Page last updated at 20:49 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 21:49 UK

Couple sell house to pay Church

Andrew and Gail Wallbank
The Wallbanks are auctioning their farmhouse after losing a legal battle

A couple have auctioned their house after losing an 18 year battle to overturn an archaic law making them liable for church repairs.

Andrew and Gail Wallbank became responsible for maintaining a 13th Century church in Aston Cantlow, Warks, when they inherited Glebe Farm in 1982.

The Church invoked a Medieval covenant in 1990 to make the Welsh couple pay.

The couple, from Carno, Powys, paid the Church £37,000 last week to remove the covenant. The house sold for £850,000.

Mr Wallbank, a life-long Christian, said he was "saddened" by the way the Church had gone about asking for the money.

'Honour agreement'

He said he would have been happy to help with the upkeep of St John the Baptist's Church in Aston Cutlow, Warwickshire, where it is believed William Shakespeare's parents wed.

The sale in itself does not yet resolve the need to fund repairs to the parish church.
Martin Sheppard, spokesman for Coventry Diocese

"I hope we would have been very generous. My father-in-law always felt he should make donations and we would have wanted to honour that," he said.

"It's a tragedy it has worked out this way, that we had to go to court and now have to sell the farm, because we like to think we would have been friendly and helpful neighbours."

The Wallbanks said they needed to sell the Grade II listed farm to buy themselves out of the covenant with the Church and to pay £250,000 in legal fees.

Glebe Farm, photo supplied by auctioneers John Earle and Son
The sale of Glebe Farm may not resolve the dispute, the church said

The six-bedroom property stands on former rectory land and comes with outbuildings and its own orchard.

'Unfinished business'

It is due to be auctioned by John Earle and Sons in Henley-in-Arden later and the sale guide price is £750,000.

Mr Wallbank said when his father-in law bought the property in 1970 he was told by the Church the Chancel Repair Liability was no longer legally enforceable.

"We were very surprised to receive a letter from the Church in January 1990 saying as you know you are responsible for the upkeep of the church and we asking for help to repair the windows," he added.

Martin Sheppard, a spokesman for Coventry Diocese, said: "The Diocese of Coventry and Aston Cantlow Parochial Church Council are aware of the auction of Glebe Farm today, but will not be commenting since the sale in itself does not yet resolve the need to fund repairs to the parish church."

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