Openmouthed over gargoyle ruling

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The Independent Online
An ecclesiastical court has allowed two living clergymen the dubious distinction of being depicted as limestone gargoyles in a parish church.

Plans for the gargoyles had divided the congregation of the 13th century St Peter's in Oundle, Northamptonshire. Four parishioners were boycotting services, claiming that gargoyles should only be made of the dead.

Yesterday, in an 87-page judgment, Judge Thomas Coningsby, Chancellor of Peterborough diocese, said there was no aesthetic or legal reason why the two churchmen should not be made into gargoyles.

The former Bishop of Peterborough, the Right Rev Bill Westwood, and the church's former vicar, Canon Lloyd Caddick, will now be recreated as 6in- high limestone carvings.

The news will not be well-received by David Ritchie and his wife Margaret and Graham Gent and his wife Sandra, who turned up at a special hearing of the ecclesiastical court in the church last month to object to the gargoyle proposals.

They have not attended the church since the gargoyle affair first reared its head last year.

In his judgment, Judge Coningsby, expressed regret that the dispute had turned ugly. "There was fault on both sides in the way in which the dispute over the carved heads was conducted," he said. "Unfortunately it is possible for the most sincere people to be wrong about certain matters, and that is what has occurred here."

The legal costs are to be divided between both sides.

Canon Caddick, the church's former vicar who still lives in Oundle, said:"Now it is over we can heal the wounds that have been caused by both sides. It will take time and sensitivity from everyone who is involved."

But he declined to face up to the judge's criticisms of the dispute. He said: "I haven't had time to read it. I can't comment on that."

He hoped, however, that the four objecting parishioners had not been scared off from the church and that they would return for services in the near future.

The two stone carvings will cost around pounds 600, which will be met by private donations.