Judge has to decide between a holly tree or old family tomb being removed from churchyard

A leading churchman faced a "painful decision" when choosing to keep a tree or a tomb in St Mary's C

A leading churchman faced a "painful decision" when choosing to keep a tree or a tomb in St Mary's Church yard in Haddiscoe. Picture: Diocese of Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

A leading Norfolk churchman found himself faced with a prickly problem of having to decide which should stay in a country church yard - a 100-year-old holly tree or a 229-year-old family tomb.

A leading churchman faced a "painful decision" when choosing to keep a tree or a tomb in St Mary's C

A leading churchman faced a "painful decision" when choosing to keep a tree or a tomb in St Mary's Church yard in Haddiscoe. Picture: Diocese of Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

The holly tree roots had been damaging the tomb in the St Mary’s Church yard at Haddiscoe and permission had been sought, from David Etherington, Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich and a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court, for the tree to be cut down.

Two local women objected, however, and one of them raised a petition against the plan to fell the tree.

It was suggested that the tomb, established in 1791, could be moved instead - a course of action that would have required exhumation of the remains.

The chancellor, who said he found it a painful decision, gave the go-ahead for the tree cutters to take the tree down.


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The tomb contains the remains of John and Suzanne Elliott and their three-year-old grand-daughter Martha.

Wendy Alford and Jane Moir, objecting to the decision, had argued the holly tree should take precedence over the tomb and that the cheapest and most practical solution was to move the tomb.

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Mr Etherington over-rode their requests.

He said a surviving elderly member of the family in the tomb found the thought of their remains being moved “distressing.”

“In order to preserve the tree, it would be necessary to try and move the memorial (if that was even possible) and exhume the mortal remains of the three people buried there,” said the chancellor.

He added that exhumation of the remains would be necessary if attempts to move the tomb were made, adding: “Exhumation is only rarely granted by the court and then in exceptional circumstances.”

While he agreed the holly was attractive he said: “The question before me is whether the preservation of the tomb and the remains in situ should take precedence over the fate of the holly Ttee or vice versa.”

Although he said he had found it a painful decision because of the beauty and importance of trees in general and the feeling for this one in particular he had “come to the firm conclusion” the correct decision was to have this one felled to save the tomb.

A condition of the permission is that suitable replacement trees be planted for those to be felled, in locations advised by the arboreal consultants.

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