Holland v Hodgson (1871 – 72) LR 7 CP 328

The considerations necessary to differentiate fixtures from chattels

Facts

The owner of a mill mortgaged the mill to the claimant. The owner also under the bankruptcy provisions relevant at the time transferred all of his property to a trustee, the defendant. The trustee seized some of the looms which were attached to the mill either by nails or by attachment to wooden plugs which had been drilled into the floor for this express purpose. The purpose of the attachment was so that the machines remained in place when in use because this was a necessary requirement in respect of how they were powered. The machines could easily be removed however, without causing significant damage to the floor. The claimant was granted an order at first instance and the defendant appealed.

Issue

The issue in this judgment was whether machines attached to a property became part of that property. This ultimately resulted in a consideration of the distinction that should be drawn between fixtures and chattels.

Held

It was held firstly that a consideration on this point must be made with reference to the particular circumstances of the case. However, the approach was initially twofold. Firstly, the degree of annexation to the property must be considered and secondly, the purpose of that annexation should be addressed. Blackburn J’s comments at 335 provide significant clarity on this point:

… blocks of stone placed one on top of another without any mortar or cement for the purpose of forming a dry stone wall would become part of the land, though the same stones, if deposited in a builder’s yard and for convenience sake stacked on top of each other in the form of a wall, would remain chattels.

In these circumstances, it was held that the purpose of the attachment was for the use of the factory as a mill and therefore, the looms were fixtures.