A COUPLE have been forced to sell their family home to honour a centuries old deal with the church.
Andrew and Gail Wallbank inherited Glebe Farm, in Aston Cantlow, in 1990.
An ancient law, dating back to the reign of Henry VIII, required the farm’s owners to pay for the upkeep of nearby St John the Baptist church.
The Wallbanks claim to have had no idea that this 16th century covenant was still enforceable and were shocked to receive a bill for £230,000.
So began a 20-year legal battle, with the arguments thrashed out in the Court of Appeal and eventually the House of Lords.
Only last December was the landmark case settled, with the Law Lords finding in favour of the church. Their verdict left the Wallbanks with little choice but to sell the Grade II listed property.
On Tuesday October 20, the property went under the hammer at Henley Golf and Country Club. Scores of people – including the Solihull News – turned out for the auction, held by estate agents John Earle. The farmhouse was sold for £850,000.
But almost two thirds of the money will go towards the six-figure repair bill, £250,000 legal bills and £37,000 to finally bring the contract to the end.
Mr Wallbank, aged 69, said: “We have got ourselves through this by telling ourselves that it is only money and it could have been a lot worse.
“We are glad it is all over now and that we have come through this with our morals intact. We will hopefully invest the remainder of the cash, so somebody in our family can inherit it someday.”
The Diocese of Coventry had previously defended the legal battle, saying that the parish couldn’t get financial support from any other agency.