A couple hit with a chancel repair bill for £230,000 and legal costs of £250,000 forced to sell their inherited home

A couple who face costs of £230,000 to repair a nearby church under a law dating back to the reign of Henry VIII sold their property at auction last night to cover the cost of the liability.

Andrew and Gail Wallbank inherited Glebe Farm in Warwickshire in the 1980s, and last night sold the property at auction for £850,000. However, the bulk of the proceeds are already spoken for as the couple must pay £230,000 to repair the chancel of Aston Cantlow’s 13th-century church, and cover legal bills of around £250,000 following an unsuccessful battle against the ancient law.

Chancel repair liability affects a small number of properties across the country, and where it applies it leaves a property (or more commonly a number of properties) liable for the repair of a church’s chancel, although indemnity insurance policies can be bought to cover owners against any potential cost.

Mr Wallbank said he had no regrets about battling the law. The 69-year-old from Carno, Powys, told the Press Association: “I felt what they were doing was so wrong that we had to take a stand against it.

“It was quite disgraceful the way the whole thing was handled – why they couldn’t have agreed to let us buy ourselves out [of the covenant] I just don’t know.”

His wife, 62, also criticised the church authorities for attempting to make them pay for the repairs before defending their actions in the courts. “It is completely against Christian principles,” she said. “As the auction was going on I was thinking ‘you are giving the church our house’.”

The law is set to change surrounding these ancient covenants. By 2013, any chancel repair liability that has not been lodged with the land registry by a parish will no longer bind property owners.