News & Insights // Couple forced to sell farm to pay £230,000 repair bill at church where Shakespeare's parents married


www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1216730/couple-forced-sell-farm-500-000
Couple forced to sell farm to pay £230,000 repair bill at church where Shakespeare's parents married
By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 1:27 PM on 29th September 2009
A couple are selling their farmhouse next to a historic church after losing an 18-year battle to overturn an ancient law that makes them liable for £230,000 repairs to the building.
Andrew and Gail Wallbank say they have no choice but to sell after being saddled with a bill to shore up the crumbling chancel at the 13th century church where Shakespeare's parents married.
Under a law which dates back to the reign of Henry VIII, whoever owns the farm is responsible for the upkeep of St John the Baptist in the picturesque village of Aston Cantlow, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

The arrangement arose 800 years ago when the church gave the farm 2.75 acres of land.
In exchange, the owners of Glebe Farm were named as 'lay rectors' and agreed to pay for the majority of church repairs.
The couple inherited the farm from Mrs Wallbank’s father in 1990 and were presented
with a bill for repairs by the church shortly after. 
 

They contested the case but finally lost in the Court of Appeal last December and are now auctioning the property with a £500,000 guide price.
They plan to use the proceeds of the sale to pay off the £230,000 church repair bill and recoup the £250,000 they have spent on legal fees.
 
They hope that settling the church bill will buy them and future owners of the house out of the ‘chancel repair liability’.
‘We really didn’t want to sell but we have no choice,’ said Mr Wallbank, 64.
‘We will see very little change from the sale of the house.’
The couple, who have seven grown-up children and one grand-daughter, run a sheep farm in Caersws, Mid Wales.
They were unaware of any repair issues with the church when they inherited the property.
 

Mrs Wallbank, a 60-year-old part time GP, said: ‘When my father died suddenly he left Glebe Farm to me.
'We were married in the church but moved away from Aston Cantlow, so we rented out
the house rather than selling it.
‘We had been told about some ancient law regarding chancel repair liability but were assured it was a dead law which wouldn’t affect us.
'Then one day we received a letter from the church warden informing us we were liable for the repairs to the chancel. We were shocked to say the least.’
Since then the couple have spent £250,000 in legal bills fighting to free themselves from the repairs but finally lost their battle last December when the House of Lords ruled in favour of the church.
Mr Wallbank said: ‘It has been a long nightmare and we just want to get shot of the whole thing but we are still waiting to hear from the church over whether we can buy
out of the liability.
‘We are in a Catch 22 situation. We can’t afford to drop the price of the house because we need that money to get out of the repair liability.
'Without that we will be very lucky to get a buyer.’
The Diocese of Coventry refused to comment yesterday.
The house will be auctioned on October 20 by John Earle & Son at Henley Golf and Country Club in Henley-in-Arden.