The Victorian Society secures a notably rare success at consistory court

The Society recently received the Judgment from the Chancellor of the Diocese of Winchester, who has refused permission for a substantial extension and sweeping scheme of reordering to the church of St Leonard, Oakley, in Hampshire. This follows several years of negotiation in which the Society has repeatedly raised concerns at aspects of an overarching scheme that we consistently deemed insensitive and unduly damaging.

Photo: St. Leonards Parish Church Oakley Hampshire by Mike Cattell is licensed under CC BY 2 0

Despite continued opposition – from other amenity societies and advisory groups, in addition to the Victorian Society – the parish submitted its scheme for consideration by the Chancellor of the diocese, forcing the Society to decide whether it wished to enter as a party to legal proceedings. It is something the Vic Soc does exceptionally rarely, but after careful consideration of the case we decided it was one that merited formal opposition. The building is a fine and unusually rich example of a Victorian restoration of a medieval church, carried out under the auspices of the architect T. H. Wyatt in 1877, and it was our view that the proposals – involving sweeping clearance of much of the historic furnishings internally, as well as a large and architecturally undistinguished extension at the east end – would cause substantial and irreparable harm to the significance of the II*-listed building.

The Chancellor did not agree with all that the Society had to say in this case. However, he judged ultimately that the scheme would cause appreciable harm and that the justification for the works was ultimately lacking.

Success at consistory court is exceptionally unusual. This result is therefore to be celebrated.


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