Directory: Churches and People

Chancel Repair Liability

Chancel Repair Liability: Parish Guidance

Some parishes have a lay rector who has a legal obligation to meet the cost of repairs to the church chancel.

Chancel repair liability has existed since long before the Reformation. It arose as a result of ownership of glebe land by the rector of a parish and his entitlement to related tithes. In many cases the ownership of land which formerly belonged to a rectory still carries with it the burden of repairing the chancel. But often the knowledge of a current landowner's legal liability to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of the parish church associated with the land has been forgotten. Any landowner with this responsibility is called a Lay Rector.

Every PCC has a legal obligation to investigate their status regarding liability and then either register that liability and the land identified with the Land Registry or have a valid reason, formally noted in the PCC minutes and acceptable to the Charity Commission, as to why the liability hasn't been registered. Some churches' liability lies with the Church Commissioners or the Crown Estates; this must also be registered.

As a result of a House of Lords decision in 2003 (re. Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank), and recent developments in the law relating to land registration, it is very important that PCCs take steps now to establish whether or not there is a liability for chancel repairs attached to any land now or previously associated with their parish churches. All such liability must be registered with the Land Registry by 13 October 2013. The result of not registering will be that the right to recover the cost of chancel repairs from a Lay Rector will lost if the land in question is sold after 13 October 2013. It is the duty of PCC members, as charity trustees, to ensure that the interests of the charity are safe-guarded. There have been cases where insurance has been refused for chancel repairs or grant support restricted on the basis that the PCC must look to the Lay Rector to pay his/her share; and if the PCC has failed to exploit this source of income, funding will be lost.

The Church Buildings Department has already done a considerable amount of preliminary research at the National Archives. Churches have now been sent their Records of Ascertainment and post 1936 Tithe Maps (where these exist). A datasheet has been produced detailing known references relating to parish documents in the Lincolnshire Archives and a list of those parishes that were included in the various Enclosure Acts, which affected liability. The Church Commissioners have also been looking closely at each parish whose liability lies with them and have established that, although some liabilities remain unchanged, others have either decreased or increased in proportion. Liability with the ChurchCommissioners must also be registered. Fen Chapels do not need to be registered.

Example of a 1936 Tithe Map from the National Archives

Researching chancel repair liability 
Unfortunately, researching chancel repair liability is not a straightforward matter. The diocese has only a partial register of lay rectors responsible for chancel repairs and each PCC has a legal obligation to investigate their own status regarding liability.

All PCCs who do not know whether they have a Lay Rector(s) with chancel repair liability for their church are asked to begin the process of checking whether they can register chancel repair liability, either by finding a willing and able local volunteer to carry out the necessary research or by employing a professional researcher. Once any chancel repair liability has been established, the Diocesan Registry can assist in registering that liability against the land burdened with it.

For those beginning to research chancel repair liability, there is a very helpful book by James Derriman, entitled Chancel Repair Liability - How to Research it, (revised edition) ISBN 9781898029847, published by Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, Lincoln's Inn Archway, Carey Street, London, WC2A 2JD. Price £19.95.
It is also available for purchase at

See the Church Building Department's, Guide to Chancel Repair Liability for more information on research:


Diocesan Registrar
Julie Robinson (legal matters and registration)
Tel: 01775 842618

Church Buildings Department
Matthew Godfrey (Historic Churches Support Officer)
Tel: 01522 50 40 48

Peter Duff (DAC Assistant)
Tel: 01522 50 40 45

Lincolnshire Archives
Dr Mike Rogers (Collections Access Team Leader (Archives and Remote Access))
Tel: 01522 782040

Diocese of Lichfield
Revd Greg Yerbury (expert in the field)

Useful links

The Charity Commission
Parochial Church Councils and
Chancel Repair Liability

The National Archives
The History of Tithes 
Researching chancel repair liabilities in England and Wales

The Lincolnshire Archives
St. Rumbold Street Lincoln, LN2 5AB

Useful Resources

The four videos from the Chancel Repair Liability Training Day at the Lincoln showground on the 15th February 2013 are now available for viewing on the Diocese's YouTube Channel. 

Click on the links below to be taken to the YouTube video:

Greg Yerbury - First Presentation Video: 
Greg Yerbury - Second Presentation Video: 
Greg Yerbury - Q&As: 
Afternoon Presentations:  

Please click on the following links to download .pdf documents relating to Chancel Repair Liability: