A £1.3m sale of the Lacock Cup to the British Museum has been approved by a Consistory Court, with the judge appealing for battling villagers to make amends.
During the rarely-held two-day hearing at St Cyriac’s Church, Lacock, the Rev Justin Gau, Chancellor of the Diocese of Bristol, gave permission for the sale of the chalice, which dates back to the 1400s and is insured for £2.2m.
The origins of the cup, which has been on loan to the London museum since 1963, are uncertain, but it is believed to have been donated to St Cyriac’s Church by Sir Robert Baynard, of Lackham Manor, 400 years ago.
During Tuesday’s ruling, Mr Gau said: “I’m satisfied that the unique and exceptional circumstances of this case are sufficient reasons to justify the sale of the cup.
“I direct the faculty to pass the sale of this cup. I make the condition that the sale is only to the British Museum, that a photographic record of the cup be made, along with a short history, which would be appropriately displayed, and that a replica of the cup be made, with the cost not exceeding £5,000.”
He added: “Proceeds of the sale will be used to form a charitable trust.”
The sale, supported by Lacock Parochial Church Council (PCC), will see funds invested in church repairs over coming years.
Lacock resident Geoffrey Fox, 82, led a campaign opposing the sale, claiming the cup, which has not returned to Lacock since the early 1980s, is an important part of the village’s heritage. He now has 28 days to lodge an appeal against the ruling.
Mr Fox, a former Lacock PCC treasurer, said: “I’m disappointed, no doubt about it. This is the last of the Lacock valuable items to disappear.
“We were very lucky to get the cup in the first place, but its value is the thing which appears to have sunk us and that it is difficult to stomach.
“This is such a unique item, with only one other comparable item in the country, which is why its value has shot up.
“I would have thought it should be sold for more than £1.3m, as the insured value is £2.2m, and I wouldn’t think there would be such a large discount.”
John Catchpole, a former churchwarden, was petitioner for the sale, after the British Museum expressed an interest in buying the cup.
Mr Gau said he felt bridges needed to be built between the opposing parties. He said: “May I appeal for a reconciliation in this parish, as I fear this litigation may have caused divisions, as litigation often will.”
About 60 people attended the two-day proceedings.
Mr Catchpole said: “We are very keen to stress his point about reconciliation with those who have clearly taken a different view to ours.”