Frances Godden

Senior Associate


Frances joined Birketts in September 2019 as a Senior Associate in our Charities Team and is based in our Norwich office. In November 2020 Frances was appointed Deputy Registrar to the Diocese of Norwich and the Diocese of London, working closely with Stuart Jones. Frances specialises in charity and ecclesiastical law, and the law as it relates to matters of art and heritage. She also has extensive experience in education law. 

Frances has acted for a wide range of clients including charities of all purposes, sizes and structures, advising on governance and constitutional matters, cy-près applications, management and restructuring of complex historical trusts and permanent endowment, Royal Charter petitions and complex gift and loan agreements in respect of works of significant academic, artistic and historical interest.

Frances has worked extensively for the Church of England locally and nationally, advising Diocesan Boards of Finance and Education, parishes and clergy of the law of the Church of England and its structure, processes and application, particularly regarding trusts, patronage, pastoral reorganisation and the faculty jurisdiction as it applies to church buildings and assets. More recently Frances has developed experience in advising clergy directly in respect of complaints made under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. 

In educational matters, she has established numerous single and multi-academy trusts for dioceses and church schools, worked on multiple successful conversions and was a key advisor to the Church of England’s National Society whilst it negotiated its own model documents with the Department for Education. She now works for academy trusts of all kinds, advising on governance and compliance as well as negotiating important updates and revisions to legal documentation with the Department for Education. 

Before joining Birketts Frances was Deputy Diocesan Secretary and Head of Church Buildings and Pastoral Organisation at the Diocese of Ely, a role she took up having previously been Deputy Diocesan Registrar of the Dioceses of Ely and Guildford whilst based at a specialist charities, education and ecclesiastical firm in London, where she developed her expertise.

Frances trained and qualified in 2011 at a magic circle law firm, where she worked on a number of high profile and high worth transactions, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. Prior to entering the legal profession Frances enjoyed a career in the art world, working for Bonhams Auctioneers for four years. She has a Master’s degree in the History of Art and is well placed to offer advice on legal issues as they affect matters of art and heritage, cultural property, or private or commercial clients in that sector, particularly charitable institutions with valuable collections. 

Frances is a trustee and committee member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society and was appointed a trustee of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust after moving to Norwich in September 2019. She is a member of the Charity Law Association (joining their working parties where relevant), Ecclesiastical Law Association, Education Law Association, Heritage Alliance and the Institute of Art and Law. Frances is also on the panel of professional advisers to the Association of English Cathedrals, providing legal advice to cathedrals and major parish churches across the country. 

Other Information

Frances is recommended by clients in Legal 500 [UK 2021]. One client notes ‘Frances Godden quickly got to grips with the matter and provided clear and purposeful advice'.

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