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Leigh v Taylor [1902] AC 157



Madame De Falbe was a life tenant of a stately home, in which she had hung valuable tapestries belonging to her. The canvasses were nailed over strips of wood which were themselves nailed to the wall, and the tapestries were stretched over the canvas and fastened to it by tacks. Mouldings, which were also fastened to the surface of the wall, were placed round each piece of tapestry.

Upon the death of Madame de Falbe a summons was taken out on behalf of the remainderman. Byrne J, at first instance, held that the tapestries had become attached to the freehold and thus passed with it to the remainderman. This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal, who made an order declaring that the tapestries were chattels belonging to the estate of Madame de Falbe, and an appeal was brought by the representatives of the remainderman.


Whether, on the facts and with respect to the intention of the life intent in putting up the tapestries, the tapestries had been annexed to the land as fixtures, and so passed to the remainderman as part of the freehold. This question called for a close consideration of the common law approach to distinguishing fixtures from chattels.


The House of Lords found in favour of the estate of Madame de Falbe; the tapestries were chattels and so remained the rightful property of Madame de Falbe’s estate. In arriving at this conclusion the House considered closely the degree of annexation, which was as slight as the nature of the tapestries would permit, and the intent of the life tenant in hanging the tapestries, which were “put up for ornamentation and for the enjoyment of the person while occupying the house”. In the circumstances, therefore, the chattels remained the personal property of Madame de Falbe.

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