July 04, 2003

Another reason to celebrate the 4th

How about the fact that this sort of thing can still happen in modern, secular Britain? (The Times article is registration-only for people outside the UK. I'm not sure if it's free to register any more; their registration process is confusing.) Here's an excerpt:

A COUPLE are to be ordered to pay £95,000 for repairs to a 13th-century parish church because their nearby farm was formerly church land.
The House of Lords ruled yesterday that ancient laws meant that Gail and Andrew Wallbank are liable to help with the upkeep of St John the Baptist Church in Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire.

The test case affects thousands of smallholders. About 5,000 parish churches could now enforce similar orders on private individuals who own former glebe land — church land that was often rented out to bring in funds for parish maintenance. The decision relieves hundreds of Church of England congregations, already struggling to pay clergy stipends and pensions, from yet more crippling liabilities.

Mr Wallbank said: “We are pretty appalled and devastated. Everyone agrees this is a bad law but no one seems to be able to do anything about it. We will have to sell the farm to pay for it.”

The Wallbanks became liable for the repairs to the church chancel when they inherited Glebe Farm in Aston Cantlow — where Shakespeare’s parents were married — from Mrs Wallbank’s father. The land is a quarter of a mile from the church but it formerly belonged to the church as glebe land. After the Reformation, the glebe land passed into private ownership and the owner was appointed “lay rector” of the parish.


(Via Cronaca.)

Posted by Andrea Harris at July 4, 2003 03:31 PM

How is it that England's good laws and traditions can be overruled by EU policies (as seems to happen on an almost daily basis), whereas its bad ones seem to be sacrosanct?

Posted by: David Foster at July 4, 2003 at 11:38 PM

Well, AFAIK, the EU policies don't affect real estate law in England, as I'm sure that the different traditions and laws of all its member states involving real estate preclude a nice tidying up like the oft-cited example of having to label each chicken egg.

Another factor is the Church-State interaction started by Henry VIII, and the decline of the C of E in the 20th Century, which also means a decline in church revenues. If you read 19th& 20th Century English literature, you are struck by how intertwined money and the Church were in English society.

The final consideration is law reform. It reminds me of a case where a man had an action against the English goverment, which at this point in time was legally against Queen Victoria. He introduced a motion to settle his case by the ancient method of trial by combat against a champion selcted by the Queen. When the motion was examined and researched, it was found that this method had been superceded, but never abolished, in English law. Needless to say, the law reform was accomplished quickly, although I don't know what happened to the original case. They have a respect for tradition that can outweigh common sense sometimes, as in the House of Lords decision.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at July 5, 2003 at 01:04 AM

I'd burn the fucking church down before I paid a penny.

Incidentally, if the previous owners failed to inform the "new" owners of the potential liability, the new owners could void the sale, even in Britain.

And the church could suck wind.

Posted by: Kim du Toit at July 5, 2003 at 06:55 PM

If this is the case I recall, Dark Avenger, he was losing the court case when he made his claim. He turned up at the courthouse steps, horsed, in full armour & when no opponent appeared, claimed victory in the court. The judge, very reluctantly (I wonder why?), had to agree that the right of trial by combat (aka wager of battel) had not been repealled & he won his case. The very next week an emergency sitting of parliment passed the Appeal of Murder Act of 1819, which abolished trial by combat.

Posted by: Bryce at July 5, 2003 at 10:10 PM

If the incident you write of did take place before Queen Victoria's time, then I sit corrected.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at July 6, 2003 at 04:33 AM

Well if these people were not informed before the purchase the previous owners can be held to account. If they were and just thought they could challenge the law, then they are fools. I do hoever, sense the smack of those idiots who moved near Heathrow and complain about the noise (or further runways) or those who oppose it when I football ground needs to be expanded.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge at July 6, 2003 at 05:30 PM

FYI, the Times of London is currently free to those browsing from a UK IP address, but something like L40 annually for access from abroad.

Of course, if one goes through a UK proxy server, that will provide free access too -- for more references, look here.

Posted by: David at July 6, 2003 at 09:33 PM