State Church Takes Advantage of Feudal RightsThe enduring power of feudalism was brought to attention by the passing on 12 October 2013 of a deadline for the registration of ancient property rights. These are rights previously held by the “lord of the manor” and Anglican churches. They do not appear in title deeds and were often unknown to property purchasers.
According to the Financial Times the new registration requirement “highlights the enduring power of institutions including the Crown, Church Commissioners, ancient charities, aristocratic families and the landed gentry”.
The state Church of England has been shameless in taking advantages of these feudal rights. Many of its parishes are able to demand money for repairs to the chancels in its buildings under ancient church. Wikipedia says that a chancel “is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building, possibly including the choir. It may terminate in an apse”.
In 2009 Gail and Andrew Wallbank were forced into bankruptcy when they fought a demand from the Church of England for £230,000 for church repairs.
Property owners may also find that the claims reduce the sale price of their land or even make it impossible to sell.
About 5,300 parishes in England still had a right to demand these payments. Only 250 parishes had registered by the deadline. But 12,000 properties in these parishes are affected by the shameless demands of the Anglicans.
In Stottesdon in Shropshire landowners were alarmed to receive letters notifying them that the church had registered claims against their property according to the National Secular Society. One farming family said that receipt of the letters informing them of the church's claim after they had lived there for three generations had caused them great anxiety.
Property owners who contacted the Anglican Diocese reported an unsympathetic response. And the government has indicated that it does not intend to propose a change in the law.
The mostly elderly residents of St Eadburgha in Gloucestershire also fear that they may have to find thousands of pounds to support the state church.
The Land Registry has notified a total of 82,000 property owners that others have made claims against their land. These claims could cover ownership of minerals found below the surface and access to gas and oil.
The Church of England has mineral rights over more than 500,000 acres of other people's land. The “aristocrats” of the Lonsdale family, who control 30,000 acres of Cumbria countryside, have also applied to register feudal rights, as have “various lords, dukes and barons” according to the Land Registry. The number of other individuals and companies registering claims is few.
One “lord of the manor” has found out that not everyone accepts feudal rights. Tim Shoreland of South Gloucester withdrew his registration application when he was threatened by those whose land he claimed rights over.
Instead of abolishing rights based on feudal privilege the new requirement for registration gives them a veneer of legitimacy. If valuable minerals are found below your property you may find that they belong not to you but to the descendants of robber barons. The British state has now said that this is as it should be.