdy, archdeacon at the Diocese of Ely, said that “the law is clear” in that permission must be granted by the consistory court of the Ely diocese to allow Alison Allen’s burial request to go through.

He said: “If someone wants to reserve a grave space they must apply for a faculty, legal permission, to have a space reserved.

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“No one, the incumbent, PCC, archdeacon or bishop, can give permission for a grave space to be reserved apart from the chancellor (of the Ely diocese).

“I advised Mrs Allen that this was a route that she would need to pursue if she wished to reserve a grave space. Mrs Allen chose to do this.”

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Mr McCurdy said he was contacted by Alison after her bid to reserve a plot alongside her father in the cemetery on Church Lane was unanimously rejected by the PCC.

He added: “These are very difficult pastoral matters as the chancellor weighs up the needs of the residents for their right of burial to be upheld with someone who doesn’t live in the community, but clearly has strong family connections with Doddington.”

Eileen Clapham, church warden at St Mary’s the Virgin Church in Doddington, said that villagers would be upset if Alison Allen’s petition was successful to reserve a space next to her late father.

Alison inquired last year about reserving a plot next to her father for when she dies.

Mr Jones died last August, aged 76; an obituary notice described him as the “dearly loved husband of Shirley, much loved father of Clare and Alison and devoted grandpa of Mollie, Elena, Freddie and William”.

His funeral took place at St Wendreda’s, March, and followed by interment at St Mary’s Churchyard, Doddington.

Ms Clapham said: “We had lots of people asking to reserve a plot, but we had to turn them down because we would not have anywhere to bury then, and we’ve even had to turn village people down.

“We have people ringing up two, three times a month wanting to reserve a space.

“If this woman comes from another village and gets the plot, it will upset the village people.”

Ms Clapham added: “The PCC has turned all these people down and I don’t think the village people who have asked for a plot would be very happy if someone who is not a churchgoer and not from the village gets this plot.”

The process is now for the church’s own court to make the final decision, despite the PCC deciding to turn down the request.

A public notice was displayed at the church and online on Monday (June 1) where residents can write to object to the request within 28 days.

But despite this, Ms Clapham believes the PCC may be powerless to stop the request being granted.

“If she gets it, I’d feel sorry for the other people that have been turned down,” she said.

“I don’t know how many people would need to complain, but I don’t think it would be too many.

“The archdeacon has obviously advised her. The only thing I am worried about is if she gets it, it is going to upset people in the village who have asked to reserve a plot and then turned down.”

Ms Clapham added: “If we reserve more spaces, where are we going to put them? People in the village are quite upset and cannot get a space, and we cannot do anything about it.”

Alison Allen has been contacted for comment.

Ely diocese, in common with the rest of the Church of England, has a consistory court, which is a type of ecclesiastical court.

These can often be called upon to handle everything from internal alterations to a church to suspension of clergy.

The judge of the consistory court – in this instance His Hon. Judge Anthony Leonard, Q.C. - is styled the chancellor of the diocese.

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