An historic church court that rarely sits - but has been in existence since shortly after the Norman conquest - is set to preside over an objection to a new heating system at a Suffolk church.

On Saturday, the Consistory Court of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich will hear the objection by architect Nick Bridges to the electrical heating installed at 14th century St Bartholomew's Church in Orford.

Justin Gau, chancellor of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, will be presiding over the hearing, while clerk to the court James Hall said that during the 20 years he had been in his role he had only known the court to sit three times.

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Each diocese has one of the ecclesiastical courts, which were established pursuant to a charter by William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England.

The court exercises control over changes to certain types of church land and buildings, matters that would normally be handled by district council planning departments, which usually decides on changes to listed buildings.

The objection that has been brought before the consistory court relates to the removal of lighting from inside the church to make way for the new heating system, which Mr Bridges says should not have been removed.

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However, the church has said an oil-fired boiler used previously to heat the church was out-of-date and not environmentally-friendly and new equipment was needed to heat the church for congregations and for events, including visits by schoolchildren

The installation of the heating equipment was carried out before permission had been granted by the Church of England's jurisdiction, known as the Faculty and the hearing at St Bartholomew's Church will consider this situation when making its decision.

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Depending on the outcome, the court does have the power to order the changes made be removed and the building to be restored to its original state.

Mr Hall said: "In the time that I have been here, there have been three hearings like the one we are going to do tomorrow. 

"In each year, well over 100 faculties are granted without any form of hearing or other sort of appearance like we are going to have tomorrow. They are exceptional."

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