Judge orders church not to sell off silver

St Cuthbert's church in Thetford has received a £20,000 grant. Picture: The National Churches Trust

A judge has refused permission St Cuthbert's Church, Thetford, to sell off £4,000 worth of Georgian silver to help pay for new lighting - Credit: Archant

A judge has refused permission for a Thetford church to sell off £4,000 worth of old Georgian silver to help pay for new lighting.

The collection, which includes communion cups, flagons and an alms dish, was inherited by St Cuthbert’s from two other churches that closed.

The parish had wanted to sell the items to help pay for installation of LED lighting in the side aisles of the church, and had even been given unanimous consent by the Parochial Church Council (PCC). 

But, in a landmark judgement, the Church of England’s Consistory Court decided the silver ware was an important part of the organisation's heritage. 

In his role as a judge of the Consistory Court, David Etherington QC, who is Chancellor for the Diocese of Norwich, said it was "part of our national and local history and our heritage and that of the church."

The petition to the court for permission to sell was first brought by Peter Thomson, a member of the PCC, John Richens, Treasurer of Thetford PCC and churchwarden, Rodney Black.

Following detailed examination of all the factors relevant to the proposal, Chancellor Etherington posed questions over whether the reason for the sale was “convincing” and whether any harm it would cause would outweigh the good.

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However, he highlighted that the Church Buildings Council had not given its backing to the sale, pointing out instead that sale of ‘church treasures’ should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Chancellor Etherington's final judgement of more than 4,000 words set out guidance on the criteria governing sale of such items.

He added: "The petitioners have not set out any particular financial emergency they are facing, nor have they said why they could not raise the money they need by other methods.

“I am concerned it is a case of wanting to use the financial worth of this silver for ‘something’, rather than any compelling financial need that demands the sacrifice of a church treasure.

“I have concluded with regret that, on the facts of this case and for the reasons I have given, the petitioners have not established a case for the sale of this Georgian silver at this point in time.”

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