Berry v St Marylebone Borough Council: CA 1957

The Theosophy Society sought exemption from rates as a charity.
Held: When assessing whether an organisation could receive relief against rates as a charity, the main objects should be exclusively concerned with those matters and ordinarily the court could look only to the organization’s written constitution.
Romer LJ said ‘In our opinion, when an organizational body has a written constitution, it is to that, and to that alone, to which the court should normally resort in order to ascertain its objects for the purpose of Section 8 of the Act. And as Lord Buckmaster pointed out in Macaulay -v- O’Donnell (1943) Chancery 435 note: Unless an English word or phrase has, in relation to the organization, a special meaning, evidence as to its meaning is not properly admissible. The House of Lords would not formally reject the affidavit which had been filed in Macaulay -v- O’Donnell, explaining the word ‘nucleus’ in the Society’s first object , and we are willing to take note of what theosophy is, and what theosophists believe, as stated by Mrs. Berry in her affidavit. It would, however, be going too far, in our opinion, to accept as admissible, in so far as it is directed to the question of construction, evidence of how theosophists explain the meaning of their objects . . the interpretation of the object is a matter for the court and not for members of the Society.’


Romer LJ, Lord Evershed MR and Ormerod LJ


[1958] Ch 406, [1957] 3 All ER 677


Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1955 8

Rating, Charity

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.464217