Copyright (c) 2010 Wayne State University
The Wayne Law Review
Wayne Law Review
56 Wayne L. Rev. 1397
Carl W. Herstein+
I. Prologue: The Case of Glebe Farm
Andrew and Gail Wallbank were married in St. John the Baptist Church, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire, England, in September 1973. 1 It is a historic stone parish church, listed as Grade 1, 2 built in the 1200's, and "nestled in a leafy churchyard." 3 In 1990, the couple inherited Glebe Farm, located a quarter mile from St. John's, from Gail's father. 4 The name of the farm was pregnant with meaning, for the land had formerly belonged to the parish church as "glebe land." 5 Little did they suspect that within the year, their inheritance would burden them with unlimited financial obligations to St. Johns, and that over the next 19 years, they would be embroiled in a legal battle that would turn on concepts that were as old as the parish church itself, and that would not end until the land was no longer theirs.
Pollock and Maitland, in their famous work The History of English Law, traced the evolution of the concept of glebe, or church, land in England from Roman times, when all church property was under the control of the civic administration and the Bishop, into the era of the barbarian tribes. Roman legal concepts required advanced commerce and orderly government, but when society provided neither, it was the owner of the lands on which a church was built who ended up with what came to be known as the right of patronage. 6
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