D’Eyncourt v Gregory

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D’Eyncourt v Gregory (1866) LR 3 Eq 382

CHATTELS – FIXTURES – DEGREE OF ANNEXATION – SETTLEMENTS – ITEMS INTEGRAL TO ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN OF PROPERTY

Facts

A testator was a life tenant of certain estates, upon which he had erected and furnished a mansion-house and bequeathed all the tapestry, marbles, statues, framed pictures and glasses, contained therein to be enjoyed as heir-looms by the persons who, according to the terms of his will, would be entitled to the estates in strict settlement.

After the testator's death, A became life tenant of the estates, and on A’s death the settled estates devolved to B. Under a shifting clause in T's will, however, C become entitled to the heirlooms specified in the will. The question arose as to which of those articles would pass to C as chattels and which, by contrast, were to be considered fixtures of the property itself.

Issues

The Court were called upon to consider the distinction between fixtures and chattels, particularly where, as was the case in D’Eyncourt, some of the items in question were capable of being removed without causing damage to the property itself, or else (in the case of the marbles) rested entirely upon their own weight.

Held

The statues, marbles, tapestry, statues and framed pictures and glasses all fell within the definition of fixtures and so could not pass to C by operation of the shifting clause. In arriving at this conclusion the court confirmed that an item may still constitute a fixture even when not physically attached to the property, or where that attachment could be easily removed. This would be more likely, as was found to be the case here, where the items were ‘strictly and properly part of the architectural design’ of the property (at 394 per Romilly MR).

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