A Surprising Liability
What is unsurprising is the inaccurate use of statistics in the story (also here) since there are nothing like 16,000 churches which have Chancel Repair Liability the figure is closer to 5,200 churches of which about 800 chancels are in the care various bodies like the Church Commissioners and Oxbridge Colleges.
The one clear thing this story shows is how each Church's history is unique with their historical events leading to differing forms of Chancel Repair Liability.
The first surprise: It is nothing to do with Henry VIII.He normally gets the blame for CRL and often he is at fault but here it is the Archbishop of York in 1279 who gave the rectory to the Knights of St John who would then have been liable for the chancel. This is a reminder it is the separation of the rectory (tithes and or land) or part of the rectory from the incumbent that transfers the responsibility of the Chancel to someone other than the incumbent.
The second surprise: The Land is Monastic GlebeIt would seem that the tithes ended up with the Archbishop of York but the Glebe was transferred to lay people. This type of Glebe, according to the 1985 Law Commission on Chancel Repair Liability, was very unlikely to be found but I guess Felixkirk is a place that disproves the rule since it would seem that the Tithe Map noted this Glebe. It seems that liability attached to monastic land may be more common since the owner of Thame Park according to British History online has Prebendal land meaning they are responsible for St Mary's Thame and in 1958 the Lay Rector was known, showing that the knowledge of who a Lay Rector land has not always been forgotten in the mists of time.
The third surprise: Church Commissioners not involvedThe Land Commission report of 1887 shows that the Tithe Rent Charge in Felixkirk was collected by the Archbishop which would have meant he would have been liable for the upkeep of the chancel jointly with the landowners and this liability has normally ended up with the Church Commissioners. Rent Tithe Charge Liability as set up by the 1936 Tithe Act ignored all other sources of liability and so Church Commissioners could be responsible for anything from 0% to 100% and this would be shown in Felixkirk's record of Ascertainments.
So it is at least possible that the landowners will be sharing the responsibility for the chancel with the Church Commissioners.
The fourth surprise: The PCC felt this was the best way forwardThe PCC either felt the Broadway option was not open to them or they are causing a storm in the local press and making the point that notifying the liability would hinder the charitable objectives of the Church.
Update (8th November)
It would seem that the liability is based on apportioned liability under the 1936 Tithe Act not Monastic Glebe (you can't believe everything you read in the papers!)