A LAW passed by King Henry VIII 500 years ago could force residents from a village near Tamworth to foot repair bills for their parish church – regardless of their religious belief or financial means.
Five homeowners in Edingale have recently discovered
they are affected by 'chancel repair liability', which states that they
are legally obliged to fund repair costs at Holy Trinity Church.
The Diocese of Lichfield has confirmed that all five
households have had a letter hand-delivered to them explaining the
process and emphasising that the church is working to find a solution to
Affected resident Helen Bailey, who lives in a barn she
converted with her husband Chris in 1999 to help care for his elderly
mother, has spent weeks tirelessly researching and campaigning to get
the charges overturned.
Mrs Bailey, who has described the news as a "huge shock",
told the Herald that the couple knew "nothing of chancel repair" when
they purchased the land.
"I'm pleased that the local church now recognises that it
needs to solve this problem," she said. "It's now aware of the enormous
stress that it has caused, not just to me, and it realises that it would
have been utterly unreasonable to leave things as they are."
The original chancel repair liabilities rule dates back to
the 1530s and changed following Henry VIII's dissolution of the
When people purchased land taken from monasteries, they
became lay rectors and had a duty to help repair their local church.
Mrs Bailey gave up work in 2004 to care for her mother-in-law whom she nursed for about two years until her death.
Tragically, the 53-year-old's husband was then diagnosed
with cancer six months later and died five years after that, followed in
2011 by her father and last year by her mother.
She added: "It has been a very difficult period for me and
having lost so much of what was truly important in my life it has
sometimes been hard to cope. I'm alone and trying to find a meaningful
future. The home my husband and I built is my main asset and lies
at the heart of my future plans. In recent years having become quite
isolated as a carer, I've worked for a number of charities to try to
regain contact with the outside world. Recently I have begun retraining
to use what I have learned from some difficult experiences
constructively to support others."
"As part of my plans I envisaged crystallising the value
tied up in my property to fund my training and to allow me to work in a
way that gave something back. By rendering my property potentially unsaleable this issue
threatens another crippling loss; the loss of hope for a meaningful
future. I am trying to stay calm but it is an additional and utterly unexpected blow which I am not sure I can face."
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Lichfield said: "This
complex legislation is having a tough impact on churches and
communities. Holy Trinity Edingale are writing again to everyone
affected and researching the historical record as quickly as they can to
find a just way forward."