A FORMAL rebuke has been given to a vicar who ignored a former Grasmere parishioner's dying wish to use her bequest to fund the church.

The Rev Canon Cameron Butland, who was at the time rector at St Oswald's CE Church in Grasmere, instead directed the bequest of more than £300,000 to the church school.

Alene Hackett was a regular worshipper at St Oswald's but left the parish many years previously.

However when she died in 2011 she left in her will a sum of £338,823 which she stipulated was to be used for 'the maintenance, repair or improvement of the church and churchyard.'

When solicitors wrote to Mr Butland for the church's charity number, he instead provided the number of the Grasmere Church of England Trust, of which he was a trustee.

An investigation subsequently began after a complaint by the Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness.

The church tribunal noted that Ms Hackett was a former pupil of the school and Mr Butland formed a belief the bequest was connected to this and to her love of children.

He told the solicitors he believed giving the money to the school would be "the most appropriate way to remember her and for her bequest to do the most good for the church and village community."

However, the tribunal found Mr Butland's behaviour "worthy of penalty and determined that the appropriate penalty was a rebuke," which is the least severe penalty it can impose.

The tribunal found the issue had caused "some upset" in the community and had made the church's fundraising difficult.

The tribunal stressed that there was no suggestion that Rev Butland "had acted dishonestly or other than in good faith" and that he had showed "genuine remorse" for his actions.

The school had used £70,000 of the money for building work before the investigation discovered the situation, and the issue was resolved by the parochial church council by designating this sum as a gift, with the remaining funds transferred to the church.

Mr Butland left Grasmere to become chaplain to the Bishop of Carlisle in 2015.