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Hulme v Brigham [1943] KB 152

Whether items attached to fixtures become themselves fixtures


The claimant leased a number of printing machines to a third-party printing company on the basis that the company would have an option to buy the machines at the end of the lease term. The company subsequently mortgaged its property to the defendant and ultimately failed to maintain payments on the mortgage over the property where the machines were housed. When possession of the property was taken, the defendant refused to return the machines to the claimant on the basis that they were fixtures. The machines were not attached to the property and rested entirely by their own weight. They were however, attached by a belt and cabling to a driving mechanism which was firmly attached to the property. The driving system could easily be removed from the printing machines and, despite their weight, the machines easily removed from the property.


The issue in this context was whether the fact that the machines were attached to the driving mechanism which itself was attached to the property caused the machines to be fixtures.


It was held, based almost entirely on the judgment in Northern Press and Engineering Co v Shepherd (1908) 52 SJ 715 on the basis that the facts were practically identical, that the printing machines remained chattels. This position was reached on the basis that the machine and the driving device were separate devices and it would be wrong to hold that the attachment to the driving device, which could easily be disconnected, had the effect of altering the characteristic of the printing machine to the extent that it would be considered attached to the property. Doing so would give too much importance to the connection at the expense of the machine’s characteristic. 

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