I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the dispute between the rector of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Denbighshire, and his parishioners as to the payment of fees for the erection of tombstones in the parish churchyard; whether he is aware that an action for trespass was instituted by the rector in November, 1893, against two of his parishioners in reference to the erection of a monument; that the action was settled, and that the terms of the settlement permitted the erection of the monument in question without the payment of the fee, subject to the recognition of the legal rights of the rector in respect to the churchyard; whether he is aware that the rector, notwithstanding this settlement, continues to refuse to allow tombstones to be erected in the churchyard, and that he does so solely on the ground of the non-payment of the fee; whether he will state whether there is any evidence of such fees having ever been paid to previous incumbents; and whether, in view of these circumstances, any course is open to the parishioners by which the immemorial custom of the parish in respect to the churchyard can be preserved?
My attention has not been called to this matter since I answered a question upon it in 1893. I understand that there was an action which was settled upon the terms mentioned in the question. The rector informs me that he has adhered to those terms, but that they did not apply to all tombstones for an indefinite time, but only to the tombstones in respect of which the action was brought. I am not aware whether there is any evidence of such fees having been paid to previous incumbents. The rector states that prior to the Burial Act, 1880, it was customary to make an offertory at the altar prior to the interment, but since under that Act the burials have been held with Nonconformist rites in the churchyard and without any service in the Church, the custom of making the offertory has been discontinued and no fee received in lieu thereof. I have no jurisdiction to decide the disputed questions both of law and fact which are at issue between the rector and the parishioners.